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)

Don’t Be a Fool When Seeking Persuasion Success

The best way to minimize the likelihood of taking a foolish persuasion risk is to ask questions first and seek agreement later.

Like this:

“What’s your view on the new ad campaign?”

“In your opinion, are new research protocols available that can accelerate the time to market?”

“What’s your take on my performance?”

“What’s your position on the new project?”

You’ll notice that these questions all share a common theme: They ask the target for their opinion, but they don’t ask for a commitment. Commitments are threatening; they require a line to be drawn and force a decision.

People are reluctant to make commitments quickly. On the other hand, opinions are easy to make and quickly shared. If you ask others for their opinions first, you will receive important clarifying information about your target’s thinking processes and be able to minimize the odds of hearing “no.”

Everybody has an opinion, and most people are willing to share them. If you ask me for my opinion, I can’t help but like you more. It’s as immutable as the law of gravity.

Persuasion Power: Building a Strong Business Case

Building your business case can achieve skyrocketing persuasion results.

It all begins with such quantitative actions as doing due diligence, then measuring return on investment and knowing how much you need to sell. Then, you must create positive emotional links.

Finally, put everything together to create both real and hypothetical case studies to make your point. To best convince others that your business case is relevant and powerful, consider these six techniques:

1. Draw from other industries.

Demonstrate how and when your idea has worked elsewhere and why it’s likely to work in this situation. In other words, show precedence.

2. Provide relevant examples.

They should that either support why quick action is necessary or why a more measured approach is appropriate.

3. Create “positional critical mass.”

This means that you’ve focused your early arguments on the movers and shakers — people who can champion your cause and best rally support. It also helps when formal (hierarchical) and informal (popular colleagues) individuals support the position you espouse.

4. Cite and utilize experts (living and deceased).

They can be leveraged to help cut through uncertainty. If I were attempting to persuade about technology, I’d likely cite Walt Mossberg, former Wall Street Journal columnist and co-founder of the AllThingsD, Recode, D & Code Conferences. But if my persuasion priority involved organizational strategy, I’d reference the late management consultant Peter Drucker.

5. Provide validation and verification.

Citing the right metrics (quantitative help) will justify and validate your persuasion priority. For example, if you have 20 percent more clients six months from now than you do today, you’ll know your organization’s referral initiative will have been successful.

6. Argue against yourself.

People routinely write books on both sides of an issue. Academic debating requires the ability to take either side of an issue and prove or disprove it. Make the anticipated arguments against your own case and rebut them, so that you’re prepared for the crucible.

Remember: There are quantitative and qualitative aspects to any persuasive argument. Not only can’t you afford to omit either dynamic, but you must appreciate the supporting role they play for each other.

Mastering that synthesis is the key to becoming a powerful persuader.

Black Friday Tip: Take Your Buyer’s Photo and Then Close the Sale

Black Friday is next week (Thanksgiving is early this year), so if you’re in the retail business, make sure your digital camera is fully charged. You’ll want to take lots of photos that day.

You can literally put your buyer in the picture. In the Harley-Davidson world, I tell retailers to take a digital photograph of their prospective buyers when they are considering which model to purchase. This is a fantastic opportunity for the customer to see themselves on the motorcycle of their dreams — without having to invest in gigantic mirrors for the sales floor.

A photo positively differentiates that salesperson and that dealership from the competition, makes the prospect feel like he’s part of a fun family and gives the salesperson a wholly legitimate reason to capture contact information and follow up.

Photo Magic

This idea works in practically any face-to-face B2C experience. Working at Guitar Center and you’ve got a hot prospect eyeing up a new Les Paul Custom? Shoot a photo of him with that piece of musical art in his hands with that small digital camera in your pocket. Selling furniture? Take a photo of a customer kicking back in his recliner of choice. Employed by an art gallery? Snap an image of the prospective buyer standing next to the piece under consideration. Make sure you use your own (or the store’s) camera; this won’t work with the customer’s smartphone camera. The idea is for you to have possession of the photo, obtain the contact information, and then follow up.

