A Blueprint for ‘Yes’ (Mark’s Persuasion Priority Action Plan: Part 2)

In order to succeed in your persuasion efforts, you need a persuasion priority action plan. The one I like to use involves seven steps, and I covered three of them in a previous post.

Here they are:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what.

Step 2: Determine why this is important for you, your target and your organization.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case

Step 4: Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

Step 5: Assess your primary target and other key influencers. 

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

Step 7: Create your step-by-step actions: When do you do what with whom, and why? 

In this post, I will cover the next three steps, saving the final one for next time.

Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

What savvy phrases can you use to describe your request or facets of your request?

• A compelling argument

• A sensitive situation

• A crucial decision

Questions work, too.

• Do we want to surrender to the competition?

Similarly, what figures of speech (metaphor, simile, analogy) can you create to describe your request or subsequent risks or rewards?

• “This guy is the Payton Manning of sales directors.”

• “That part of the country is a marketing black hole.”

• “The likelihood of the board approving that approach is less than that of Kim Kardashian wearing a turtleneck tomorrow.” 

Using storytelling best practices, what brief and relatable story you can develop to justify your request, address potential challenges or describe imminent rewards. Be sure to have a point, include a captivating open, establish a plot, insert an unexpected element and conclude with a learning point. 

Anticipate resistance and objection. How will you respond when someone says, “It costs too much”? Or, “We don’t need it”? Or “Now is not the right time”?

Step 5: Assess your primary target and other key players. 

You certainly don’t need to list every person who might be involved in your request, but it’s critical to include your primary target and key players. Write down their names and titles, your impression of their personalities, and your perception of their preferences for communication and information.   

For example:

• Steve Miller, VP Field Operations; expressive; text messages; just the facts 

• Jerry Matherstone, General Counsel, reserved; face-to-face; all the details

Using a table like the one below can help you sort through these details.

Jerry MatherstoneGeneral CounselReserved; little sense of humor Face to face (no email) Wants all the details
Steve MillerVP Field OperationsExpressive; likes to joke Text messagesJust the facts

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

If your persuasion priority involves more than a few people, represents significant dollars and is likely to take some time, you should map the persuasion territory. Here’s what I mean: When strategizing your persuasion approach answer the following five questions:

  1. Who are the key players?
  2. On a scale of -10 to 10 (10 being highest), what is each player’s influence in the organization?
  3. On a scale of -10 to 10  (10 being completely in support of your idea), to what extent is each player applying that influence? 
  4. How easily do you think each person might change his or her position (low, medium, high)?
  5. What significant relationships exist among key players?

Again, use a table like the one below to help you sort through the responses to these questions:

NameOrg. InfluenceFor or AgainstChangeableRelationships
Jerry Matherstone+8+7Medium+ Steve Miller
Steve Miller+5
-4High– Sally Mack

Use this information to map your persuasion territory.

Next time, I’ll focus on the final step of my persuasion priority action plan.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Are You Ready for Action? (Mark’s Persuasion Priority Action Plan: Part 1)

I write lot about persuasion; you know that already. So over the next few posts, I am going to share my seven-step persuasion priority action plan:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what.

Step 2: Determine why this is important for you, your target and your organization.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case

Step 4: Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

Step5: Assess your primary target and other key influencers. 

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

Step 7: Create your step-by-step actions: When do you do what with whom, and why? 

Here we go:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what?

Keep in mind the four persuasion priority criteria (meaningful, significant, realistic and others oriented), and be specific. 

Don’t say: “I want my senior vice president to add some people to my staff sometime.” 

Say this: “I would like my senior vice president to approve five key new hires for my department by the start of next quarter.” 

Who do you want to do what?

Step 2: Why is this important to you, your target and your organization? 

Strive to identify at least three reasons for each (you, your target and your organization).

These can include financial gain, skills acquired, networks built, market share increased, reputation improved and others.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case. 


What might be the return on investment (expressed in dollars or a ratio)?

If we’re talking about a larger and longer term project, what might be the net present value and internal rate of return?

What other benefits of achieving this priority can be readily quantified?          


Will your initiative result in sustained high morale, and how might you know?

Will the initiative lead to more effective teamwork? What might be the evidence?

What other qualitative reasons and subsequent evidence can you add?

Next time I’ll focus on more steps in creating your persuasion priority action plan.

(Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash)

Being Funny Can Make You More Persuasive

Research conducted over the past 40 years suggests that watching comedians or other funny bits improves people’s capacity to solve problems.

