Monday, January 26, 2015

Persuasion and All that Jazz

Last year I discovered the work of Ken Burns. If that name is familiar it might be because of the notoriety he gained in the early 1990s with his PBS documentaries The Civil War and Baseball. I watched both and was fascinated! In addition to those I’ve passed considerable hours on the treadmill watching his documentaries on The West, The Dustbowl, Prohibition, The War (WWII), and most recently Jazz.

In the Jazz documentary the famous musician Duke Ellington was interviewed and when asked about “the music of your people,” here is how he replied:

“My people. Which of my people? I’m in several groups. I’m in the group of piano players. I’m in the group of listeners. I’m the group of people who have general appreciation of music. I’m in the group of those who aspire to be dilettantes. I’m in the group of those who attempt to produce something fit for the plateau. I had such a strong influence by the music of the people. The people, that’s the better word because the people are my people.”

What struck me about Duke’s response was how he identified with so many different groups of people and how that undoubtedly allowed so many people to identify with him and his music.

So often when we’re asked about ourselves we limit our view to a few defined and obvious categories. Much of that is defined by what we do (I’m a fireman, I’m in sales, etc.) or our role at home (mother, father, etc.). My question to you is this: Who are you? It’s important to understand for many reasons including when it comes to persuading others. That’s so because the more broadly you see yourself, the easier it will be to invoke the principle of liking. This principle of influence tells us people prefer to say, “Yes” to those they know and like. One way you can come to like one another person and have them come to like you is by sharing what you have in common.

Here are a few ways I see myself: husband, father, son, brother, friend, businessman, salesman, influencer, trainer, coach, consultant, public speaker, reader, life-long learner, runner, weightlifter, martial artist, football fan, Ohio State Buckeye and Pittsburgh Steelers fan, Miami University and Dublin High School alumnus, Scotch lover, and child of God.

As noted earlier, the more broadly I see myself the better my opportunity to connect with people because what we have in common (similarities) become starting points for relationships. Here are a few examples.

When Ohio State beat #1 Alabama in the national championship semi-final, a game they were not expected to win, people were buzzing in Columbus. Everywhere you went it was a point of conversation and an easy way to talk to someone you didn’t know. I had a conversation with someone at a store that I can undoubtedly refer back to next time I see him.

My wife, Jane, is from Pittsburgh and isn’t shy about talking to complete strangers about the Steelers when she sees them wearing some sports logoed item. You never know where a conversation may lead in terms of friendships or connections.

When I do keynote presentations or conduct training sessions I regularly include influence stories about Jane and our daughter Abigail. Some people may not care how to influence others on the job but if they can get their spouse to take on a few more chores or get their kids to do their homework they’re all ears. Quite often people will talk to me afterwards about those personal stories, not business, because they see how persuasion can help on a personal level.

I could give many more examples but you get the point. As human beings we’re all diverse and yet in our diversity we overlap with others in many more ways than we might have thought before. Duke Ellington clearly understood that and it’s a big reason his music was so well received by so many despite the racism he experienced during his lifetime.

I encourage you to spend time thinking about who you are and the roles you have in life. That simple act could be enough for you to see  more clearly what you have in common with someone else and might allow you to start forming a relationship through liking. And the good new is; if you need them to do something for you in the future, the more you’ve connected and bonded, the more they’ll like you and in turn will be more likely to say “Yes” to whatever you ask of them.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Best Way to Ensure We All Get Along

I’m a big social media user. I particularly enjoy Facebook because in my opinion it’s more personal than all of the other social media sites I use. I like that I can get to know people in a much more intimate way and that they can get to know me, too, because I’m the same guy on Facebook that you’d encounter if we sat down to share a beer or had coffee together.

While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed not too long ago, I came across this picture and quote from the rap artist Eminem.

In case you had a hard time seeing the quote here it is again, “I don’t care if you’re black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. If you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you. Simple as that.”

From what I gather, Eminem has grown immensely as an individual. Having seen a segment on 60 Minutes about Eminem years ago, I believe that’s partly due to him becoming a father. The intent behind his message is good – Accept me and I’ll accept you in return. The world would be a much better place if we saw that in practice more often.

