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KF #24. Persuades

366: Mastering Conversations through Compassionate Curiosity with Kwame Christian

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Negotiate Anything podcast host Kwame Christian lays out the compassionate curiosity framework and how to apply it to negotiations with others and with yourself for any aspect of your life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How and why to deal with our “inner toddler” in high-stakes conversations
  2. How being persuadable makes you persuasive
  3. Two key phrases for when you don’t know what to say

About Kwame

Kwame is a corporate attorney with a passion for using negotiation and the psychology of persuasion to help clients get the best deals possible. HisTEDx Talk, Finding Confidence in Conflict, was viewed over 24,000 times in 24 hours and Kwame also hosts the top negotiation podcast in the country, Negotiate Anything. The show has been downloaded over 250,000 times and is a resource for business professionals in over 140 different countries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Kwame Christian Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Kwame, welcome back to the How to Be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Kwame Christian
Pete, thank you for having me. It’s good to be back.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m thrilled to be talking about your new book, but first I want to get a little bit oriented. You are a master expert at negotiation. I understand many of your lessons have come from negotiating with your three-year-old son. Can you give us a tale behind this?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. Pete, you will be following in my footsteps shortly because you have a ten-month-old, so I know that you’re taking notes.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Kwame Christian
This question is for you more than the audience. But, yeah, it’s been really fascinating. So, about me, I’m an attorney, but my background is in psych. I always wanted to be a psychologist, clinical psychologist. When we had Kai, my son, he’s three now, for me I was thinking to myself, this is a perfect opportunity to have a human to experiment on, so let’s play.

One of the things that I like about Kai when it comes to conflict management and my hostile negotiations with him every morning trying to get him to school is that, three-year-olds and toddlers, they are essentially unrefined humans. You are speaking to the most primitive parts of the human brain when you’re trying to break through a toddler’s tantrum.

For me as a mediator and an attorney, when I’m negotiating and mediating, I found that a lot of times, I’m dealing with a person’s inner toddler. They dress it up in professional language and professional dress and everything, but when it comes down to it, they’re not making decisions with the most evolved part of their brain. They are still responding with their base human responses that come from the limbic system.

And once I’m able to recognize that in other people, it makes it a lot easier and a lot less frustrating. I take my mornings with Kai as practice sessions. I use techniques with him, try it out with him, then I say, “Well, I wonder if I could do something similar with the people in these difficult conversations in my profession,” and shockingly, it works really effectively.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. So you say limbic system and raw human, so we’re talking just sort of about emotion, impulse, reflex stuff.

Kwame Christian
Exactly, exactly because the thing is when it comes to these difficult conversations, the brain structures I like to focus on are the amygdala, within the limbic system, and the prefrontal cortex within the frontal lobe. The limbic and the amygdala, that houses the base emotional responses, positive and negative emotions, but predominantly negative emotions.

That’s where your fight and flight response is and where the stress response is as well, the thing that leads to the pumping of adrenaline, the elevation of the heart rate, deeper breathing and trembling of the voice, all of that is controlled by the limbic system and the stress response.

Now the interesting thing about the prefrontal cortex, that’s where we have logical reasoning, executive function and those higher level thinking mechanisms in the brain, the interesting thing about that is that, that part of the brain doesn’t fully develop until you’re about 25, early to mid-20s. It develops fully in females faster than in males. I think the difference is 22 to 25.

But it takes a while for that part of the brain to be fully developed, so when you are talking to a toddler, you are dealing with somebody who does not have the cognitive capacity to truly reign in the limbic system, to really think at that higher level consistently because their prefrontal cortex and frontal lobe isn’t fully developed yet.

It’s an interesting cognitive challenge when you look at it that way versus “This is really frustrating. Why won’t this kid stop crying?” but if you think about it and put on a scientist hat and think about it from a psychological perspective, it becomes a fascinating challenge because you recognize which brain structure is active at what time. Then it allows you to walk that baby from irrational to rational.

You’re essentially doing the same thing in your difficult conversations because people respond emotionally and so your goal is to recognize, “Okay, they’re not thinking rationally right now, let me speak to that emotional side and then I’m going to start introducing more higher level arguments and speak to the logical part of their brain once I recognize that they’ve settled down.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. You unpack a number of these things in your book. You’ve been a little bit mysterious with the title, but I understand you’re going to speak it aloud on the show here.

Kwame Christian
Yes, so the title of the book and what’s funny is I think your listeners might find out before my listeners podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s how we roll here. It’s a scoop.

Kwame Christian
That’s right. This is a scoop. This is a big deal, people, big deal. The name of the book is Nobody Will Play With Me: How to Use the Compassionate Curiosity Framework to Find Confidence in Conflict.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, you say “nobody will play with me,” tell us, where does this come from?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, it’s an odd title for a negotiation and conflict management book. But with this book, my goal is to not just inundate you with a laundry list of psychological techniques and persuasive techniques. I think that’s been done and it’s already been done well.

What I’ve recognized through meeting my listeners and doing the TED talk and doing these workshops around the country is that the first barrier that people face is emotional, within themselves. What I recognize is that for years I’ve been giving recipes to people who are afraid to get in the kitchen. They don’t care so much about what to do if they’re too afraid to do it.

I looked back on my life and I recognized the same thing was true for me. I was a people pleaser. I found it very difficult to stand up for myself in difficult conversations. When I went through a bit of an introspective process to figure out where that came from. I recognized that the genesis was an incident on the playground in first grade.

Some background on me. I’m a first-generation Caribbean-American. I grew up in a small rural town in Ohio called Tiffin. Not surprisingly, there was not very much diversity in Tiffin. We looked different and because of our strong accent, we sounded very different. It was hard to fit in.

I remember one day in particular on the playground, it was during recess. I would go to a group of friends and say, “Hey, can I play with you?” and they said no. Then I went to another group of friends, same thing and another group, same thing. Then the recess bell rang and I just burst into tears. I felt so lonely.

I made a vow that day that this would never, ever, ever happen again. People are going to like me. I’m going to have friends. I’m going to be popular. By the end of school I accomplished my goal, I was one of the most popular kids in school, but what I recognized is that oftentimes, our greatest strengths are hiding our greatest weaknesses.

That incident made me a people pleaser. When I was confronted with opportunities to engage in conflict, I would turn away because I said I worked too hard to get all these friends, I’m not going to risk it. I’m not going to jeopardize these relationships.

The book chronicles really how I was able to get over this fear of difficult conversations through the fundamentals of cognitive behavioral therapy that I did on myself. I guess I never made it to be that clinical psychologist that I always wanted to be, but I was my only patient. I was my one and only patient.

I walk the readers through how they can find confidence in conflict even if they are conflict-averse. Then at the end of the book, I share a single powerful technique that you can use in any negotiation from the kitchen table to the boardroom.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, of course, I can’t let that one just go. What is it? What is this powerful technique?

Kwame Christian
Yes. This technique is called compassionate curiosity. It’s a generally applicable approach. Like I said, the reason I wanted to do this is because when you inundate somebody with a bunch of different techniques, it might make sense logically to them, but when they’re in the heat of the moment, they’re not going to go through this laundry list of options to figure out which would be most persuasive in this moment.

I wanted to create something that could be used on the fly no matter what the conversation is, if you’re at work, or you’re having a difficult conversation with your wife, you can use it in that situation. The technique is, first, you acknowledge emotions. Second, you get curious with compassion. Third, you engage in joint problem solving.

What makes this unique is the fact that this same framework can be utilized in the external negotiation that we’re all familiar with, the conflict that’s on the outside with the other person, but also, before you engage in the conflict internally, where you acknowledge your own emotions, where you get curious about what you believe, why you believe it, why you want what you want, and then joint problem solving.

This begs the question, joint problem solving, who are the parties here because I’m in my own head.

Pete Mockaitis
I thought you were talking about marijuana. This begs the question, joint problem solving, like “Where’s he going with this? Where’s he going? Okay.”

Kwame Christian
I’m in Ohio, so that’s not happening here. Maybe in Cali, but not here.

But um, with that third step, internally, what that looks like is you’re negotiating with yourself and you’re bringing your heart and mind together to figure out a solution that works for you. Because a lot of times there might be a solution that makes sense economically, but then you look in the mirror and you hate yourself for making that deal, you don’t feel like you should have conceded.

A good deal will have something that it works for you substantively. It serves your needs, but also it’s something that you can live with emotionally. If you make a deal that makes sense logically, but really breaks you inside, it’s not a good deal. I want people to think through that thoroughly before they engage in the external negotiation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. Could you give us an example of how that might unfold in practice?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. And so I think about this as a mediator. I see this all the time. As a mediator, it gives me an opportunity to put myself in the unique position where I’m right in the middle of a conflict. I have a really good idea of what’s going on one side and a really good idea of what’s going on on the other side. They’re honest with me. They tell me what’s going on and what they need.

Sometimes they might get an offer and their attorney might say, “This is a really good deal. Given the likelihood of success in litigation, I think we should accept this offer.” Now, essentially that is the logical part of their brain talking. The attorney in this situation represents the logical part of their brain. He or she is saying this works, financially this works, legally this works.

Speaking as an attorney, attorneys are very risk averse. If there’s a way to get a quick win and avoid a loss, then they’ll do that. Settlement is typically the best option.

But then, if you take a moment and look at the party, you can see that it’s breaking them up inside. It doesn’t work for them. Even though it makes sense and they cognitively, logically understand that this is the best deal, they know that if they go home and they take that deal, one month later, six months later, two months later, they’ll look in the mirror and lose a little bit of respect for themselves because they feel like they capitulated.