Here’s proof:

• Alice M. Isen, a psychologist at the University of Maryland in Baltimore in the late 1980s, found that people who watched a short series of television ”bloopers” were better able to problem-solve than those who watched a film about math or physically exercised prior to being presented with a problem. 

• The cognitive neuroscientist Mark Beeman found that showing test subjects stand-up routine clips from the late comedian Robin Williams increased the success rate of solving insight problems by 20 percent.

• The journal Neuropsychologia published a study in 2013 by Stanford researchers that linked humor to higher IQ scores.

What does all this mean for your persuasion efforts? Humor helps people make smarter decisions. Being funny (in the right ways) can propel your persuasion attempts as effectively as one of the Roadrunner’s rocket sleds powered by the Acme Corporation.

Give it a try.

Try a New Way to Think About Thinking

According to Nobel Prize-winning economist and author Daniel Kahneman, we possess two “systems” for thinking: one that processes information very quickly, and one that does so more slowly and requires significantly more effort.

Here’s the thing: Most of us don’t really like to think all that hard. As humans, we rely on what comes to mind with the least amount of cognitive strain. We also don’t always act rationally — rarely going to the trouble of, say, doing the math or weighing the pros and cons of a decision.

But don’t be too hard on yourself: We act that way to survive in a post-modern world where the amount of information we are exposed to has grown exponentially, but the basic architecture of our brains hasn’t changed since the likes of Australopithecus africanus roamed the earth. We employ mental shortcuts to survive. Sometimes they help, sometimes they don’t.

Discovering Heuristics and Biases

Heuristics are supportive cognitive shortcuts that help us make good decisions in times of complexity. Biases, on the other hand, impede decision making. Sometimes, biases also are referred to as cognitive illusions, because much like an optical illusion, they twist our thinking about reality.

So how do we distinguish between the two? It’s often difficult to parse heuristics and biases, because the same factors that impact our thinking also impact our thinking about our thinking. For example, sometimes we fall prey to something called base-rate neglect. This is when we ignore statistics in favor of anecdotal incidents.

Heuristics and biases are built into our psychological makeup and are so pervasive that we rarely even notice them working inside our heads. Plus, they feel so natural, so how could they be wrong? If you make what turns out to be a good decision, you’ve just used a heuristic. If the decision results in a negative outcome, you’ve succumbed to mental bias. As one psychology student so aptly put it: “Heuristics are helpful biases. Biases are hurtful heuristics.”

Regardless of how you might categorize these mental patterns, understanding and labeling them will help you consider these cognitive processes more easily and create strategic persuasion campaigns based on them. They also will help your targets make better decisions.

Don’t worry about getting too hung up on trying to determine whether something is a heuristic or a bias. Simply concentrate on what these mental tendencies mean to you in terms of your persuasion efforts.

It’s OK To Say ‘No’ To Your Persuasion Priority

What if, after careful evaluation, you determine that your persuasion priority is not worth the effort?

Maybe it’s not financially feasible. Or it won’t necessarily enhance your professional skills or expand your networks. Perhaps it will stress you out or overwork you.

Regardless of the reason, don’t be too disappointed. You’ve just saved yourself precious time, energy and effort — and perhaps minimized any potentially career-damaging risks. Contrary to Robert Plant’s timeless lyric in Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” all that glitters certainly isn’t gold.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and set another priority. 

This is why analysis is so important when it comes to engaging in persuasion. It allows us to see things in black and white, forcing us to think clearly and make the tough decisions.

If, on the other hand, you’ve carefully considered your persuasion priority and are convinced you’re headed in the right direction, you will now have the energy and proper mental mindset to help you succeed.

The Difference Between Happiness and Satisfaction

How will the pursuit of your persuasion priority impact your happiness and satisfaction?

First, it’s important to realize that happiness and satisfaction are two separate and distinct notions. In short, happiness is based on conditions; satisfaction is based on reflection. 

Happiness is the short-term elevation of mood, typically influenced by conditions. Is what you’re doing at the moment fun, are the people you’re interacting with enjoyable to be around and is the work environment convivial? Or do time pressures exist with micro-managing bosses nagging you in a work environment that feels awkward or even toxic? 

Satisfaction is the longer-term, overall feeling of contentedness. Have you achieved significant accomplishments, overcome stiff challenges or reached your potential in a certain area? When you reflect on your life, how fulfilled are you? Do you look at your life and career with pride, or do you regret opportunities lost and potential not realized?