However, you and I, Eminem, and every other person, can be more proactive to make this mutual acceptance and respect become reality. You see, according to what Eminem said, he is waiting for others to treat him nicely, then he’ll do the same to them. In other words, he will reciprocate their kindness. Eminem is responding to the principle of reciprocity by giving back what he receives first. Most people live by this principle of influence. If someone respects them they will respect the other person. If someone is kind to them they will be kind in return.

A more effective approach to ensure we all get along would be becoming an influence of change by being the first person to act. In doing so, you engage the principle of reciprocity and others will feel some obligation to treat you the same way. How much better would everyone be if Eminem and other prominent people went out of their way to be kind first, to show respect first, and to help first?

What about you? How might your family, workplace and life be better if you were the first one to willingly give what you’d like from others?

Imagine for a moment that you have a fractured relationship. You believe the other person is at fault and they believe you’re at fault. Usually the truth is somewhere in between and each person bears some responsibility. What would happen if you stepped to the middle first and said, “Regardless of what happened, I should not have said (or done) X. I want you to know I’m sorry.” It’s very likely the other person will soften his/her position, would fess up to some wrongdoing, and apologize in response to your first move. The relationship may still be somewhat fractured but it’s on the mend and at least has a chance of going forward.

Perhaps you want respect from coworkers. The big question would be; do you give them respect? If not, start going out of your way to do so, then see how they respond. Whatever it is you want from others, be the first to give because it engages reciprocity and you’re likely to get the same in return.

The principle of liking can help build or strengthen relationships and so can reciprocity when it’s engaged sincerely. It might require swallowing some pride from time to time, taking the first step to say, “I was wrong” or “I’m sorry,” it could entail letting go of anger, resentment or hurt. But in the long run you’ll be better off letting go of those things and probably much happier restoring relationships and getting what you desire in return – kindness, respect, love, and so on. What’s holding you back from taking the first step?

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ardbeg Scotch and The Green Bay Packers: What do They Have in Common?

“There’s a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good scotch.” If you saw the movie Inglorious Bastards, you might recall that quote. A good friend introduced me to scotch a little over a year ago. I’d never tried the drink before but was willing to give it a try when he brought a bottle to my home. It turns out Jane and I both liked it…a lot! It’s less filling than beer, doesn’t make us sleepy like wine, and there’s an amazing variety of different scotches to choose from.

This post isn’t about the virtues of scotch or an attempt to convert anyone. Rather it’s about an interesting marketing ploy. There’s a well-known scotch called Ardbeg, which boasts a very peaty flavor. The distillery first began producing whisky in 1798 but eventually closed its doors in 1981. Limited production started up again in 1989 and continued through 1996. Full production resumed in 1997.

When I bought my first bottle I noticed the distillery had an Ardbeg Committee, which I could join if I was so inclined. Out of curiosity I decided to fill out the paperwork. Eventually I received my committee membership. A few persuasive principles were at play here:

First, they shared a compelling story about the history of the distillery. People are drawn to stories, particularly those that have to do with overcoming adversity. Ardbeg’s long history, closure and reopening made for a compelling story.

When I became a committee member the principleof consistency was engaged. We like to behave in consistent ways so it’s only natural a committee member will probably buy more Ardbeg than some other brand.

Not all scotch drinkers are committee members so the exclusivity taps into scarcity. I’m not a committee member for any other scotch so it’s special community for me and the other 60,000+ committee members.

This is an example of very clever marketing to revive a once struggling brand and build loyalty. The approach reminds me somewhat of the professional football team The Green Bay Packers. Unlike all the other pro sports franchises, the Packers will never leave Green Bay because of the business decision of an owner or group of owners, as has occurred with many other NFL teams. You see, the Packers are owned by the fans. Their stock has no appreciating value, pays no dividends and cannot be sold or traded like other stocks but all the fans care about is this – they are all part owners of one of the most storied franchises in all of football.  More than 110,000 people own nearly 4.8 million shares.

