aircraft taking off or landing

What Happens When Your Persuasion Efforts Encounter Turbulence?

I’ve flown well over a million airline miles, and I’ve never taken one flight on which there wasn’t at least some turbulence during the ascent. Likewise, rarely do persuasion attempts succeed without at least a few bumps. I call this “assent turbulence.”

This kind of persuasion turbulence occurs when new information appears, people are influenced by other opinions or X factors are in play. Be it a promotion, a firing or a merger, things happen that change a person’s perspective on your request. And the larger, more complex your request, the more important it is for you to buckle your seatbelt.

Just because things get a bit bumpy doesn’t mean your flight won’t end up at your intended destination, though. Here are seven factors that contribute to the inevitable bumps you persuasion efforts will take on your ascent to assent:

1. Lack of trust

You’ll know when trust is missing when your target fails to be forthcoming with information, asks for delays, acts guarded, or is curt and abrupt in responses — or worse, doesn’t ask any follow-up questions at all. The remedy is to be 100 percent candid with your target and address the elephant in the room: “Mike, I know we don’t seem to be on the same page with this issue, but it is important to both of us. So let’s be honest, see if we can forge a compromise and be allies rather than adversaries.” Or this: “Monica, you seem hesitant. Why don’t we talk frankly about your concerns so we can both be more comfortable?” Ask people for the “favor” of honesty, trust and patience, and they’ll return the favor and trust you more in the process.

2. Lack of compelling value in the request

This is indicated by no clear economic return on investment, no personal benefit for the target or no attempt to link qualitative returns to actual evidence. Value, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. And the other person’s eye is the one that needs to behold the benefits of your pitch. In this instance, have your target stipulate what an effective return would be, at least theoretically. What would he like to see happen? Start with ROI, and work backwards, being sure to turn qualitative benefits into quantitative metrics whenever possible.

3. The request is unclear

You’ll know your pitch isn’t working when you’re hit with a slew of questions, insistence on qualifiers, digressions or a lack of focus on what you believe to be the issue. One way to decrease the potential of making an unclear request is to practice your pitch on others first, including family members and friends. Ask for their help in terms of making you present your case with clarity and focus. Eschew jargon and focus on specifics.

4. An ill-timed request.

Sometimes, it’s not you; it’s the timing. Priorities may be elsewhere. Perhaps it’s your firm’s busy season. Or IT problems in the office are leaving employees distracted and ornery. Or your specific target might just be having a bad day and dealing with issues of which you’re completely unaware. You can do you best to anticipate the timing of your request by not asking for something that directly conflicts with ongoing demands. Don’t try to swim against the tide, especially a rip tide.

Practice reversal, too. As a high school wrestler, this was one of my specialties moves. Wresting control from my opponents earned me two points each time. In persuasion, it can get you much, much more. Try something like this: “You’ve got a ton on your plate, I know. That’s exactly why we should green-light this project. I can make sure it gets done right and involve you as much or as little as you want.”

5. Overwhelming opposing self-interest

This happens when the company, the department or the individual has a huge economic advantage to do exactly the opposite of what you are pursuing (or to do nothing at all). This is a tough one, but there are ways to combat it, by appealing to corporate values or long-term benefits. Suggest that your idea will not create a reversal of goals, and attempt to show your targets how a “yes” would support them in the longer term. You can provide them with a quid pro quo they’re not expecting.

6. X factors

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Suddenly, an unexpected “expert,” such as an outside consultant, weighs in on your pitch. Or an unanticipated development, such as an acquisition or company reorganization occurs. Or you learn of a personal relationship that could jeopardize your persuasion efficacy, such as the person you thought was in favor of an organizational shift is married to the cousin of the company’s general manager.

What should you do? Damn the torpedoes and keep your persuasion priority moving forward, irrespective of the new information. If that’s too bold of a move for you, make sure you have a Plan B. Adjust your “ask” in light of the new conditions, and try to co-opt new sources of expertise. If you can, change your timing to take advantage of the situation.