And so, that’s a situation where the person should take a step, think about it, and then push a little bit harder because if it’s a situation where it won’t bankrupt you, you’ll survive if you roll that dice and lose in litigation, I think when it comes down to the way you look at yourself and your level of respect, you don’t want to capitulate when it’s a situation where you care about it or it means more to you than just the money and the legal exposure.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Okay, so then, you’re sort of highlighting the different areas there. The curiosity then is when you’re kind of asking those questions in terms of what’s underneath it, what’s behind it, sort of what’s going on deep down there. So that’s intriguing.

Then I guess if you’re the mediator there, you’re going to need to come about that understanding of where the other person is coming from as well so that you can find a new deal that is workable for everyone.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. Exactly. For me as a mediator, it’s tough to skirt that line. If there’s an attorney representing the party, then I would kind of step back and let those two have the discussion. But oftentimes when the party is unrepresented and they’re trying to handle it themselves, I’d have them think through it, so even if they say yes, I’ll test it.

I say to them, “Okay, now I understand that this is a deal that makes sense for you and you’re thinking about accepting this deal, but let me ask you a question, let me have you think about it from this angle. Now, if you take this home to your spouse and you let your spouse know about the outcome, what would they think about it? How would they feel? Okay. Why would they feel that way?”

Now after you get that reaction from their spouse. Now imagine they say “Oh the spouse would be really upset. They would be frustrated. They’d feel like I gave away the farm.” Then I said, “Okay, after you get that response from your spouse, how would you feel about that deal six months from now? Would you feel good about yourself?” Then they’d say, “No, I wouldn’t feel good about myself at all.”

Then I say, “Well, do you think this is a good deal still?” They would say, “No.” Then I say, “All right, let’s consider your financial situation, what you’re looking for, your interests and the legal exposure we’re dealing with. What is the counter proposal that will work for you?” They’ll come back with something a little bit more aggressive and that jives with what’s happening inside of them.

Because one of the things we need to recognize is that emotions are valid. So we can’t just try to turn ourselves into automatons and just make cold callous calculations. That’s simply not the way we operate. Those emotions are going to be there festering under the surface whether we want them to or not.

I say when it comes to the decision making process before and during the conversation, we need to constantly have that internal negotiation to make sure that the outcomes or the solutions that we consider and propose are really in line with our substantive and emotional interests.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s good stuff. So that’s in the lawyer world. Are there other instances in the course of just sort of natural thinking, decision making, sort of life planning and executing where you see some real common mismatches between the logical and the emotional?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. You see it at home at the time, all the time. It might be a situation where you’re trying to decide where to live. You and your spouse might be deciding where to live. You have an option of living in a densely populated urban area. You’re in Chicago, so let’s say Chicago. Or you could move out to the suburbs and give yourself a little bit more space, reduce stress, reduce workload, etcetera, etcetera.

There are going to be a number of competing interests. If you were somebody who grew up in Chicago and maybe you grew up in a rougher side of Chicago, maybe you say “That upbringing made me tough, made me strong. I learned a lot. I didn’t just have book smarts, but I had street smarts. I would prefer – because of that I want to raise my child in more of a densely populated area.”

And so then, you have to a serious conversation to see within yourself before you have the conversation with your spouse to make the decision and really dig deeply into it because sometimes the emotions are legitimate and they would be long-lasting, but sometimes you recognize within yourself, “Oh, now I see why I feel this way. It’s not legitimate. It’s purely emotional in a way where I’m willing to let it go.”

For instance, I was talking to one of my friends. I did an episode where we had a sparring session, like a mock negotiation. It was me and my guest. I was playing the role of a parent and she was trying to – she was my spouse and she was trying to convince me not to spank the children. I said, “Well, I’m a Caribbean-American. I was spanked and I’m tough. My family was spanked and they did really well, so I want to continue the tradition.”

My friend told me that after he listened to that episode, it hit him that the only reason he wanted to spank his kids was because his family was from Africa and his whole family was spanked growing up. That was just the tradition. But then as an academic, when he looked back and made that determination for himself looking at the literature, he realized it wasn’t something that he wanted to do.

I’m not saying that as an indictment of spanking at all, I’m just saying that as an example of how the introspective process can lead to some unexpected results. Once you recognize the genesis of some of your emotional stances, then it leads you to question it and it could lead to the opposite, you could say, “Oh, this is legitimate. This isn’t going to go away. I need to actually take this into consideration in the decision-making process.”

But what I’m finding, and the reason that I want to include this in the book, is because I found that most people don’t think through things thoroughly before they engage in the difficult conversations. They have this conflict or this negotiation and they are discussing it feverishly when in reality, they don’t have a good understanding of what they really want or why. That leads to really poor outcomes a lot of times in these difficult conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
What I loved about the spanking example is that it really does have some emotion as well as data. I haven’t looked at all the data on spanking in great detail, but I’ve browsed a couple studies.

I would have a hard time I think myself just doing it. If the research showed that spanking was the best means of making your child a success, I’d be like, “Okay, this is kind of hard for me to do, but I guess I’ll suck it up.” I think it packs an emotional charge. We talk about your steps there in terms of you know, one, acknowledging the emotions. I think if you go there then it totally makes sense how that gets you onto sort of a level ground for having the conversation.

Because if someone is thinking, “My family spanked me and they were spanked and we are all great,” and then someone comes hard charging, “Well, take a look at these seven peer-reviewed studies and the outcomes associated with children who are spanked,” it’s just like, “Yeah, well that’s just a bunch of academic mumbo jumbo. How applicable is that to the real world?”

Right, so I think you sort of instantly probably catch some resistance as opposed to when you sort of acknowledge the emotions and have that curiosity associated with where it comes from, then it’s like, “That is kind of interesting. I guess that is where it comes from and how we operate. But a lot of families didn’t do that and they worked out fine, so I guess we’ve got a choice to make here.”

That’s really cool how if you take the time to go there, you’ll save time talking until you’re blue in the face about all your awesome data.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. Here’s the thing too. What studies have found is that people come to decisions, come to conclusions and opinions with their emotions first and then subsequently justify that with logic. It’s a reverse process because typically we think that we are well reasoned people and we come to these conclusions because of our reasoning, but it’s the opposite way.

For example, let’s stick on the spanking example because for me, if I were having that conversation with my wife and I didn’t prepare at all, I’d say, “No, I want to spank.” Then she says, “Here are these peer-reviewed studies,” I would be ill-equipped to have that conversation because I didn’t realize before the conversation that the singular reason why I wanted to spank was because of my upbringing, that’s it.

But the thing is as the conversation went, if I would have not taken the time to confront that beforehand, I would have said, “Well, all of my family is successful.” That’s an excuse really. That’s a rationalization that came after I already came to that conclusion. It makes it better for you to operate in these conversation because one of the keys to being persuasive is being persuadable.

In those conversations if you are willing to come to terms with the fact that, “Oh, I might be wrong and maybe the best thing for me, the other person and the situation as a whole is for me to adjust my position,” then that puts you in a better position to persuade this person in another situation too.

One of the things I mention in the book is I want you to consider this like relationship chess. It’s not just a short-term situation where I’m trying to be persuasive in this particular conversation and get this win. It’s over the lifetime of this relationship, how can I put myself in the best position to be as persuasive as possible and maximize value for me and the other person.

When you think about it that way, it broadens your perspective and you can see how coming to terms before the negotiation that, “Oh, I might actually be wrong,” that’s beneficial in the grand scheme of things.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so much good stuff. Thank you. It resonates. It’s funny, when you talk about the emotion and then the rationalization. It’s interesting over the last few days – this just happened to me, so – I’ve taken a fancy lately to the website WireCutter.com, if you’ve ever been there.

Kwame Christian
Ha, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
But I just love is how – I tend to research products super thoroughly myself on Amazon and then I like it that they do that and then take it all the further in terms of “Well, we got the top ten rated things and we played with them all for hours and hours and here are our conclusions.”

I just sort of bumped into them talking about a multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver. They just sort of sang its praises in such great detail and how it’s vastly superior to all these other multi-bit ratcheting screwdrivers.

Even though I already have a screwdriver set, I just wanted it, partially just because I love excellence and the way they spoke of it was so glowing as it being vastly superior to the others and how ratcheting has its advantages. I spent like three or four days – not all day, but in idle moments – just sort of thinking about under what circumstances would I really need ratcheting in a screwdriver.

Then just today I came to the thought, well, I’ve got these blinds that I’ve been kind of dragging my feet on putting up and part of it’s because it’s unpleasant kind of shove your hand in those weird, awkward corners where there’s furniture and stuff in the way. Then you keep slipping out of it. Then you’ve got to get back into the screw.

Versus if I had a ratcheting capability, then that would make it so much easier and remove my resistance and we could get these things up and it could very well save me time if there’s just one screw that I don’t strip and have to take a trip to the store, that time savings is going to pay for itself.

I just bought it today. I did not need to spend $26 when I have screwdriving capability in my life, but I had a desire and then I found a reason. I don’t regret it, but I do see what’s happened to me here. I can be honest and humble about it.

Kwame Christian
This is brilliant. This is a great example. I like your honesty first of all with how you came to the decision because you admitted it was an emotional decision and then you worked hard to find a way to legitimize that decision. Let’s do a little role play. I’m your wife. Now we’re married. I’m gorgeous.

Pete Mockaitis
You sure are.

Kwame Christian
Pete, congratulations.

Pete Mockaitis
And you want to spank my kids.

Kwame Christian
Let’s say my goal here to stop you from buying this thing. Now, thinking about it on the external side we can see how the compassionate curiosity framework is beneficial because if I, as your wife, just focus on the fact, the truth, the reality, the logical conclusion that we do not need this, she’s speaking to the wrong part of the brain because it’s not the logical part of the brain that made that decision.

