How to Get Other People to Sing Your Praises

After receiving a referral, don’t overlook the importance of following up with the referring party. Always keep that person in the loop. That way, he or she can help if the third party isn’t immediately responsive. The referrer also will be motivated to provide you with more contacts and support. After all, the referring party will score some points with their sources, too.

Who knows? The person who gave you one referral could wind up giving you countless referrals — turning into what I like to call a “personal evangelist.” An evangelist, of course, is someone who promotes something enthusiastically. There already exist religious evangelists, technology evangelists and brand evangelists. Now I’m suggesting you create your own personal evangelists: people who sing your praises and attempt to convert others to, well, you.

How do you create personal evangelists? Here are five suggestions:

1. Be a rebel with a cause.

In a research paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell define cool as: “… a subjective, positive trait perceived in people, brands, products and trends that are autonomous in an appropriate way.” The researchers cited a 1984 Apple advertisement as a prime  example. In essence it communicated the fact that “You have a choice” and then implored “Don’t buy IBM.” The ad didn’t’ say, “Burn IBM’s headquarters to the ground.” So be “out there,” but with boundaries.

2. Don’t try to appeal to everyone.

If you want true staying power, you can’t appeal to everyone. Yep — you read that right. The rock band KISS, an ongoing entity for almost 45 years, with some 80 million albums sold, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. One of the main reasons the band made it this far is because it created a rabid group of evangelists known as the KISS Army, which packs tremendous staying power. These people are devoted fans. Lead vocalist Paul Stanley said it best: “Either love us or hate us. If you’re in the middle, get out.”

3. Take care of those who support you.

Lessons also can be learned from another rock band, albeit one with a much different musical style than KISS. The Grateful Dead’s evangelists, known collectively as “Deadheads,” demonstrated the power of the people in almost everything they did. For example, while The Grateful Dead bucked convention in many ways, it’s still shocking to think that the band allowed Deadheads to record their shows for free and actively encouraged bootlegging of their music for decades. Why? Because it endeared the band to the fans. Reciprocity, anyone?

4. Be elegant.

Steve Jobs was so fanatical about design that he added costs and increased development time by railing about the importance of the aesthetic design of the circuitry found inside Apple products. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are often referred to as rolling sculptures, with each component shining like a perfectly cut jewel. Have everything you do be just as elegant. Dress sharp and keep a clean office or desk — both of which can do big things for your persuasion powers. Now apply that approach to emails you send, documents you create and PowerPoint presentations you deliver. Make sure your stuff not only is good, but that it looks good, too.

5. Be like Billy

Speaking of evangelization, why not be like an actual evangelist? I asked one person whose opinion I respect who he thought was the greatest speaker he’d ever heard? His reply: “Billy Graham — and I’m agnostic!” Speaking is one of the most effective ways to create personal evangelists. Know your topic, engage your crowd and deliver your message with enthusiasm. Whether you should mimic Billy Graham’s style or content is up for debate, but exceptional speaking skills can create a tent-revival atmosphere around you and your persuasion priorities.

Now get out there and begin gathering your own personal evangelists!

How ‘Thank You’ Can Boost Your Persuasive Power

Nothing is more powerful in the world of B2B or B2C sales than a face-to-face encounter between a satisfied customer and a credible sales professional. This is the kind of human exchange in which influence can be wielded for the good of both individuals. When a customer or client says “thank you,” for example, you must be able to leverage those words — or risk blowing a major opportunity to take that sales relationship to a higher level.

Here are three things to do when you hear “thank you”:

1. Don’t waste words.

What’s typically the first thing out of your mouth when a customer thanks you? “No problem. That’s why I’m here.” A coworker thanks you for your assistance, and you say, “Sure, it was easy.” A supplier sends a note of appreciation, and you leave it at that. Not only are these relationships not furthered, but you actually also may be damaging them with the responses you give — or don’t give. Making someone feel unappreciated, incompetent or unworthy of a response is a surefire way to not increase your influence.

2. Drop the arrogance act.

Another potential problem is when the thank-you exchange is framed in such a way that the other person feels like he or she has just done a favor for Vito Corleone (“Someday I may call upon you to do a service for me.”) If you respond with a defiant, “And now you owe me one!” you’re just asking for animosity and opposition.