7. Machiavellian types

I’m referring to the people who tell you one thing (to keep you happy) and then do another (to make them happy) Then they explain their behavior as a misunderstanding (to try to make you happy again). They will take credit for others’ work, disassociate themselves from errors of their own and work behind the scenes to reach their goals — often entering and exiting alliances and friendships in revolving-door fashion.

Machiavellian types also hate the bright light that exposes their dark corners, so keep issues in the light. Contain them, because it’s pointless to fight them, and don’t attempt head-on (or head-first) assaults. Rather, give them the opportunity to eventually reveal that the only side they’re ever on is their own.

Next time: Five emergency persuasion actions you might need to take.

Defuse Deceit With These Three Easy Strategies

Give others the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise: That’s the business world’s version of “innocent until proven guilty.”

And that’s why you should make sure your suspicions about others are not just the result of you being envious. Don’t be paranoid, either. People who don’t always agree with your pitch early on aren’t necessarily opposed to it; they just may not yet appreciate what you’re bringing to the table.

Occasionally, some people do only think of themselves and may attempt to thwart your persuasion efforts for self-aggrandizing reasons. They take credit for what’s not theirs, manipulate others and seem concerned only with personal advancement. They might act passive-aggressively by seemingly taking your side but then constantly undermine you through faint praise and nuanced critiques.

When that type of deceit happens, control your emotions. Deceitful people can offend your sense of judgment to such a degree that you’re motivated to go head-to-head with them on an issue in a public setting. Don’t. That’s what they want you to do. A public — or at least an office — feud, whether you win or lose, will delay and often derail your persuasion plans. Most of them meander on interminably, with no resolution and with others rapidly losing interest or at least feeling uncomfortable in group settings.

Additionally, your opponent is likely skilled in the art of deception and will turn public conversations around as if to question your intentions.

Here are three strategies to counteract a deceitful target:

1. Contain the deceit.

Keep other options in your pocket to accomplish tasks without your opponent’s input. Isolating opposition or foot-dragging to minor issues, while gaining momentum on the major elements of your persuasion effort, will allow you to make necessary headway — much like the army that maneuvers around a single island of resistance on the way toward its ultimate goal.

2. Shine a spotlight.

In meetings with others, ask your opponent to discuss his or her concerns. While it’s easy to be deceitful, presenting the facts and figures to defend the deception is much more difficult. This is why group meetings play an important role in honest persuasion exploration.

3. Pay attention to meeting agendas.

The deceitful will place their agenda items at the end of meetings, because they know that’s when the rubber stamp comes out and people are eager to move on. So make sure that those items are higher on the agenda; you will then control the conversation.


15 Ways to Punch Out Stress

Psychologists report that stress, anxiety and tension reduce many people to operating at only half of their capabilities. Here are 15 tips to help ensure that you run at full capacity, all the time.

1. Be realistic about your own goals.

Don’t try to conquer the world in one day. A career is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t double your prospect list within 24 hours or convince everyone in the room that your way is best after a five-minute presentation. As the saying goes, the rewards don’t always go to the fastest runners, but to those who stay in the race.

2. Confront the fear of failure.

Everyone experiences fear of failure. But instead of expending valuable energy worrying about what will go wrong, put that extra energy into planning and preparing for what can go right. The best sales professionals experience failure regularly, but that means they are trying new things and constantly expanding their skill sets. So go ahead and try that new prospect or persuasion approach. If it works, great! If not, no big deal. Move on.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

If there is a misunderstanding between you and someone at work, talk it out. Don’t let something simple overwhelm your thoughts or activities. As soon as possible, pick up the phone, or go see that person, and explain your position. Somebody once told me, “If you have to go ugly, go ugly early.” In other words, communicate your position as soon as possible. This allows you time to solve the problem, and then concentrate on the business of getting more people to say, “Yes.”