I’ve also seen the picture method used with some degree of success in B2B situations. One company, for example, was considering buying a well-known author’s business books and training materials for its employees. While the corporate buyer was having dinner with the author’s representatives, the celebrity author surprised the buyer by joining them at the table. Naturally, the author’s rep snapped photos of the buyer and the author together, and the corporate buyer wound up giving the writer his company’s business. Was that solely because of the pictures? Of course not. But they didn’t hurt.

‘Ownership Transference’

Think about how you might incorporate a famous employee, cool logo or unconventional office building into photo opportunities for your customers. I can’t tell you how many Harley-Davidson enthusiasts pose next to the Motor Company’s iconic bar-and-shield logo each year at the corporate offices in Milwaukee – regardless of how much snow is on the ground.

These kinds of photographs aid the psychological phenomenon I call “ownership transference.” When someone sits on a motorcycle (or slips on a jacket or sits in a chair or slings a Les Paul over his or her shoulder), that person really is taking mental ownership. And having a digital photo to look at and share with friends enables people to relive and reinforce those positive feelings of ownership.

Putting your prospective buyer into the picture, both figuratively and literally, is a crucial step in your sales process.

Revisiting Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion: Social Proof

In five previous posts, I’ve covered the noted psychologist Robert’s Cialdini’s five principles of persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, consistency, liking and authority.

Now, we come to Cialdini’s last principle: social proof. People follow the lead of similar others, and this condition of social proof intensifies when there exists a condition of uncertainty (Sales are down! What should we do?) or similarity (All the other computer companies offer package deals.) The most powerful example of this is peer pressure among teenagers. Studies show that teens are more likely to vape if their friends and family approve.

Social proof holds sway in the office, too. If you notice coworkers signing up for the United Way HomeWalk, you will be more inclined to do so. If you see that others are working late at the office, you more than likely will start setting aside a few evenings to stick around, as well. If everyone appears to be on board with the new marketing direction, you will probably be on board, too — even if you’re not a fan of the new marketing direction.

We are social creatures.

The absolute best way to leverage social proof in a business setting is through the use of testimonials and referrals, which demonstrate that others have benefitted from knowing and working with you. And now your target will, too. That is the power of social proof.

It’s important to know that people often use Cialdini’s six principles, individually or in combinations, to make decisions. And now that you know them, so can you.

Revisiting Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion: Scarcity

In a recent post, I introduced Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasionwho created something akin to a “Unified Field Theory of Persuasion” by categorizing almost every persuasion approach into one of six primary principles: reciprocity, scarcity, consistency, liking, authority and social proof.

Last time, I covered reciprocity. In this post, I’ll focus on the second of those principles: scarcity.


Call it the rule of the rare, the fact of the few or the coefficient of the insufficient. People want more of what they perceive to be a dwindling supply.

Countless examples exist of how individuals have responded to a decreasing supply of something. One of my favorite reactions is the panic caused when Hostess Brands Inc., the 82-year-old maker of Twinkies and other snacks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012. Shoppers began stockpiling Twinkies, fearing they’d find no alternative for their sugar fixes. News outlets reported that at least one person tried to capitalize on the scare by offering a single Twinkie on eBay for $8,000!

To truly leverage the principle of scarcity, the scarcity must truly be real. There really needs to be “Only three days left!” or “Limited inventory!” Anything else, and lack of ethics comes into play. And if you think people are worried about what they might be missing, they’re even more concerned about losing what they already have. That’s why “loss language” (forfeit, surrender, forgo) is always preferable to “gain language” (acquire, obtain, secure) when playing the persuasion game.

Try incorporating the principle of scarcity into your persuasion efforts this week.

The Role Emotions Play in Persuasion Success

More than 400 words exist in the English language to describe “emotion.” In fact, neurologists have even identified distinctions between emotions (the automatic brain response) and feelings (the subjective way we interpret those emotions).

Depending on how thinly you’d like to slice the topic, you could literally list dozens of human emotions — from acceptance, affection and aggression to pity, pleasure and pride to shame, suffering and sympathy. And of course, there are degrees of emotions that measure the intensity level of any particular emotion.

To simplify things, let’s consider that there are three categories of emotions: positive (hope, love, satisfaction), neutral (acceptance, detached, unenthusiastic) and negative (anxiety, frustration, loneliness).