That’s why when it comes to sequencing the compassionate curiosity framework, it goes from acknowledge emotions to compassionate curiosity to joint problem solving because we recognize that you need to start with the emotions first.

Once the emotional side is addressed, then we can move to curiosity with regard to the substance of it and digging deeply into your motivations and why really you need it. Then we can work together to come up with a solution.

But we don’t start talking about solutions first because that talks about logic and practicality and things like that. And you’re not ready for that. We need to address that emotion, which in this case is actually positive, that desire.

I’ve seen the trend here because you said you admire excellence. The name of your podcast is How to be Awesome at Your Job. For me, as your wife, I would say, “All right, I understand that you have a need for higher level things and the best things in life.” Maybe what I would try to do is give you that same emotional satisfaction in another way that still protects us from that expense, but still at the same time gives you that validation that you need to find a win-win in that case.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that you’re kind of working with the same emotional pathway, you might kind of work with painting a picture of how there is excellence in using simple tools that you’ve already got and paint a picture of how, play some country music and, take your sweet time using the tools you have and enjoy doing an excellent job with what you’ve got.

That in its own way is a form of excellence with fiscal responsibility and resourcefulness. You’re using what you’ve got because you’re so smart at doing that and being creative. You’re like MacGyver.

I dig that. I think that’s intriguing too if you think about all the little decisions we make all the time with regard to our logic versus our animalistic or limbic desires. I’m thinking about it like, “I want pizza.” It’s like, “I want that delicious pizza,” so you’ve got that desire. But you realize, “Well, that pizza probably has twice as many calories as I really need to be satisfied and nourished and I would like to drop some pounds.”

There you have it. Classic. Logically, eating that pizza does not help me attain my goals, but emotionally I want it. Right then and there it seems like we can apply this framework to sort of talk yourself off the pizza ledge. How would that play out?

Kwame Christian
Exactly. It’s fascinating because you’re spot on. The compassionate curiosity framework, especially internally can be used in every single situation because we’re constantly making decisions. What they found is the vast majority of our decisions happen automatically.

In this situation, you might just find yourself with the pizza and you’re done with the pizza and now you’ve reached a level of sanity that came with your satisfaction. It’s like, “Oh, how did I get this pizza?” Well, you made that decision automatically, emotionally.

Walking you through that framework, what it could be is this. I’ll kind of put myself on the spot too. It might be a Friday night and then I say, “All right, I’m getting pizza.” That’s the conclusion I’ve come up with.

Then I stop and I say, “Okay, step one, acknowledge emotions. What is it?” “Well, I’m happy. I’m with my family. I feel good. That’s what I’m feeling right now. That is my emotion.” “Okay, well, why do you feel that way?” “Well, I remember growing up watching TGIF with my family and it feels so good. That’s why at this moment on Friday evening, I feel that good.”

“Okay, so now where does pizza come in?” “Well, every Friday I remember sitting down and my family would order AJ’s Pizza and we would eat this pizza.” “Okay, so what does your heart really want? Your heart wants connection with your family and to enjoy that warmth and accepting caring feeling that comes with spending time with the family.

But substantively, what does your body need right now because you and your wife set a goal to hit a certain body fat percentage by the end of the month and this is antithetical to those goals, so is there another way we can get that same feeling, that same emotional feeling by doing something else?”

Then you say, “You know what, maybe what we can do together as a family instead of eating pizza is sitting down – is coming up with a recipe and as a family creating a healthy dish and then sharing that together.”

Pete Mockaitis
There we go. Certainly. That’s sort of based on a warm family connection kind of emotional vibe. I’m wondering if the desire is even a little bit more simple. It’s like, because pizza is delicious and it’s greasy and crunchy and chewy and flavorful all at the same time. That is what I long to have at this moment.

Kwame Christian
Yeah, and I think a lot of times when we feel emotions as a Western society, we’ve gotten into that almost societal habit of addressing that emotion with food. If I’m sad, I’m going to eat comfort food. If I’m happy, I’m going to eat comfort food. If I’m bored, I guess I could eat something too.

When it comes to the habit structure when you think about Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, the anatomy of a habit is trigger, behavior and reward. What’s funny is when food especially, there are multiple triggers that could be opposing triggers, happiness and sadness both could lead to pizza in the same way. Like you said, it might not even be something as elevated as oh, warmth and family time. That’s great. It might just be a trigger or a deeply ingrained habit.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well, fascinating stuff. Well, boy there’s many things I wanted to get into, but we’ve already having so much fun with so much time.

Let’s talk about the fear and confidence dimension associated with going into some conversations with folks. Like you sense that there’s going to be conflict, a difference of opinion on a matter and so you’re feeling fearful. What do you suggest for tapping that fear and boosting the confidence? We got sort of one useful tool to engage in the conversation, but sort of getting your mindset right before you step in. How do you recommend we do that?

Kwame Christian
I’ll answer it two ways. Right before you step in, what I would do is I would focus on your why. What is the purpose of the conversation? When you think about the system of roots beneath a tree, sometimes, depending on the tree, the root system can go down 20 feet into the ground and spread out 40 feet away from the trunk of the tree. That’s why it is so well rooted. It’s not moving.

We have to think about our reasoning, our purpose in the same way. If fear is something that you struggle with, you need to find a reason for the conversation.

An example is I was coaching an executive at a non-profit one time and she was struggling to make the difficult asks when it came to funding for the non-profit. She said “I just don’t feel comfortable in these conversations. I don’t feel like asking. I feel like I’m annoying people.” I said, “All right, can you tell me about why you do this?” She talked about the mission and how important it was to her.

I said, “Can you think of one person, one child that you’ve helped that stands out to you?” She said, “Yeah, I can think of one. His name’s Mark. He had this story,” and she told me the story. I said, “Great. Here’s what I want you to do. Before you make any of these fundraising calls, I want you to take a picture of Mark and I want you to look at it and remember the impact that your mission had on his life, his life and his family’s life. Then I want you to make that call.”

After she did that she was able to push harder without that fear. Let me say it this way, push harder without letting the fear get in her way. The reality is in a lot of these situations, that fear and anxiety, that feeling is still going to be there. But it’s not about, again, muting these emotions and putting them away because that’s often unrealistic.

What it’s really about is finding unique ways to still accomplish what we need to accomplish in spite of those fears. If you have a conversation coming up right now, that’s going to be one of the keys.

Now, going forward what I would suggest doing is finding unique ways to put yourself in positions of difficult conversations because you need to engage in what I call rejection therapy. There was popular TED talk I think by the same title or 100 Days of Rejection was the TED talk.

Essentially it’s exposure therapy, how people get over phobias. You slightly expose yourself to a difficult conversation, like a small one. Then the next day you do another one. You find these opportunities and then as you start to do that, you’re going to find yourself becoming a little bit more comfortable in the difficult conversations.

The last one is reconceptualizing your opinion of the fear that you’re feeling. Essentially this is the cognitive reappraisal thing. What you’re doing is you’re feeling this physical sensation of fear, so maybe for you it’s heart rate and perspiration. That’s what it is for you. That’s how you know you’re afraid. Well, over time what you want to start doing is attaching that physical response to another positive emotion.

For me, even though now with these workshops I travel the country doing the negotiation and conflict management trainings, the reality is I’ve been terrified of public speaking, just absolutely terrified. To this day when I speak in public, I still have that fear response, but through the process of cognitive reappraisal I feel the exact same thing but I label it as excitement. I see this as an opportunity, so now I’m going to move toward it.

Psychologically we’re always thinking about things in terms of approach or avoid. Most likely with the fear and anxiety that people feel with difficult conversations, they are avoiding the difficult conversations. So by figuring out your why in that specific conversation and then recognizing conflict as an opportunity, those two things in conjunction will make it more likely for you to approach the conversation with more confidence.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Now I want to get your take on when it comes to the actual word choice that you’re using, do you have any favorite scripts or phrases or things you find yourself saying again and again that are just super handy tools in your back pocket.

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. It’s funny you say that because one of the things that my listeners said was an issue was that sometimes in the conversations they don’t know what to say. “I just don’t know what to say. Can you help me there?”

What I recognized is that a lot of times when you don’t know what to say, it’s a signal that you probably shouldn’t be saying something. You shouldn’t be saying anything. You should be asking a question because you don’t know what to say because you don’t know enough. Your goal at that moment is to learn something. In those moments what I do is I ask questions.

My favorite kinds of questions start with what or how. These are open ended questions that are designed to solicit information and get them talking. I also like to use ‘tell me more about blank’ or ‘help me to understand blank.’ Those two open-ended statements are thing that I go to a lot of times when I just simply don’t know what to say.

They’re really simple and they get the other person talking, which gives you more information and as we know, knowledge is power. It gives you more power and confidence in the negotiation. It also gives you time to regroup because while they’re talking, you’re listening, but you’re also gathering yourself and figuring out what’s next. I would say the two go-to phrases that I use would be ‘tell me more about this, blah, blah, blah,’ or ‘help me to understand this.’

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. Tell me Kwame, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. Well, yes, the book this week is going to be on sale for 99 cents just for this week. If you’re interested in getting the book and figuring out conflict-wise what you can do better and how you can get more confident, this would be the week to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. All right. Got it. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kwame Christian
Yes. There’s a difference between what people often think about negotiation and what negotiation really is. My quote is “Negotiation is not the art of deal making. It’s the art of deal discovery.” You’re going together to come and have a conversation to see if a deal exists, not try to force one if it doesn’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. And how about a favorite study, or experiment or bit of research?

Kwame Christian
Yes, I will go to Stanley Milgram’s experiment on authority. This was a classic psychological experiment, back in the good old day before ethics.