4. Don’t become a victim of unrealistic demands.

People sometimes make requests that are impossible to fulfill: “We have no money, but we’d like to take you up on your offer.” You’re a sales professional, not a professional magician. If you think someone is making an unrealistic demand, take a few minutes to examine the request more closely. Sometimes the “impossible” really is possible, so do not use “unrealistic demands” as an easy way out. If, however, the demands truly are unrealistic, explain your position to the prospect. If he bolts, that’s OK. You weren’t going to be able to help him, anyway.

5. Get more rest.

Adults average 6.9 hours of sleep a night, even though many experts contend they need between seven and nine hours. The resulting sleep deprivation results in reduced productivity at work, irritability, diminished driving capacity and a variety of health problems.

6. Get to work early.

Employees who arrive early have a few spare minutes to better prepare for the day. Be one of them, and take that time to organize a daily “to-do” list or wrap up any loose ends from the previous day; you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when you can get a jump on the day.

7. Get in shape.

Being in good physical condition leads to more energy – thanks to improved blood flow to muscles and the brain, faster muscle recovery and better use of oxygen. How do you determine if you are in good condition? Many experts consider the best indicator of health to be your resting heart rate. Physicians rank heart rate as the most important vital sign when evaluating patients. Most people have a resting heart rate between 70 and 90 beats per minute. A physically fit person will have a resting heart rate around 50 beats per minute. Scientific studies show a direct correlation between physical exercise and mental well-being, proving that aerobic exercise such as walking, running and bicycling for 30 minutes three times a week actually works.

8. Eat right.

Nutrition plays a major role in a person’s ability to handle stress. Eating the right foods at the right time gives you more energy and the ability to accomplish more. So, forget about that greasy fast-food burger; pack your lunch. It’ll save you calories and dollars. Or better yet, take a qualified buyer out to lunch, and enjoy salmon and a salad. Get healthy while building relationships.

9. Cut back on the caffeine.

Caffeine does not give you energy; it stimulates your nervous system and adrenals. That’s not energy; that’s stress. It’s been reported that a single 250-milligram dose of caffeine (about 2.5 six-ounce cups of coffee) can increase levels of the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) by more than 200 percent. Be reasonable with your caffeine consumption, and understand that it isn’t a source of “real” energy.

10. Lose the smokes.

If reviewing the results of a Google image search of “smokers’ lungs” won’t make you stop smoking, perhaps the fact that cigarettes contain an estimated 4,000 known toxins with several known carcinogens will. Cigarette smoking also contributes to severe vitamin deficiencies and reduces your body’s ability to oxygenate. How do you quit? Try interval sprinting every other day, which should at least make you think twice before lighting up.

11. Spend time on yourself.

Go for a brisk walk early in the morning, or take the long way home in the evening. Everybody needs quiet time to recharge their mental batteries.

12. Get input from others.

Talking to friends, family members and coworkers about situations that cause stress can provide a different perspective. (Be sure to avoid whining to these people.) Constructive conversation can be a great tool for relieving stress. Often, it’s that sense of community and companionship that can see you through tough situations.

13. Use positive mental affirmations.

Much research has been conducted on the rejuvenating powers of the mind. Psychologists claim that most of our “self talk” is negative, which creates a defeatist attitude and low energy. When you feel your energy starting to ebb, and you’re focusing on how tired you are, try passing a powerful, energizing thought through your head. For the spiritually inclined, I like Isaiah 40:31KJV (go ahead, look it up). For something more secular, try the affirmation made famous by late-19th century French psychotherapist Émile Coué: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” I use both. A lot.

14. Understand control and influence.

I was taught long ago that successful people spend the majority of their time on what they can control, some time on what they can influence and precious little time on what they can’t control or influence. Instead of agonizing over the possibility of failure, use your resources to think of ways to get more projects in the pipeline or generate ideas to intensify the desire of your hot prospects. One huge contributor to being overwhelmed is feeling like you have no control. So work on what you can control, and don’t worry about the rest. Not always easy to do, but well worth it.