Three Key Questions

If you are seeking to be a persuasive professional, you simply need to ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What will the pursuit of my persuasion priority contribute to my happiness?
  2. How many more happy moments will I experience in the average day as a result of this endeavor?
  3.  When I look back several years from now, will the pursuit of this persuasion priority contribute to my overall professional and personal satisfaction? 

Keep in mind that delayed gratification and eschewing fleeting moments of happiness for longer-term satisfaction can yield much more significant results.  

Effective Persuasion Requires Effort, But Don’t Overwork Yourself

In previous posts, I’ve written about the importance of taking into consideration how much your persuasion priority is worth to you.

Now, here is another question to ask yourself: Will my efforts unreasonably and negatively impact my labor intensity? Will it require me to work more hours, juggle more tasks and take on more burdens? Is there a more effective way of achieving my persuasion priority?

One of the reasons more people aren’t more effective with their persuasion attempts is because they require too much additional effort. This concept is nothing new; too much work leads to the abandonment of ideals and priorities. The reduction of labor intensity often is considered a fundamental component of self-improvement. If you want to continue to develop and grow, it’s essential to reduce your labor intensity such that you can free your capacity for new experiences, new people and new information. The fastest way to understand this concept is to explore input and output.

Conducting a training workshop counts as input; changes in employee behavior and the overall business are the result (or the output). Conducting a focus group is the input; the accurate understanding and takeaway of the session is the output. The fastest way to reduce your labor intensity is to focus on the result, not the input. 

If your persuasion priority is to oversee a new product to market, and you want to gauge your retail channel’s likely demand, focus groups are one way to do so. If you’re able to attain a statistically sound assessment with only five focus groups, don’t plan eight. Endeavor to exert just enough effort to achieve the desired result.

Persuasion always requires effort, but you need to ensure the effort is commensurate with the payoff.  Assess the labor intensity of all your persuasion attempts.

How Are Your Stress Levels Today? You’ll Need Some Stress to Survive

Any time you reach for something new, better and different, stress will be involved. The key is determining what kind of stress you might experience with your persuasion priority.

Bad Stress

The first is distress, the sort most of us already know and experience — probably quite frequently. This is when your body responds physically and negatively to your mental state. Typically, heart rates elevate, muscles tense, teeth clench and the body releases the damaging chemical cortisol into the bloodstream. Although I’m not a doctor (and I don’t play one on TV), too much of that is never a good thing.

Good Stress

The other kind of stress is eustress — the “good” kind of stress. When you’re mentally challenged to follow a speaker’s logic, complete a challenging math problem, learn a tough piece of music or rise to the occasion and meet a pressing deadline, new neural pathways help your brain become more fit.

You also can experience eustress when you challenge yourself physically by lifting a heavier weight, running at a faster pace or increasing the incline on the treadmill. You’re forcing your body to increase your physical and cardiovascular capacity for work, which releases the positive chemical dopamine and makes you feel good about exerting energy. 

You Need Stress

You can’t live a life without any stress. Distress is inevitable, and reasonable levels of eustress should be encouraged. My mentor Alan Weiss, who penned the foreword of my book, Persuasion Equation, is a naval battle expert who often quotes Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to sail into harm’s way.”

If you want to hear “yes” more often, you’ll have to sail into harm’s way.   

Load yourself with the right kind of stress to help you continue to grow. If you pursue your chosen persuasion priority, will you be putting yourself in a position of growth — or something else?

(Photo courtesy of Gratisography.)

Sweet Emotions: Choose Your Words and Phrases Wisely

Logic makes you think, emotions make you act. You’ve heard this before, right? But you know what you haven’t heard? Someone telling you how to leverage emotions.

Until now.

The language you use and the phrases you choose can help you stir emotions of the person you’re trying to persuade. One way to create an emotional response is by using adjectives in your persuasive conversations.

Relax: I’m not going to go all “Schoolhouse Rock”  on you, but here are some great examples you can use to punch up your language.

• Adjectives can be absolute, comparative or superlative.

Good, better or best. Caution: Don’t overuse superlatives. A few add impact; using them a lot blunts their effect and erodes your credibility. Because not everything can be the best and the most.

“The Basic package is good. The Open Road is better. The Enthusiast is better still. But the Legendary is the best — and most comprehensive — package we offer. That’s where we should start.” 

Notice how this builds anticipation (a fundamental emotion) and finally joy at reaching the summit of your offering.

(Note that I don’t say the biggest, most expensive package is also the most popular. It makes consumers suspicious when your most expensive is also — curiously enough — your most popular. If it’s true, fine. But otherwise, avoid it.)