Pete Mockaitis
Ethics. When you could spank your kids and no one would judge you for it.

Kwame Christian
Exactly It was the Wild, Wild West. It was terrible. But we learned a lot from it. We learned a lot from this study. For those of you who don’t know, with the Milgram experiment it was on obedience to authority.

He had somebody come into a laboratory and what the person saw was this contraption that had different levels of voltage assigned to these switches. Then you had a man in a lab coat looking very authoritative and then a person on the other side of a curtain. You were to ask the person questions. If they got it wrong, then you shocked them. The level of shock was just increasing to dangerous levels.

I think it was a full 63% of the people who went through that study took it all the way to the end, where they thought the person was actually dead.

And so this is terrifying. You just come into a lab and some man in a lab coat says, “Shock this person,” and you’re hearing the voice of what you think is a person suffering. It was really a tape recorder. But 63% went all the way and shocked this person to the point where he stopped responding and they kept shocking.

That, no pun intended, is shocking. But it tells you just how powerful deference to authority is when it comes to persuasion. That’s why confidence for me is the thing that I focus on most in this book, how you can get confidence, because the simple act of carrying yourself with confidence is by itself persuasive.

If you can carry yourself in a way that lets people know that you are an authority, somebody to be respected, they are going to respond in kind. Even if you don’t know any substantive negotiation technique, if you were to just increase your ability to demonstrate confidence and be confident in yourself, it’s going to increase your negotiation outcomes.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Kwame Christian
Shameless plug. I guess it would have to be my book right now, since I’m promoting it. But I think the best negotiation book on the market right now is Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

Pete Mockaitis
That keeps coming up. We had him on the show. Voss was awesome. The book was awesome. Why do you love it?

Kwame Christian
I love it because it’s so practical. He took it from the ivory tower and brought it to the real world. I love the fact that when I read books written by folks from the CIA, FBI all, everything is just military grade practicality. If it doesn’t work in the field, then they don’t use it. Everything that we learn from him is readily applicable.

I remember in some of my negotiations with opposing counsel representing my clients, I decided there’s no way. It can’t be that easy. It can’t work. And just being shocked, just being shocked.

I think if I’m going to get really nerdy with the reason why I like it, it would be this. He was able to blend an approach that is assertive. Because when I had him on the show, I said aggressive. He said, “I prefer the term assertive,” so I’ll respect that. Assertive, but friendly.

One of the critiques of the collaborative negotiation model is that it’s a little bit too fluffy. In the real world if you go against a buzz saw, you’ll just get destroyed. With Chris’s approach to negotiation, he could take everything you have and make you like him through the process. It’s brilliant.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You said you work with clients, you’re like, “It can’t be this simple,” what in particular were you doing that you found to be effective but surprisingly simple?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, so I remember with a lot of these negotiations, the simple response of “How am I supposed to do that?” adjusting your position at all, and so them to negotiate themselves is shockingly powerful.

If you can do it with the proper affect, where you’re friendly and not aggressive and not threatening, it’s powerful because there is an assumption that every time somebody counters your proposal or any time there is resistance, you need to then adjust your position, but what he showed is that no, you don’t. You can keep on implementing the same technique over and over and over again. Then eventually they’ll relent.

You’re really testing their resilience throughout the conversation. What amount of what they’re doing is bluster. Are you just saying you can’t do that or are you hoping that I will just believe that.

Then if you just challenge it and just keep challenging it and challenging it, it’s incredible to see even in these incredibly positional high stakes negotiations, like with me and opposing counsel or me sitting as the mediator, it’s incredible to see how effective that is when it comes to these difficult conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, let’s hear how you’d say “How am I supposed to do that?”

Kwame Christian
So just like that. That’s the crazy part about it, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
I always thought it would be a little bit more warm and fun like “Kwame, how am I supposed to do that?”

Kwame Christian
I would say it like this, if I’m talking to opposing counsel, I would say, “Well, first of all, Pete, I definitely understand where you’re coming from, but I represent a client here, so how am I supposed to do that? His interests are this, that and the other. How am I supposed to accept that?” Then silence. Then they start thinking, “Hm, that’s a good point, how is he supposed to do that?” It’s crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Let me figure that out for you.

Kwame Christian
Right. I’m like, “All right, well you get back to me. I’ll be right here.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, how about a favorite tool?

Kwame Christian
Tool. When we’re talking about tools, I would say honestly, the compassionate curiosity framework because I spent a lot of time trying to figure out and give voice to the technique that I use naturally. This is what it is. I like the flexibility of it. I like the fact when I am feeling that fight, flight or freeze, I have a go-to that I can utilize if I’m not cognitively at my best because the thing is it happens to everybody.

We all get flustered. We all find ourselves in a difficult conversation and we get heated and we feel our amygdala starting to take over and we feel the rush of adrenaline going through. We say, “Oh no, now I’m triggered. I can’t think straight. What am I supposed to do?” I know I can implement that technique in every single situation I find myself in. I use it as my North Star. I can always use it to gather myself.

Whenever I teach, whether it’s a procurement people or people in a leadership class or other attorneys, the compassionate curiosity framework is the basis. And then upon that base, we put on those other persuasive techniques, but in every situation, that’s going to be my foundation.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell me is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks as you’re teaching this stuff?

Kwame Christian
I think it’s the recognition of the importance of psychology. First of all to understand ourselves and what we’re feeling in order to normalize the situation so we know we’re not weird or broken or damaged. Then also when we extrapolate those psychological principles to the other side, it helps you to recognize, “Wow, this is why I’m having so much trouble in these conversations because I’m speaking to their logical side when it’s really their emotional side engaged.”

I think the point that really resonates with people is I say that it doesn’t matter how good of a point you make if they’re not in a cognitive state where they can accept it, where they can actually understand it. Just slow down and hold those points until they’re ready.

I think the biggest takeaway for people is patience. It’s okay to have these conversations about issues that are emotional in the business world because I think a lot of times people think it’s taboo, so they just go straight to substance, but they’re missing out on a lot of value when it comes to their ability to persuade by overlooking the emotional aspect.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Kwame Christian
Check out the Negotiate Anything podcast. That will be an easy one. I’m assuming your podcast listeners like listening to podcasts so that will be a good start. Then connect with me on LinkedIn as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Kwame Christian
Call to action this week, this time is going to be – it will be two things. First, check out the book on Amazon.

Second, take the opportunity to engage in these difficult conversations because the way I look at it, the best things in our life lie on the other side of a difficult conversation, whether it’s personal or professional, there is going to be a difficult conversation or a difficult person standing in our way.

We need to move toward these conflicts, not move away from them because when you think about it opportunistically, there is a benefit to these conversations, you just need to be creative and find it. Then once you do, utilize the compassionate curiosity framework to get the most out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Kwame, this has been fun. I wish you tons of luck with the book and the podcast and all the stuff you’re doing.

Kwame Christian
Thank you. Likewise. And thanks for having me back on, Pete. I appreciate it.

333: Better Negotiation with Greg Williams

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Greg Williams reveals several secrets to negotiating for what you want effectively and respectfully.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three points to remember when negotiating with bullies
  2. Six common body language cues in American culture
  3. How to get productive outcomes through open communication

About Greg

Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert, has studied and practiced negotiation tactics and strategies for more than 30 years. He’s spent over 20 years studying the way body language can affect negotiation outcomes. Greg’s education and experience come from formal negotiation settings, universities, governmental municipalities, seminars, and the school of hard knocks. He’s served on numerous corporate, business, and governmental boards.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Greg Williams Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Greg, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Greg Williams
Hey, you’re more than welcome, Pete, and thank you for the invitation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you have many credits to your name. It’s like the Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert is right next to it. But even more so, I saw you were honored as the Business Man of the Year by the United States Congress. I didn’t even know Congress issued such honors. What is the story here?

Greg Williams
Actually, that was several years ago. When one does a lot in the community, one gets recognition for what it is that the value add happens to be.

At one particular point in time I had been appointed chairman of the New Jersey Development Authority by then governor Whitman. That authority addressed the needs of small, minority- and women-owned enterprises throughout the state of New Jersey.

That was part of the catalyst, the activities that I engaged in during that time, that actually allowed Congress to bestow such an award upon me of which I was very honored to receive.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s just fun to hear you tell the story. Your voice has some music in it and the word choice is distinctive, so I think it’s going to be a very enjoyable conversation. Congratulations and thank you for your service. That’s really cool.

Greg Williams
Thank you very much also, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so you’re a negotiation whizz. Can you share with us maybe to kick us off, could you maybe give us a fun story of how a negotiation got transformed or how someone was really worried things were not going to go so well, but then with some pro-tips, things turned out amazingly?

Greg Williams
Well, first of all, one should always understand the mindset that one possesses before entering into any negotiation situation because if you experience a sense of angst, you need to identify why you have such feelings.

Is it because you perceive the other entity as having so many more resources than you do that there’s no way you can actually come out ahead or even even with them? Is it the fact that there is something else that’s causing you to have the feelings that may disallow you from being as vibrant in the negotiation as you otherwise would be?

Once you identify those feelings, deal with them and deal with them to the point that they are reality or just thoughts in your mind. The reason it’s so important to do so is because the feelings you carry into a negotiation will to a great degree determine how you will negotiate in that particular situation.

Let me tell you of a story real fast also, Pete, to actually highlight the point. I recently stayed at one of the five star hotels. I thought, “Hm,” one day they didn’t clean the room. I had called down and I came back to the room at three something in the afternoon. The room had still not been cleaned. I had a black-tie event to attend at night.