15. Have high-quality options.

That’s great advice. For whatever reason, the times in my life when I’ve succumbed to stress and behaved in ways I wish I hadn’t typically occurred because I felt I didn’t have options. So, build your skills, have financial reserves, establish scores of terrific professional partnerships, and you will always find that you have options.

Do You Recognize These Three Types of Stress?

Feeling stressed out right about now? To deal with stress, you first must understand where it comes from. The American Management Association identifies three basic types of stress:

1.) Individually oriented stress

2.) Interpersonally oriented stress

3.) Organizationally oriented stress

Let’s break down each of these stress types and explore where and how they originate.

1. Individually Oriented Stress

Face it, most of us create our own stress. It is internal, and very often one of the most challenging types of stress to overcome. Some symptoms of individually oriented stress include:

  • Fear of failure
  • Self-set deadlines
  • Long hours
  • Unrealistic expectations of self, career or goals
  • An overwhelming sense of personal responsibility
  • A self-perceived lack of self-control, personal support or feedback

You are your own toughest critic. As with most things, balance is a significant consideration. You want to take initiative and push yourself, but not to the detriment of your health or well being. (Go ahead: Ask me how I know.)

2. Interpersonally Oriented Stress

When people feel unappreciated or misunderstood by superiors, peers or subordinates, hard feelings take root. Stress also can occur when people believe their colleagues aren’t performing up to par. Open communication works best when battling this type of stress.

I believe no one intentionally shows up at work and says, “Man, I’m going to mess up today!” Most people really want to do a good job. If, in fact, you have an employee who is constantly forgetting to provide the follow-up support necessary to close deals, take the time to show that individual what needs to be done and why. Just don’t berate him.

3. Organizationally Oriented Stress

Employers can create stress in the following ways:

  • Providing unrealistic demands
  • Placing too much emphasis on competition
  • Setting unclear job requirements
  • Not giving enough credit for accomplishments
  • Failing to follow through on expected promotions
  • Providing little information about career paths
  • Allowing workplace politics to fester
  • Avoiding participation in decision making
  • Creating poor work conditions

Managers can easily fall into what I call the “insatiable more” complex, meaning they always demand more and more in terms of business performance. This often can be an exercise in futility, because of all the variables impacting your business.

How to Argue Effectively

I remember a long-ago staff meeting in which I was asked to share my thoughts on a proposal I didn’t much care for.  I knew, though, if I blurted out something like, “I think this is a horrible idea that could potentially debilitate our market share,” I wouldn’t have done myself any favors.

So I kept my emotions in check and learned a valuable lesson about how to make a valid point in a staff meeting that can potentially change the future direction of a particular initiative.

The first step is to remain calm — unemotional, even. Don’t change your facial expression or display body language that shows you disagree with something being said. Simply and politely interject and casually reframe the issue under discussion: “If I may interject here, I think the real question we should be asking ourselves is … ”

Then provide three points supporting your position, and reinforce each one with a fact, statistic, or anecdote: “Why would we want to enter an already overcrowded marketplace with a new product that strays from what we do best? First, we’ll be behind all of the existing manufacturers in the market, and that’s not a place we’re accustomed to being. The latest user surveys suggest we are the go-to brand in all of our product categories; we won’t be with this new one. Do consumers really need or even want another choice? Research shows they already think the market is saturated. Also, some of our current customers might question why we’re moving away from our niche. We’ll be like Coors deciding to sell bottled water in the Nineties.”

Finally, make a recommendation: “I’m in favor of pouring our resources and talent into a new product that will strengthen our current market share and not erode our credibility with consumers.”

If your persuasive tactics are met with skepticism or downright ignored, bring in the heavy artillery: “Do we have data and examples that prove there is a need for the type of product you want to develop?”

If your targets are unable to come up with satisfactory answers, great. Your work here is done. But if they engage your artillery with their own, inquire about the source of that information. Perhaps the firm used to gather market research has been the target of other companies regarding its questionable data gathering.