Now it’s time to get strategic and purposeful about how you use emotions in the act of persuading. What emotions could you create? What emotions should you create, so that you can do the right thing for all involved?

Here are my seven emotional objectives to consider when building your case to persuade — or dissuade.

  1. Provoke, by causing a reaction, especially an angry one.
  2. Inspire, by giving people a particular feeling, often positive.
  3. Invoke, by enabling someone to see a particular image in his or her mind.
  4. Awaken, to make someone experience a new feeling or emotion.
  5. Arouse, to create an emotion, especially one that excites.
  6. Touch, to create a sad or sympathetic emotion.
  7. Ignite, to jump-start a particular feeling.

Building one or more of these ideas into your business case will materially improve your chances of yes success.

How Using Facts and Figures the Right Way Can Make You More Persuasive

Some sales professionals believe that buyers no longer care about facts and figures, so they suggest sellers avoid using them.

This is nonsense.

That said, some buyers will be more interested in such details than others. Some motorcycle buyers, for example, want to know every last detail — down to how the paint is applied and what materials are contained within the seat cushion; others just want results. The information they want and how they want it delivered is often referred to as “idiosyncratic information and communication style.”

Do they want an overview of the facts, or do they want all the details? Do they prefer email or a phone call? As a general rule, statistics, facts and figures — when used judiciously — are excellent nuggets to include in your persuasive efforts.

While participating in a consulting workshop, a colleague named Bill Corbett introduced himself to the group. He stated that he was a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation mentor from Loveland, Colo., who works with individuals and organizations across the world to help improve recovery success. He revealed that in the world of drug-and-alcohol abuse intervention, a single-digit success rate is not uncommon. His clients, however, enjoy an 85 percent recovery-success rate. I still can hear the gasps that filled the room when he said that – in part because of this incredible substantiation and validation of Corbett’s approaches, and partly because the rest of us no doubt wished we had such a compelling value proposition.

This is a perfect example of how the confident and well-placed use of numbers can make a mighty impact on your audience. Statistics, figures, and other types of numerical representations are typically used one of two ways:

  1. To prove a result, as in the Bill Corbett example above
  2. To merely describe a fact, such as how paint is applied to a Harley-Davidson Road King

In either application, numbers prove to be extremely valuable – dramatically (and almost instantly) increasing the credibility of both you and whatever you’re offering. You certainly don’t want to overwhelm people with facts and stats. But like the subtle accent in a painting or the perfect flatted-third note in a thick blues song, when used sensibly, facts and stats add that special touch to create something memorable.

They might even help you hear “yes” faster.

Photo by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pexels

Are You Ethical in Your Persuasion Situations?

If the means are ethical and the ends are ethical, then you’re obviously operating in an ethical manner when it comes to your persuasion attempts. In other words, if — by pursuing your persuasion priority — good things will happen for your target, your company and you, why not?

If your means are unethical and your ends are unethical — perhaps you fabricated vendor research to steer your company to an unqualified supplier because said supplier gave you Super Bowl tickets — then you’ve transformed into a slimy character worthy of The Wolf of Wall Street status.

The dilemma occurs when the ends are ethical, but the means are not.

Consider stealth marketing. For a well-publicized covert marketing campaign initiated by a leading telecommunications company several years ago promoting its new camera phone, the company hired 60 actors to pose as travelers in 10 different cities and asked passersby to take their picture. Upon handing a chosen individual the new phone, the actors then casually pointed out how to use the phone and subtly mentioned some of its most impressive features, effectively giving a soft sales pitch. Marketers stressed that they wanted the exchange to feel natural.

Is this an example of an ethical means to an ethical end?

Ethical Guidelines

To paraphrase the late corporate performance expert Joel DeLuca, “If they knew what you were trying to do, would they let you?” The “they” in the above example is the targeted buyer (not the company’s competitors). So if your target knew you were trying to get the best reaction possible to your product, and that meant engaging in a so-called “natural” exchange on the street, would your target still play along? Yes, probably.

But if you need to think about it twice, run the scenario through your head again.

In his book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Daniel Pink offers a powerful rule of thumb for always operating ethically: Treat everyone as you would your grandmother.