I told them, “Please clean the room after six o’clock in the evening.” They said it would be taken care of. Well, I returned something after ten that evening and the room had not been cleaned. You know how people tell you, “Oh, we value you as a customer.” My response to that is “Okay, I’m from Missouri. Show me.” I’m not from Missouri, but that’s the cliché.

First of all, when you’re negotiating you always plan for what might occur and how you might respond. I thought to myself, “Okay, well these guys are saying I’m a valued customer to them. How would I like to position them, first of all, such that they have the opportunity to show me through their actions that I’m a valued customer?”

What that also means is I’d have to come across in my own mindset what it is that I would want from them versus what they might actually offer. I weighed those thoughts.

I called the front desk. I asked to speak with the service – the front desk manager and told him the situation that I had just cited a moment ago. Sure enough, he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer of ours.” I’m thinking to myself, “Are you serious? Okay.” I said, “Well, what does that mean?” He said, “I beg your pardon?”  I said, “What’s your definition of a valued customer?”

Pete Mockaitis
I like that.

Greg Williams
Yes. Here’s the thing, Pete. When you ask such a question, people usually get caught off guard because people usually say, “You’re a valued customer,” and they’ll usually take the floor.

Listen also when people start to talk to you as far as the cadence, the pace in which they speak, because you’ll also be able to glean insight per their nonverbal communications, the pauses, as to what their thought process might be.

Anyway, he said, “Well, that means that we want to make sure that you are satisfied and happy with your stay at our property.” I said, “Very, very good.”

I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what would really make me happy in this situation.” He said, “Well, what would that be, sir?” I said, “If you could just deduct a night’s stay as a result of this mishap because after all, you’d expect something like this,” and I’m not denigrating any hotel chain, but I said, “You would expect something like this or could possibly expect something like this at a Hotel Six, but definitely not at-“ I named the other hotel.

What I did there was positioned in his mind a Hotel Six, and again, not denigrating Hotel Six chain, but in comparison to this particular hotel chain, they were substantially at a higher end as it were.

I heard the pause. He didn’t say anything for a moment and I thought to myself, “Okay, he’s in thought mode.” He said, “Sir, I can definitely do that.” Well, that allowed me to get a few extra hundred dollars that I otherwise would not have had.

Now, that’s one particular way that you can position someone, number one, as far as what you wish them to compare themselves too based on what they’ve already said, thus to get them to show in action what it is that they mean by in this case a valued customer.

But even more so had he said too quickly, “Sir, no problem, we’ll definitely give you that,” and I was someone that wanted to take advantage of the situation, I then could have said, “Oh, and I’ll have a bottle of Dom Perignon also if you don’t mind sending that up to the room.” I state that simply to say, you have to always be aware of how quickly someone responds to a request or a concession that you made.

That’s just a short story just to highlight those points.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Now, in the course of that conversation, when did you explain the problem? They mentioned that you’re a valued customer, was that sort of before or after you kind of laid out the picture?

Greg Williams
I had laid out the picture and then he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer.” You’re right about that because you also have to set the stage as it were for how you would wish the negotiation to progress. By setting the stage, by telling him of the circumstances that had occurred earlier in the day and the evening, I also had positioned him to think, “Oh God, this guy has really gone through a whole lot.”

Mind you, oh boy, again, never try to take advantage of any particular situation in a negotiation because it could always blow up in your face and you can have all kinds of retributions to pay as a result of doing so.

Mind you at check in time, and this particular hotel had one organization that had about two or three thousand folk from a different organization that was already there. I was part of an organization that had another fifteen hundred people or so. Even at the check in I heard the day before it was a 90 – 9 – 0 minute wait just trying to check in.

I had already invoked that when I did check in. Mind you, I was checking in the day after that, but I had already invoked that thought process and got upgraded to the executive suite as a result of doing so. Again, don’t try to take advantage of situations, but when they are there for you to address, if you choose, do so.

Pete Mockaitis
With the room not being clean, so I mean in a way that could be a big deal or not at all a big deal.

Greg Williams
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
How’d you go about describing that it was substantial?

Greg Williams
Well, all I said to him was – first of all, I talked about the fact that I had arrived earlier or I should say got up earlier in the morning and left around nine o’clock or so and did not come back until something after three in the afternoon. I paused. Then I said, “And the room had not been cleaned at that time, which surprised me.”

Now notice how I said, “which surprised me.” Again, I paused just to let it sink in. Number one, I let it sink in and I also wanted to hear how he might … respond.

He said, “Sir, we can send someone up right away.” I said, “Well, no, I have to get ready for a black tie event a little later on this afternoon and I need to take a quick nap. How about if you get the room cleaned after six PM?” He said, “Okay, well that will be fine also.”

Again, after all of that did not occur and I talked to – then it was the night … was actually on, night desk manager, front desk manager. I told him about the whole scenario of what had occurred and the fact that the room was supposed to have been cleaned after six o’clock between the time that I left after six and returned. It was positioned just right, just right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s also interesting the comparison to a Motel Six, which I have stayed in once or twice in my day as situations warranted it.

Greg Williams
Me too.

Pete Mockaitis
I think is probably has a strong reaction … “Whoa, no. Never us. Not that.” That’s interesting because it’s not aggressively cruel to say that, but it’s honest. You might expect that from a Motel Six and you wouldn’t expect that here, so you’re just sort of sharing that honestly.

Tell me a little bit about your tone. You sound friendly as we’re speaking. Did you deliver the message in a similar tone there?

Greg Williams
Yes, because I did not want to come across as being overly demanding or be someone that was perceived as a jerk. I basically – I almost used the tone that I’m using right now. Number one, this type of tone will elicit empathy from the right person because had this been –

Had he, as an example, Pete, had he said, “Sir, okay, we’re sorry, the room didn’t get cleaned. I apologize. That’s the most I can do.” I would have adopted a completely different tenor and tone with him.

First of all I would have let a pause hang out there to see what else he would have said, to get him to negotiate against himself. “Well, sir, are you still there?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m here or not. I heard what you said, but even the tone at which you said to me depicted the fact that I guess customer service really doesn’t mean a whole lot at this fine chain that I’ve been very accustomed to having top-notch service at other property. Is it just your property that I’m going to have a challenging situation this time?” It would have been completely different.

With my latest book, Negotiating with a Bully, I talk about just that, using the right tonality in a situation such that you don’t become overly confrontational initially unless you have to be, want to be perceived as such.

You always want to match the tenor of the individual with whom it is that you’re negotiating such that you don’t … push them away or push them too hard or whatever be the case because if you push someone into a corner that’s mild and meek, they may come out of that corner doing unexpected things that you were not/are not prepared to deal with and thus you have to be very mindful of that also.

Pete Mockaitis
So you say matching the tone, that’s your perspective that if they come at you aggressive, that’s appropriate to respond with an aggressive tone?

Greg Williams
Well, it can be. What you need to do first is find out exactly what they plan to do with that tone. Some people may use it just to back you down. “Well, Greg, I tell you, I don’t think there’s anything that we can do.” “Oh, really?” “Yes, there’s nothing that we can do in this case.” “Hm.”

“Well, Greg, are you still there?” “Yes, I am, but I’m trying to decide to whom it is that I should speak since you can’t satisfy this particular situation, that might be able to lend me some form of satisfaction. Can you tell me the general manager of the property or better yet, the regional vice president of the property? I’m sorry, let’s just skip the small steps. I’ll go right to the president of the chain. Can you tell me who that might be because I need to talk with someone that can get this done?”

Now what I have implied with that, like, “Uh oh, maybe this guy’s not going to be the pushover that I thought he may have been and this guy appears to be willing to take this to higher levels that may cause more trouble for me than is warranted because I really do have the ability to go ahead and address the situation.”

I’ll tell you I’ve used the situation in a lot of situations, even with the products that were on sale whereby the sale had ended.

You walk into an environment and you say to a sales clerk, “I’d like to have this item.” “Oh, no problem, sir.” “Oh, no, no, no, I mean for the price that it was advertised.” “Oh, well sir, that sale ended yesterday.” “Oh, well that’s fine. You’re empowered to give me this at the same price, right?” “No, I’m not, sir.” “Oh, so I know that means your manager can give it to me at that price, right?” I shake my head yes as I’m saying right.

The salesperson will usually say, “Well,” if he says yes, okay, he’s backed himself into a corner because – and, again, I never try to get anybody into trouble, but now he’s put his sales manager on the line for being able to deliver this. Again, it goes back to how you wish to position someone such that you let them know you’re going to be somewhat persistent while not being overly bearing ….

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that. It reminds me – I was once a consulting with a call center op situation. I remember it was interesting that inside the customer service reps scripts, it was like, “If a customer says any of these magic words, then they will get immediately elevated to someone else to help out.” I think some of the magic words were, ‘lawyer, FCC, FTC, media.’

Sometimes – I’ve done this only a couple of times just like, “Well, if you can’t do anything, who would I have to reach out to to get resolution? Would it be the FTC, the FCC, the lawyer, the media?” and just throw them all into one sentence to see what happens.

Greg Williams
Exactly. You know Pete, to that end you have to be aware to whom you’re making such a statement because if you’re dealing with someone that really either can’t or doesn’t care about what you do, you’re wasting time. … when you’re negotiating, you always need to be negotiating with an entity that can really give you what you need or want or at least provide a stepping stone to the resource that can do something.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Greg, thank you. Well, so your specific book here is called Negotiating With a Bully. I’d like to get your sense first of all, how do you define bully and how do you know if you’re dealing with a bully?

Greg Williams
It goes to how you feel. Each and every individual has to be able to sense to a degree the way he or she feels as though he or she is being bullied because here’s the thing Pete.