This process works in non-meeting situations, too. Consider the people who work at a Kia dealership and need to convince BMW loyalists that Kia’s K900 luxury model (with a base price of $50,000) is an overall better value than that 528i sedan they’re driving now. Those salespeople don’t want to waste their time and energy talking about Kia’s lengthy and successful tradition of making mainstream, economy-friendly cars; they must focus on the fact that Kia is a luxury automobile maker, too, and emphasize that from visual, drivability and technological perspectives, the K900 compares favorably to the 528i. But add in options, and you’ll be paying a lot more to outfit that Bimmer with what comes standard on the K900.

How to Create Your Own Halo Effect

One idea critical to increasing a person’s persuasiveness is the so-called “halo effect” — which doesn’t receive as much attention as it should. When we judge others positively in one aspect of their lives, we often judge them positively in other unrelated aspects. This is known scientifically as exaggerated emotional coherence, and more commonly referred to simply as the halo effect.

Edward Thorndike first observed the halo effect in 1920 via a paper called “The Constant Error in Psychological Ratings,” which analyzed military officer rankings of subordinates. If a soldier boasted a strong physical appearance, he also was considered to have impressive leadership abilities. If he were loyal, he also was rated as highly intelligent. The correlations proved way too consistent for Thorndike, who determined that officers’ impressions in one area of a soldier’s experience too often colored their impressions in another.

That practice holds true today. If someone is attractive, he also usually is considered smart.  If a person appears enthusiastic, she often also is perceived as hard working. Friendly? Must be a good leader, too. We draw generalized conclusions based on a specific data point.

Priming the Halo Pump

First is foremost. People’s impressions are colored by the first piece of data they receive, and their subsequent impressions are shaped by that data. One of the earliest and most enduring studies of first impressions and the halo effect was completed by psychologist Solomon Asch, who asked people to evaluate the personalities of two individuals named Alan and Ben.

Alan: intelligent – industrious – impulsive – critical – stubborn – envious

Ben: envious – stubborn – critical – impulsive – industrious – intelligent

Obviously, the series of adjectives used to describe Alan is simply reversed for Ben. Here’s the catch: Although the same words appeared in a different sequence, test subjects always viewed Alan significantly more favorably than Ben. Even Alan’s negative characteristics were seen more positively, because of the positivity applied to the initial descriptors. If someone you view positively possesses a stubbornness streak, you consider him a person who takes a principled stand. On the other hand, if you already have a negative impression of that person, the stubbornness can be seen as a sign of inflexibility and unwillingness to consider new ideas.

Creating Your Halo

The clear takeaway here is to attempt everything you can to make your entry point with a target positive in some way. As a general rule and in the earliest stages of a relationship with a target, you should dress well, be friendly and approachable, and be well read, well traveled and conversational. Be able to articulate your value and add important contributions to discussions. Make a favorable impression early, and you’ll dramatically improve the likelihood of hearing “yes” later.

Meeting an important target with whom you want to cultivate a positive and persuasive relationship? The savvy professional puts thought into not only how to make a positive impression, but also how to shape conversations. For example, consider the context of the meeting. Will it be a formalized business setting, such as a boardroom? Or will it be a more casual one-on-one exchange in an office? Conduct some research and explore similarities, interests and unusual aspects of the target’s background. Be prepared to speak intelligently about the issue at hand, ask intelligent questions and add a thought-provoking perspective.

Your halo will be showing soon.

Why More Than One Point of View Is Critical to Persuasion Success

The weather in Wisconsin is finally turning spring-like, and this past weekend’s 80-degree temperatures reminded me of a funny story about persuasion:

Although my wife and I enjoy fishing together, we are the antithesis of Bassmasters participants in that we fish from a pontoon boat complete with snacks and frequent naps. We basically put our living room on the water and call it sport. The one thing we do share with the pros is fancy “fish finder” technology. We, too, have one of these expensive black boxes that provide sonar‐created pictures of what’s under the boat.

