OK, see if you can complete these statements:

“Certs Breath Mints, with that magic drop of [pauses] Retsyn.”

“How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S.”

And here’s one that everyone will get – “M&Ms – they melt in your mouth, [pauses] but not in your hands.”

These are the words of an iconic 1950s ad man by the name of Rosser Reeves. Why are so many of you still so familiar with these phrases? Many of them are still being used in advertising today. Why, after so long, are these words and phrases still being used? Because they work. They get people to say “yes.”

See, Rosser Reeves knew a lot about getting people to say “yes.” And he knew just a ton about persuasion.

One of my favorite Rosser Reeves stories is this:

He was walking down the streets of Manhattan one glorious spring day, with a friend, and he spied a person in a doorway, who was panhandling for money. And the person was holding up a sign, and this sign said, “I am blind.” Well, immediately, Rosser started riffling through his jacket and his pants pockets.

His friend turned to him and said, “Rosser, are you looking for some spare change? Are you going to help this person out?”

And Rosser said, “No, I’m looking for a pen.”

His friend said, “You’re looking for a pen? Why are you looking for a pen?”

Rosser said, “I am going to give this person more than just my spare change.”

Rosser went over and introduced himself to the panhandler, and wrote three words on this person’s sign. Three words, but before this statement, “I am blind.” Three words that instantly and dramatically started to increase the contributions that this panhandler was getting.

What do you think those three words were? Those three words were, “It’s springtime, and I am blind.”

And, immediately, people started contributing more. Why? Well, because it created empathy in those folks that were passing by, and it spurred them to action.

This is one of my favorite Rosser Reeves stories. Of course, because it shows the power of language, but also because of this one key persuasion point: it is what you do before you do that does it.

Now, sometimes, people think that this just pertains to preparation and, yes, of course it does. But what this really pertains to is, it is what happens before the ask that really colors things.

So keep in mind a tip from Rosser Reeves – it is what you do before you do that does it.