You and I may be engaged in a negotiation. I may all of the sudden drop the tone of my voice and because of some trigger that that reacts or I should say that that creates in your thought process, it may remind you of a time when you were in school and someone with a deep voice did such and such to you and thus you may think subliminally, “Uh oh, I’m getting ready to be bullied or something to that nature.”

Meanwhile, someone may drop their tone with me and I may think “Okay, so the guy has a frog in his throat,” or something like that.

I say that to say, when you feel as though you’re being bullied, you can do one of a few things. You can actually say to the other individual, “You know, I feel like something has changed all of the sudden. I sense you’re being more aggressive at this time.”

That person may say, “Oh,” and just I know you can’t see me Pete, but I literally as I did that, I genuinely touched my chest near my heart, which is a sign of sincerity saying, “Oh no, that was not my intent. I apologize.” Even if you noticed the tonality of my voice offered ever so slightly too.

Well, that individual more than likely was not really trying to be – not attempting to be a bully in that particular case. The person may have been passive aggressive at that particular time, but nevertheless, once you told that person what you were sensing, if that person’s intent was not to convey such actions or sentiment, that person will change his or her behavior.

Okay. Let’s take a situation where someone says to you, “Yeah, okay, so what?” Well, that’s – now you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Pete Mockaitis
“You’re darn right, Greg. If you’re going to come after my company’s reputation, you’re going to have me gunning for you.”

Greg Williams
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Now you have a better idea of exactly what you’re dealing with and the intent of that person.

Another scenario that you could adopt at that particular point and time is – okay, … the exact same … said to me … role play.

Pete Mockaitis
I said, “You’re darn right, Greg. If you come after my company or my reputation, you’re going to get me fighting right back.”

Greg Williams
“Oh, Pete, can you tell me more about what it is that you mean by that, ‘fighting right back’? What does that mean?”

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m going to make your stay as obnoxious as possible.”

Greg Williams
“Oh wow. Well, Pete, I really don’t want you to do that. What might I do to avoid that?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Well, you can conclude this conversation and we’ll go our separate ways.”

Greg Williams
“And that will satisfy you?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Yes.”

Greg Williams
“Okay, well I’ll tell you what, Pete. How about if I tie you down instead and now that I know exactly what you want, I’m going to make you give me everything I want before I let you go. How does that sound to you?”

Now, let’s break out of the role play for a moment. That was a little quick scenario. What I just found out through the words that you made a moment ago was the fact that. You want to exit.

Suppose you were in my environment and I’ve been in environments where some folks have done some real sneaky things to the other negotiator. Turn the heat up when the person was not being agreeable to the negotiator in whose building or environment the negotiation was being held. Turn the air up so it can get cooler, more comfortable when things are going good, etcetera, etcetera.

Literally put time blockages in front of someone. If I know you have a deadline to get a negotiation finished with me because before another session segment … be created with your team members you have to wrap this up and all of the sudden you come at me the wrong way as it were, I will start speaking a little slower, I’ll become a little more ….

I may do the exact same thing if I know you’re one of those individuals that love to talk fast and try to show a lot through movements of your hands and your body language displays that you’re really ‘let’s get it done move, move, move.’ I may intentionally slow you down to irritate the heck out of you.

There are all kinds of mind games that can be played. Some verbally, some non-verbally, but the point is you need to know what that other person’s restrictions are. … he … of the negotiation, the timeframe in which he’s willing to engage you to do so.

Here’s something else also Pete that I’d like all of your listeners to always remember, my tagline is ‘Always be negotiating.’ That means what you do today influences tomorrow’s outcome.

Even if you’re negotiating with a bully to the degree that you let … push you around and you don’t do anything to push back on him, you set yourself up to be pushed around tomorrow, the day after that, … in any environment you’re in with him and thus you have to set the stage properly to deal with people not only for today, because in so doing today, you … tomorrow. That’s point number one.

Point number two, I don’t care who you’re negotiating with … see yourself as being so insufficient, so lacking of resources that you immediately feel as though you have to subjugate yourself in order to get what it is that person is negotiating with you for because if the person is negotiating with you, there’s a purpose that they have in mind.

If you uncover the purpose, if you understand who’s not at the negotiating table that’s motivating that person to enact the actions that that person engages in, you will have a better insight also as to how to manipulate that person. By the way, manipulation is not a bad word, so just keep that thought in mind too.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, well, can you – let’s hear about that a little bit. Manipulation is not a bad word; how should we think about it?

Greg Williams
Well, we think about it based on what action is performed.

In theory, you’re in New York City. Traffic is whizzing by. You’re looking at your phone and you’re just sending text messages or whatever, not really paying attention. You go to step off the curb right in the flow of traffic and I manipulate your body out of the path of oncoming traffic. Have I done a good thing by possibly saving your life? I think you’d say yes.

The point is the definition that you give to a word or words has specific meaning at the time that the word is being implemented. I use the word manipulation sometimes knowing that some people have a negative connotation of that word and I may say something along the lines of, “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Now did you even notice how my voice went up a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Greg Williams
Just to explain, when we get a bit excited, our voices will tend to rise. “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Again, you can’t see my body language, but my eyebrows became somewhat furled also.

Again, … I’m focusing on this particular situation, so again, nonverbal cues and body language play an added role to give additional leverage to the words that you use, but by doing that, you give more insight about what it is that you’re thinking of.

If used the word manipulation in that particular situation and that person has a negative connotation associated with that word, that person then knows that, “Wait a minute now, he thinks I’m trying to negatively influence or impact him, his thoughts, his decisions, his actions, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” That’s one mild way of really pushing someone back away from you.

Again, you need to know what certain words mean to someone. I said a moment ago, my tagline is ‘you’re always negotiating.’ There are times I will be in environments where I will just observe who is sitting with whom, just to observe the relationships that are formed by those individuals knowing later on that I have to engage with either those parties.

If I know that X is associated with Y, I then know that hm, I may be able to get Y, use Y as a leverage to influence X also. I’ll go into an environment sometimes and I’ll just watch how people use their body language.

Pete, I’ve consulted with large corporations I appear to be the person sitting off to the side taking notes, meanwhile what I was really doing was observing the body language of who it was that was supposed to be leading the opposing groups negotiation efforts and what … that person was taking from someone else at the table that was the real source of power for that particular team or that particular side of those that were negotiating.

Again, you can pick up on so many different cues if you but pay attention to what’s going on in you environment. If you’re going to be in a negotiation environment, get there early also, just so you can pick up on some of those cues.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, talk about cues. I also want to get your take on – body language can be a little bit tricky and ambiguous subject, what do you see are some of the most reliable body language signals, like if I see this, it quite probably means that?

Greg Williams
Well, let’s set culture aside for a moment. The reason I want to set culture aside for a moment is because I want to speak generically first.

In let’s say the American society, taller people will usually be perceived as being more influential etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, than people that are not as tall as they are. Attractive people will also be perceived as having this extra oomph as it were than people that are not as attractive.

If you’re negotiating with someone that’s taller than you and you’re literally standing face to face, one of the things that you can do is literally stand closer to them and see what they do with that. Basically what you’re saying with that little, small gesture is “I’m willing to come into your space because I’m not afraid of you.” You … take notice to whether or not they take a step back or something of that nature.

Now, if they take a step back, dependent upon where you are in the negotiation – and that body language, by the way, of taking a step back, literally says, “You’re in my comfort zone. I’m not comfortable with you standing this close as I am and therefore I’m going to put a little bit of distance between the two of us.”

You as the shorter of the two individuals send a signal, as I said a moment ago, of “Hey, I’m not afraid of you. You have more resources than I do, but so what? I will still come into your environment.”

Shaking hands. I don’t want to get into presidential politics, just take note – well, take note, first of all, when you’re shaking hands and if both hands are perpendicular to one another, the two individuals are saying, “Hey, I’m equal to you. You’re equal to me. I recognize that fact in you. You recognize that fact in me.”

If one hand is on the bottom and another hand is on top, literally the hand on top is indicating, “I’m hands above you.” That indicates a power position in that particular situation. Thus, I always take note of when any political leader allows his hand to be on the bottom as opposed to on the top because that also signals – now, it can be a ploy from time to time too.

Again, in positioning you can literally let someone have their hand on top of yours as you’re shaking their hand just to see exactly what they will do after that.

A lot people, especially politicians, know about the … handshakes, the hidden signals in handshakes so forth and so on. That’s one particular body language gesture that you can look at.

The other that you can look at and you see politicians doing this a lot is while they’re shaking hands, they’ll have their other hand on the person’s elbow or something of that nature. Well, that’s a power move that’s even above the fact that somebody has their hand on top of yours. You’re saying to them with that hand on their elbow, “Okay, I’m going to be in control in this particular situation.”

The counter to that is to literally place a hand on the person’s shoulder. There are also these hidden meanings in body language and those were some just with the handshake of itself.

Here’s something else to note via body language, especially when you’re either standing up – well, when you’re standing up, take note of how an individuals feet are placed as far as their relationship to one another.

When feet are aligned, the two individuals are aligned per what they’re discussing, how engaged they are in that particular conversation, etcetera.

When one foot points in one particular direction by one individual, right then, that person has mentally begun to disengage from the conversation and more than likely that person is going to exit the conversation in the direction that foot is pointed, in the direction that that foot is pointed.

Those are some quick clues. Eye contact, eh. Again, it goes back to culture. But just because someone looks away from time to time does not necessarily mean they’re trying to avoid whatever it is they’re discussing, but you do need to note when they look away.

If someone says to you, “I think you’re the best person I’ve ever met in the world. I think you’re really fantastic,” meanwhile, they’re looking off to the side. Well, hey, the sentence may not convey exactly the meaning the body language is sending because they’re not really sending that to you.