• Turn nouns and verbs into adjectives by adding an ending.

Try “-ic” or “-ish” or “-ary” or “-est,” as in “Our savviest customers typically put 20 to 25 percent down.”

Savvy is an adjective, but what’s really great about it for this example is that it also is aspirational. Everyone wants to be savvy.

• Add an adjective to a noun.

Understand that — when working with you — your target will make important decisions. “Decision” is a noun; “decide” is a verb. So add an adjective in front of that “decision.”

– A big  decision.
– A critical  decision
– A crucial  decision.
– Afar‐reaching  decision.
– A significant  decision.

“Picking the coverage for your Harley‐Davidson experience is a significant decision, and I want to make sure you have all the facts.”

Another variation involves stressing to your target that they are making not only important decisions, but also informeddecisions. Your role is really to educate others to help them make the best decision possible. Here are some variations:

– We want you to make a knowledgeable decision.
– We want you to make an educated decision.
– We want you to make a wise decision.
– We want you to make an enlightened decision.

“Picking the coverage for your Harley‐Davidson experience is crucial, and I want to make sure you have all the facts so you can make an informed decision.”

Note: It can also be helpful to identify decisions as “responsible” or even “irresponsible”:

– The responsible thing to do is consider and plan for these possibilities.
– It would be irresponsible not to consider these possibilities.

These descriptors amplify the importance of the decision and subsequently the significance of your advice. This goes a long way toward creating a trusting relationship.

Similarly, when talking about decisions that involve an element of risk, make your language more interesting by trying some of these variations:

– It’s about diminishing risk.
– It’s about lowering risk.
– It’s about decreasing risk.
– It’s about downsizing your risk.
– It’s about paring down your risk.

“Having peace of mind is all about diminishing risk. And that’s why I’d like to talk to you about the Harley‐Davidson Guaranteed Asset Protection program.”

Fear — specifically fear of loss — is probably the most powerful human emotion. We are much more influenced to act (or not) by fearing what we might lose, rather than what we have to gain.

I consider language to be of crucial importance to your persuasion success. The words you use and the phrases that you choose have a huge bearing on what others think, say and do.

Give these ideas a try immediately.

Does Your Persuasion Priority Expand Your Networks?

Few things are as important to a working professional as a network of contacts. But if there is one area of weakness in most people’s persuasion arsenal, it exists in their professional network. We know it’s important to create and cultivate relationships, but we don’t necessarily put in the energy and effort. 

Your persuasion priority may require you to establish new relationships or refresh existing ones. During the course of your efforts, you also may need and want to seek out subject matter experts, mentors, historians, prognosticators and contrarians. 

Networking Examples

If your persuasion priority is to bring a new product to market, making the case for it requires an analysis of product liability risks — an area that might be outside your expertise. You’ll need to find a subject matter expert, and you’ll need to make a solid first impression while establishing a positive relationship and expanding your professional network.

Additionally, you may want to seek out someone to teach you a new skill or provide guidance. Whether you refer to that individual as a teacher, a mentor or a coach — and there are distinctions between those terms — doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re reaching out.

Say you’re creating a point-of-purchase marketing support initiative and you need help determining the best way to communicate with your retailers. Find someone who has done the same thing before and ask for guidance. You’ll not only get new information, but establish a new relationship, too. 

Perhaps you’ll need a historian, someone who possesses the history critical to your persuasion priority. Maybe you’re pitching a new idea to an existing client, but you’ve never worked with this client directly. You’ll need someone who knows existing relationships, past experiences involving the client and your organization, and where minefields might be lurking. To get started, reach out to a colleague. 

In other situations, you may seek out what are sometimes referred to as prognosticators. They are usually found in market research areas and can evaluate current indicators and make educated predictions about what’s going to develop in the coming years and quarters. Perhaps the product line is maturing and therefore will be subject to competitors, or the client base is aging and there will be natural attrition, or the markets will align and there will be an opportunity for new offerings.

Finally, if you’re confident and adventurous, you can seek out contrarians. Those people have the ability to powerfully argue the opposite and tell you why your ideas aren’t as good as you think. You’re free to disagree, of course. But in the end, you’ll have another opinion — and maybe even some new ideas you hadn’t previously considered — to strengthen your approach.

Relationships can be as powerful as splitting the atom in terms of creating your credibility and influence. So think about your persuasion priority in terms of a clean slate, an opportunity to reinvigorate your networking efforts.