Fast‐forward to a warm early-June morning as Amy piloted our pontoon living room through a tight channel on Wisconsin’s Whitewater Lake. While she kept a careful eye on the finder, I busied myself preparing the tackle for our day on the water. “Mark, we need to stop here,” Amy said excitedly, “I’ve never seen so many fish!”

“But we never fish here,” I growled like the character Quint in the movie Jaws, as I made my way to examine the sonar image.

It was an unbelievable sight. The underwater world around us was exploding with fish. Big fish, little fish and the most picturesque drop‐offs and covers. It was amazing. This was going to be a great day.

After two hours of fishless‐fishing we couldn’t understand what we were doing wrong. I studied the finder, still teeming with aquatic life.

We were fishing the simulation.

Yep, we had just spent two hours fishing the computer‐generated quintessential fishing paradise created by the marketing geniuses at Garmin!

All of which brings me to this: If you want to hear “yes” more often, you need to have the right “read” on the territory. To do that, practice convergent validity — that is, the idea of getting three points of view before you make a decision or take action. Don’t just take one customer’s viewpoint on your new product or service; get input from three customers. If there is a performance issue with your sales process, observe it for yourself, ask a customer about it and then go to someone else, too.

Trust me. The fishing will be better.

Do You Know the ‘Principle of Nudge’?

Persuasion is built on a series of small agreements, rather than one colossal, ear-shattering, cosmic “YES!!”

People often can be most effectively persuaded when shepherded along gently, not yanked through the streets. A great example comes not from a shepherd, but from my sister-in-law’s Goldendoodle, Lucky.

During one family gathering at my sister-in-law’s home, Lucky was particularly affectionate. He kept rubbing against me, looking for attention, which I happily gave him. After a few minutes, I realized I was no longer in the living room, but in the kitchen. When I mentioned my surprise at the change of venue, my sister-in-law, replied matter-of-factly, “He does that all the time. He brought you out here; this is where we keep his treats.”

Ah, the Principle of Nudge.

How might nudge work for you? Let’s say your persuasion priority is to convince your VP of marketing to allocate dollars and responsibility to you for a new product training initiative. Here’s an example of the series of small agreements you can elicit from your target:

  • “Yes, we can meet to talk about your idea.”
  • “Yes, I can provide information.”
  • “Yes, I can help brainstorm options.”
  • “Yes, I can talk to others in my circle to test the idea.”
  • “Yes, we can run some numbers.”
  • “Yes, we can pitch the board.”

Each yes slowly nudges your target toward the big one: “Yes, I’ll green-light the project.”

In most cases, you wouldn’t walk into your VP’s office and demand money and power (unless you have an absolutely monster credibility and track record, and even then I wouldn’t recommend it).

That’s like asking a person to marry you on the first date. You can, but it doesn’t make for good policy.

Jim Morrison Was Right: People Are Strange

Jim Morrison, late singer for the iconic Sixties rock band The Doors, wrote a song with that line and that title for the group’s 1967 album, Strange Days. Why are people strange? Because we’re all different, that’s why. In some cases, we’re very different.

The people you’re attempting to persuade — your targets — all possess personality, gender and generational differences. Your persuasion success is built on understanding and tapping into these diverse differences and preferences. Such differences impact how you behave, what sort of case you make, the language you use and the references you choose.

Here are six persuasion points to consider:

  1. People either have a tendency to ask or tell, to respond or not. On which personality plane is your target operating?
  2. Every generation has a different frame of reference. For Millennials, a “45” has always been a gun and never a record, and Elton John was never a rock star.
  3. Men and women operate differently. Acting as if they don’t is just silly.
  4. When responding to a particular situation, act like a chameleon and be ready for whatever comes your way.
  5. Technology changes quickly, but people don’t.
  6. Ask yourself, “If others knew what I was trying to do, would they let me?” If you can respond with a “yes,” that means you’re headed in the right direction.

The more you know about your targets, the less strange they will seem.