Anytime you have doubts about whether or not someone’s words and body language happen to be matched with – or the two are synchronized, always follow the body language. The body attempts never to lie because the body always wants to be in a state of comfort. Telling a lie puts the body in a state of discomfort. The body will try to adjust.

The wringing of the hands sometimes is the fact that somebody is experiencing some form of angst, some form of anxiety and that’s the way the body tries to calm itself. Touching one’s elbow, one’s wrist, one’s hands, one’s nose, ear, again, those are signals that “Well, I’m a little uncomfortable at this particular point in time.”

Here’s something else to take note of. When people are trying to recall things, they will – and some folks say it depends on whether or not they’re right or left handed, but again, you establish the base with how they act with this action that I’m about to describe in a non-threatening situation first and then you’ll know to what degree they’re really speaking truthfully or not.

But people that are trying to recall things will tend to look up and to the left. If someone says to you, “So Pete-“

Pete Mockaitis
Now, their left?

Greg Williams
Yes, their left. I’m sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
Their left, okay.

Greg Williams
Yes, exactly. Thank you. Thank you. Their left.

If someone were to say to you, “So Pete, what did you do last night?” You say – you look to the left and you go, “Well, I went out to dinner with my wife,” and yada, yada, yada. Okay, that’s one thing.

If on the other hand, the same question was posed to you and you looked up and to the right, your right, that’s the direction in which people look towards the future and thus they are in the process of trying to formulate what they think will really happen to a question that you’ve posed that was supposed to have occurred in the past.

If you take note of that, again, as a negotiator, you don’t necessarily have to say anything, but you can take note of the fact that wait a minute, that person looked up to the right. That’s the creation mode in most cases, so why in the heck was he looking up to the right. You can pose a few more questions towards the same type of environment – about the same type of environment I should say, to see exactly what the person does with his or her eyes.

Then, later on in the negotiation, I might come back to you, Pete, and I say something about, “So Pete-“ now this is called an assumptive question what I’m getting ready to project. “So Pete, you said three nights ago you and your wife actually went to a movie. What was the movie you say?” Then watch the person. If the person then looks back up to the right again, oh my gosh, have I ever caught this person in one heck of a whopper.

Again, you don’t have to let the person know at that particular point in time, but you do know that person is definitely not being 100% truthful with you at that particular time.

Those are some body language gestures that you can take note of. In my prior book, Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations, I go into a lot more tactics and strategies that one can uncover just by observing body language.

Pete Mockaitis
You used the word definitely there. Is that sort of after you’ve established a baseline associated with their behavior and the other body language signals?

Greg Williams
Yes. That goes back to what I was saying earlier about the fact that I’ll go into an environment and just observe how someone reacts in different situations where those situations are nonthreatening. Again, when you’re using small talk to gain such insights, you might say something about “So where are you from?” Okay, most of us know where we’re from so forth and so on.

They’ll … say something and … ask a question about “How long have you lived there?” They may look up and to the left because what they’re trying to do is “Gosh, how long have I lived there?” They’re going through that thought process as opposed to looking up and to the right.

Now if they look up and to the right and they say, “You know, I think it’s been about 21 years.” Okay, take note of that. Take note that they didn’t look up and to the left, but instead they looked up and to their right to reference something that occurred in the past. Then you pursue it. You may something along the lines of “Did you play baseball at the high school in such and such a place?” Now let’s say he looks up and to the right again.

Now, notice that’s supposed to be the opposite when they’re doing their recall, but if you notice that they keep looking up and to the right for recall and to the left when they’re trying to think of future things that will occur, you then have the baseline for which to then place your emphasis per whether or not they’re being 100% truthful.

But that’s why it’s so important to understand and establish that baseline, which is why I love to just go into environments and just observe how people are using their body such that they’re conveying different sentiments in nonthreatening environments.

Then I have something to compare their actions to when we enter into what they think is the formal negotiation, but in theory, in reality, you’re always negotiating. You’re giving off clues as to how you will react in different situations any time you’re in an environment where people are observing you.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to talk about some of those dominant signals or gestures. I want to get your take on what strategy is optimal because if someone is doing a lot of dominant stuff with me, I just don’t like that. It makes me feel less rapport because like okay, you have to be in charge.

I think that can really be harmful because in terms of establishing liking, rapport, trust, it’s like, I don’t like this person. But I guess there can be other times in which a dominant strategy is helpful. How do you think about that?

Greg Williams
It definitely can be helpful. Again, dependent upon the individual that you’re dealing with. Pete, some people want to be led because they feel more comfortable being led by others such that they don’t have to make decisions.

Other individuals are the type that you just mentioned a moment ago. “My gosh, hey, don’t be putting my hand on the bottom. Don’t be touching my elbow.” If you sense that type of person, again, you need to match the modality of the person that you’re speaking to in order to get them to do what it is that you want per the outcome that you seek.

Thus if you are too overbearing – if I use the tactics that you just mentioned a moment ago, putting your hand on the bottom, touching your elbow, etcetera, etcetera, even putting my hand on our shoulder, I’d be pushing you away with my gestures and running the risk of turning you into someone that might really come back and undermine my efforts later on, which … be very understanding of how someone wants to be treated and how they want you to interact with them.

Everyone wants to be treated with respect. The degree that you do so per how they perceive you doing so is what you have to be very much aware of. If you’re too aggressive, you’ll scare some people away, other people you’ll make come closer to you because truth be known, they get off on that as they say. That’s what they like. But in other cases, you may just repel someone.

Again, you never want to do so to the degree that you push someone into a corner and have them become irrational because then you truly don’t know what it is that they may do, especially when you’re negotiating with them.

You make a person make one concession after another, after another, after another, after another. Next thing you know they say, “Oh the heck with it. You know what? I don’t give a heck about this whole doggone deal. I’m out of here.” You go, “Whoa, what just happened?”

Well, what just happened, the incremental small steps that you pushed that person into to make them all of the sudden say, “You know what?  The heck with this. My self-pride is at stake at this particular point in time and that’s more valuable to me than the outcome of this negotiation. You go negotiate by yourself.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Well, tell me, Greg, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Greg Williams
Well, again, it was my mother many years ago that used to say to me – because I watched her literally, Pete, negotiate for everything. As a little kid I remember one time saying to her, “Mom, that’s embarrassing. You’re always asking people to lower the price, to add a little bit more, my gosh, won’t they think we’re poor?”

She said to me, “What do you care about what other people think of you as long as it is that you’re getting what you want? The more money you save, the more money you’ll have to do with as you choose and please.”

As a kid, seriously, I quickly got over the embarrassment and I learned to ask for whatever it was that I wanted. You have to have a certain thickness of skin not to necessarily allow the thoughts of other people to influence your actions to the degree that they do so and those actions become detrimental to your own well-being.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think a large part of it would be a matter of just how important is this sort of long term relationship for you in terms of are you going to see this fancy hotel person. In a way, if he thinks Greg is the most demanding, unreasonable customer I’ve ever encountered based on you wanting a free night for the room not being cleaned and how much is that a downside to you versus your boss or your spouse. It’s a very different game there.

Greg Williams
Pete, you know what? Oh my gosh, you are spot on. Here’s the other potential downside to that.

In that particular situation if I had been so … the individual thought, “Oh my gosh, no problem. Yeah. I’ll give you one night’s remittance. No problem.” Then he puts some remark in my file, in my record that said whatever and then that stayed with me as I went from one particular chain or I should say one particular property in that chain after another.

I go to check in and people are looking at me like I have a third eye in the middle of my forehead. I’m wondering why. I say that to say that’s another reason why you don’t want to be mean or nasty to somebody because you don’t know to what degree they’ll get you back behind your back.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Greg Williams
Oh, Lord knows I already gave it. You’re always negotiating.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Greg Williams
Yeah. The reason that’s so inspiring is because it keeps me grounded. Okay, we all go through days … at times we may have an up day, a down day, but life is truly what you make it. Thus, it’s nothing more than perceptional. If you’re the one making it what it is to you anyway, why not choose to make it the greatest that it can be. You’ll live a lot better by doing so.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Greg Williams
There’s all – everything in life revolves around negotiations. If you really wanted to read some additional books on the topic of negotiation, one that I really love is Getting to Yes by William Ury. My gosh, that book is old, old, old, but nevertheless, there’s still some great insights into that.

His more recent book is Getting Past No. A lot of us don’t know what to do when someone says no. Remember no only means no for the moment. Life is ever changing, ever evolving, so be persistent in achieving the goals that you seek to acquire. Don’t let no stop you for the moment.

Another book of mine that I think you may be able to tell that I love negotiations, but Difficult Conversations is another particular book, another old one.

Here’s something, here’s one that I recently started listening to. It’s actually an online course, Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior. Boy, oh boy, you can gain a lot of insight as to why people do what they do based on the emotions that they experience and in the moment and how it is that you can incite certain emotions, certain triggers within someone to get them to either abide by what it is that you’re requesting and/or back off of you if that be your outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Greg Williams
Always negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff. I will ask for some of the most mundane things just to see the results from time to time. The reason I do so is because I’m always collecting data. Okay, I did this in this particular situation and it worked.

I’ll pick up pennies off of the ground and there have been times when I’ve asked people, “So, you try to achieve wealth. How many of you in here will pick a penny up if you see it lying on the ground?” People will snicker from time to time.

But the point is, we make progress in small steps. A penny is yet another small step towards an overall wealth outcome if that’s what you’re really receiving. Don’t be too pride – don’t have much pride in order to subjugate yourself to goals that you seek because all you’re really doing is holding yourself back.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you?