3. Rethink your response.

So how can you avoid under-responding or overreacting to a “thank you”? By using influential language. Robert Cialdini, author of the seminal work Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, suggests saying something like this: “My pleasure, because I know if the situation were reversed, you would have done the same for me!” Then watch as the other person nods furiously in agreement.

That’s how you use language to expertly and subtly earn a “chit” — an informal influence credit. Practice this approach until you’re comfortable using the language of Cialdini or similar language you develop on your own to create compelling yet conversational and influential exchanges.

(Photo by Gratisography)

Killer Credibility: 7 Ways to Achieve It, Keep It and Win It Back

What can I do to improve my credibility? It’s a question I’m asked a lot, and there is more than one correct answer. In fact, here are seven ways to build and keep — and, if necessary, win back — credibility:

1. Dress better. Let’s face it: We all are in the image business. If you want to be taken seriously, dress for success. That means you should look clean and neat, and wear shined shoes and clothes that fit well.

2. Speak better. The occasional colloquialism is OK, but if those are the only things that come out of your mouth, you could find yourself up for a role in the next season of Swamp People.

3. Know your stuff. Credibility starts with competency. Learn as much as you can from every verbal exchange. In my book, Accelerate the Sale: Kick-Start Your Personal Selling Style to Close More Sales, Faster, I asked executives about their greatest sale. The most frequent response I received? “My wife agreed to marry me.” (True story.) But the response that left the biggest impression on me was the guy who said, “My next one. Because I’ll know more, be able to do more and be able to help the customer more.” That’s a big idea.

4. Admit when you’ve erred. When you make a mistake, simply say, “I made a mistake. I’m sorry.” Then move on.

5. Channel Johnny Carson. Johnny Carson is one of my all-time favorite entertainers. When a guest would mention a piece of knowledge outside of Johnny’s realm, he didn’t try to take over the conversation or “one up” the guest. He simply said, “I did not know that.” That’s what I say now. You should, too.

6. Practice convergent validity. Make sure you have the correct information. Check with three different sources to get their take on a given situation. You’ll be shocked by how opinions vary. Doing this will help expand your network of contacts, better grasp the situation and make stronger decisions. And that, my friends, will give you greater credibility.

7. Guard your credibility. Your credibility is a precious commodity. Protect it with all you’ve got. Late in his baseball career, while playing injured, Joe DiMaggio still went all out during every at bat and every inning in the field. When a teammate said to him, “Hey, Joe, you’re hurt, take it easy,” Joe replied, “I can’t. There might be someone in the stands seeing me for the first time, and I don’t want to let them down.” Not a bad mindset for the rest of us.

Here’s to your credibility!

(Photo by Jared Erondu via Unsplash)

Persuasion 360: How to Get Agreement Up, Down and All Around

How do you persuade more than one person at a time? You need to acknowledge group decisions don’t get made in group settings.

Think about that: It’s counterintuitive but inescapably true. Groups hear and discuss, sometimes debate and argue, but they seldom decide as a unit. Rarely will you find a single decision maker. Rather, multiple decision makers — often including but not limited to the budget manager, a hierarchical leader and an informal leader — are involved in the final decision.

Thus, you need to appeal to fiscal prudence, leadership responsibility, charisma or all of the above. Group meetings must be augmented by one‐on‐one meetings to gain support and woo true decision makers. Consider yourself a congressional lobbyist, but one with scruples and a good cause.

You don’t need unanimity or an overwhelming mandate to generate group agreement; you need critical mass. Consensus is something everyone can live with, not something everyone would die for. With that in mind, focus on the pragmatism of the numbers. That means “being right” in your own mind isn’t good enough.

Why You Should Salute When You Hear ‘No’

I’m often asked how many times someone should attempt to persuade another person before acknowledging a “no.”

Now, you shouldn’t ignore that “no” or refuse to hear it. But you also shouldn’t easily give up.

My typical response to the above question has come to be known among clients as “the platinum rule of persuasion,” because it works so well: Take two shots, and then salute.

What do I mean by this? If your target says “no” once, reformulate and try again. If, after your second attempt, the target’s response is still “no,” salute and move on.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you actually engage in the physical act of saluting. And I certainly don’t want you to flip the one-finger salute! But a salute in its most traditional form is a display of respect.

In persuasion situations, a “salute” should be an acknowledgement of your target’s opinion and an expression of gratitude for listening to your pitch: “I value your input and respect your decision. Perhaps we can revisit this topic again in the future. For now, though, thanks for your time and consideration.”

You can try again some other day.