Maybe you don’t want to own the team, just go to the games. Season tickets for the team have sold out every year since 1960! Currently there’s a waiting list of more than 81,000 names to become a season ticket holder! This is Green Bay, Wisconsin, not some big city or exotic get away destination, and people are registering kids at birth to get tickets. Green Bay fans are … fanatical!

A good product isn’t always enough when it comes to making the sale and that’s where persuasion comes in. How you talk about your product or service and how you position it makes a BIG difference. Limited availability (scarcity), and a sense of belonging and community (commitment) go a long way toward impacting our decisions and behaviors. So take a lesson from Ardbeg and the Packers and see if you can create something special for your customers and prospective customers when it comes to you and your product or service.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Influencers from Around the World - Beware of the Bogus Authority

To kick off the New Year, our Influencers from Around the World series starts with Sean Patrick. Sean is originally from Dublin, Ireland, but now resides in London where he works in sales and sales management. You can connect with Sean on LinkedIn or Twitter. Sean also owns a sales training and coaching company, SPT (Sean Patrick Training), Ltd. Always thought provoking, I know you'll enjoy Sean’s point of view on “authorities” and their content.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Beware of the Bogus Authority

I’ve just finished a well-written book by Georgia attorney Loren Collins called Bullspotting. It was a nice segue from another brilliantly written piece by Massimo Pigliucci called Nonsense on Stilts. As you can probably tell, the book attacks the nonsensical logic behind some of today’s content that craftily bypasses the critical filters of its followers, making absurd claims believable. 

Ironically, the author himself was a proponent and follower of such people who disseminated misinformation. This got me thinking about how dangerous it is when we open up to pseudo-authority. This isn’t just a phenomenon that exists on the fringes; it is everywhere.

In business, we have the same problem but not quite to the same extreme. Misinformation is like a mind virus that quickly infects those who really need information to back up their status quo. We’re living in a time where content is everywhere; it’s like drinking from a fire hose. What kind of misinformation am I referring to? Half-truths mainly, or tactics that worked for the author on one very lucky occasion but are now claimed as a breakthrough. 

There’s also the other kind, the kind where we think we know about a subject because we read one article or in some cases, the first couple of paragraphs.  Our ability to contaminate information further has to be taken in context. Our ability to recall accurately goes through a process of bending, shaping, remodeling until we think our warped view is exactly how we saw it. And bogus authority figures really know this sharing of half-truths is immensely powerful, so we can dot the lines ourselves as part of the journey to finally agree with the author’s claims.

In business a client base is like a portfolio of investments and treating them as such will create long term of value and recurring revenue. Our job as salespeople is to go deep and create ongoing change and help clients solve their next problem, and the next and so on. We strive to drive results with practical solutions and provide serious impact continually on the relationship. 

Great sales people earn higher fees via commissions because of their ability to create huge impact and provide value. One of the key areas in providing value is overcoming the hurdle of misinformation that clients buy into. As I noted above, most people who consume so much information on a daily basis fail to employ quality control.  

Over the years as a coach, one of the misdemeanors that some of my clients were guilty of was dining out on so-called authoritative content on sales topics and stuff that overlapped into self-development. What the information consisted of mainly was of brain candy quality. 

The kind of content I’m referring to is the stuff that isn’t earth shattering (but is marketed as so) and if you sat and thought long enough you’d probably have come to those conclusions without any help from the author…and you would have dismissed them!

As people who sell, own a business, or provide professional services, it’s up to us to engage the client in a way in which we become the authority and the go-to-favorite of the client. We can achieve this by proving concept, demonstrating value, helping a client take ownership of a problem by providing deep insightful information that is contextually relevant to their most pressing problems.

Focusing on conversations that move things forward are essential in setting boundaries and prove to the client that we have a proprietary approach in getting grounded and having more clarity in aligning themselves with their key priorities.

In this age of content creation and re-creation, we are deluged by pure nonsense most of the time or at the very least someone’s biased, one-sided view on matters. This is dangerous if we fail to act objectively. Thanks to the internet, everyone is now an “expert” and we sit there in a glassy eyed daze agreeing with what’s being presented to us, largely because it passes through our filters --  but only if we let it.

Sean Patrick