Greg Williams
Well, I love it when people that I haven’t seen for years will come up to me and say things along the lines of “Oh Mr. Williams,” and when they say Mr. Williams, I always say, “No, no, my father is nowhere around right now, just please call me Greg.” They’ll say, “You have helped me so much by teaching negotiation strategies that I’ve been able to use to get a lot more in life.”

… to other individuals, serve other individuals. I attempt to give back to those, especially younger than myself because I’m at a point in life now where one day they will be the rulers of the world that I will have to live in. I hope by giving them insights, instilling in them the knowledge that they can use in order to not only look out for those that they care about, but for other individuals in the world, that the world will become a better place.

Pete Mockaitis
Greg, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Greg Williams
Well, they can go to my website, which is www.TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can send me an email to Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can also reach me via phone at 609-369-2100.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Greg Williams
Yes. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Go out there and negotiate every doggone day because if you want a raise tomorrow, start positioning yourself to get that raise – I’m sorry if you want a raise in six months, next year whatever, start positioning yourself today to do so.

Understand what it would take from your boss such that you become such a valuable resource that he has to give you the raise that you ask for simply because you are that valuable. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. No only means no for the moment. The more persistent you are about achieving a goal, the more goals you will achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Greg, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck in your negotiations and all you’re up to.

Greg Williams
Thank you Pete … and much more success for you in life because it’s waiting for you.

322: Delivering the Most Persuasive Words with Michel Fortin

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Legendary copywriter Michel Fortin shares how to be more persuasive in any environment and situation.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The platinum rule for persuasion
  2. The OATH formula to better know the people you need to persuade
  3. The ‘so-that’ technique to bridge arguments and persuade people

About Michel

Michel is currently Director of Communications at SEO TWIST, Inc., a full-service digital marketing agency that’s also a Premier Google Partner, Facebook Partner, and Shopify Partner. He manages a portfolio of 47 client accounts ranging from small businesses to multinationals. He’s also President and co-owner of Supportibles, Inc. (formerly Workaholics4Hire), an outsourced customer support solutions and backoffice business process services provider.

He leads a team of three managers and 22 support staff, as well as over 200 part-time virtual assistants and remote workers. They handle an average volume of over 15,000 support cases daily with clients in a variety of industries and verticals. He’s also responsible for building the clientbase, developing strategic marketing plans, and implementing business growth campaigns.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Michel Fortin Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michel, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Michel Fortin

Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m so excited to have this conversation. And I wanted to start by hearing about, you are a drummer in four different bands. Tell me how this works.

Michel Fortin

[laugh] Well, I’ve been playing drums since I was… Oh my Lord, since I was nine years old. I started playing on a drum set that my uncle had whenever he was playing with his bands in my grandmother’s house. Every time I visited my grandmother – I was being babysat by my grandmother – I was jumping on the drum set. And that kind of spurred a nice little hobby, and now today I play in four different bands – a country band, a classic rock band, a jazz band, and a heavy metal band. So, you can see that there’s a wide range of music there, and I’m very, very busy with all four of them, yes.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool. And have they ever been at the same evening or gig, in terms of, one is opening for another so you just very conveniently schedule to be in that spot?

Michel Fortin

Yeah, we all share calendars with the bands, so they know to not book a gig when I’m with another band. So I kind of tell all four bands at the same time when I’m available or not, so it works out really well. And as you probably know, from heavy metal bands to country bands is too widely diverse ranges of music, so they don’t share some of the same gig places. It’s kind of nice, yes.

Pete Mockaitis

Can I hear the band names? Are they wildly creative?

Michel Fortin

It’s kind of funny, because one of the first bands a while back was at the time when I used to teach at a local college here. I used to teach marketing, marketing management, professional selling, copywriting and all that stuff. And we were all teachers, and some of them actually still teach there. Actually one just retired not too long ago. And we call ourselves Divided Highway, because we were all four different, eclectic types of tastes in the band. One was a 50s classic rock, or rock and roll type of person, the other one was a country guy, I was a rocker, and then another guy was more of a jazz player. So we call ourselves Divided Highway.
The other bands – well, one band is Nelson Colt – he’s a national recording artist. He’s actually local here in Ottawa, and we’re part of the Nelson Colt band, and we play at a lot of festivals – country festivals and what not. The jazz band is, we are just basically backup musicians for a singer. Her name is Mel. She is a very widely-known jazz singer here. And the other band – the heavy metal band – is named FTP, but it doesn’t mean what it says. It’s called Free The Puppies. So, make that as you wish, and we’ll leave it at that. [laugh]

Pete Mockaitis

So, it’s important work you’re doing, freeing the puppies. That’s good. So, you mentioned you were teaching copywriting, and that’s how I bumped into you, is I was kind of learning all about copywriting, and you popped up. And you have a bit of a legend associated with your name in the history of copywriting. Can you tell us a little bit about that? And if you don’t, I’ll tell them for you, of how you’re a big deal.

Michel Fortin

Well, my story in how I stumbled into copywriting is actually a nice story, because it kind of helps other people who are thinking about what they should do or how they should learn copy. And it’s an interesting story. First of all, I grew up with this immense fear of rejection. I was abused by an alcoholic father as a child and I thought that because of that fear, I didn’t like knocking on doors, I didn’t like being at social gatherings and what not. And so what I did was, I dove into sales. I wanted to fight that fear, and the best way to fight that fear is to dive into something that forces you to be rejected all the time.
And that didn’t do well, because I didn’t make any sales. I was still a complete failure. And I said to myself, “There’s got to be a way to get those people to call me instead of me knocking on doors and getting doors slammed in my face.” So I said, “You know what? I’m just going to write a letter. Why don’t I write this letter that’ll ask people if they want some kind of a free consultation, free analysis? And I’ll get people to come to me?” I remember I declared bankruptcy. I was 21 years old. I declared bankruptcy at a very young age, to becoming the number one sales person for this insurance company, a Fortune 500 insurance company. And so I realized, “There’s something to this copywriting thing.”
So, that’s how I stumbled on to copywriting. And I realized over time that I’m far better at writing persuasively than I am at the actual process of selling. But I realized at the same time when I was learning all these things… I mean I dove into books and courses, I tried to learn more about the process of selling – it actually helped me improve my sales and copy.
And this is what I’m trying to impart is, because a lot of people say, “Well, should I write better? Is it about the prose? Is it about the grammar?” It has nothing to do with that. It’s, learn how to sell, or learn the process of selling, become a better sales person, become a better persuader, and then that will translate into the written format.
And up to this day, I guess a lot of people will remember me as being the person who wrote the copy, who made the first $1 million in one day back in 2004, selling digital products. And that’s what’s meant my name as a, quote unquote, “legend”, although I hate to use that word. But that’s how I became famous. And today, now I am Director of Communications at a digital marketing agency, a Google Premier Partner, and I still do a lot of copywriting here of course. And that’s my story in a nutshell.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool. And as I recall, the million-dollar day was John Reese.

Michel Fortin

Yes.

Pete Mockaitis

And what was the product, and do you remember the headline?

Michel Fortin

Traffic Secrets. Well, it’s kind of funny, because John at that time did a seminar – The Traffic Secrets Seminar – and he recorded that seminar and then he digitized into a video format into courses, which I wrote the sales letter for. And that’s the one that became the million-dollar day where we sold over $1 million worth of products. In fact, we sold over a million in 18 hours, but we call it “the million-dollar day”.
And then I remember when we re-launched it, it did phenomenally well as well when we re-launched it. And all I did was, we tacked odds and testimonials at the very top. But I changed the headline. I was … over this headline. In fact, it was kind of funny, because I came up with that headline at a copywriting seminar – Yanik Silver’s Copywriting Seminar. I was right there writing copy for John while I was trying to learn copywriting.

Pete Mockaitis

Real time.

Michel Fortin

In real time. And I came up with that. What would be the best headline possible? I just said, “Proof”. That was my one-word headline. A one-word headline to a 75-page sales letter.

Pete Mockaitis

75.

Michel Fortin

Yes. When you print it out, it would be 75 pages. And it did another couple of million dollars for John. I must admit – and I’m saying this with all humility – that John is a fantastic marketer. I learned a lot from him. And if it wasn’t for him, I probably would not have done that, of course. And it was also a melding of minds, because John gave me a lot of hints and tips and ideas, but it was the one thing that’s making me as a legend, if you want to call it that.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. That’s cool. And so, I guess we can dork out about this stuff, but our listeners are not so much online marketers who are trying to create information products and sell them and all that. There are plenty of podcasts about that, and we’re not quite one of them. But nonetheless, I believe every professional needs to be persuasive, both verbally and in print. And so, I’d love to get your take – maybe we’ll start broad, in terms of, if one wants to learn how to over the years of their career become progressively more and more persuasive and have people say “Yes” and to collaborate or help out on a project when you don’t have the authority to demand or fire or give bonuses or incentives financially – what should professionals do, if they want to sharpen their skills month after month?

Michel Fortin

I think the one thing that people have to realize is that we’re all in this game alone. And I say “alone”, not together. By that I mean, we all want the best for ourselves. However we try to help out each other, it’s still a selfish endeavor. And so when we try to persuade others, when we try to get people to come to our side, we often try to tell them why this is such a good idea, this is such a good project, this is such a good task. But we’re always thinking about ourselves, or we try to think of what the other person might like, which is often tainted by our own glasses, by our own way of seeing things.
I enjoy his work a lot – Dr. Tony Alessandra – a behavioral psychologist who actually teaches a lot about selling. And that translates a lot into copywriting, and I’ve used a lot of his teachings in my copywriting work as well. And he has a whole program called The Platinum Rule. As you know, the Golden Rule is “Do unto others”. The Platinum Rule is, “Do unto others as they would want to have done unto them”, rather than “What you want to have done unto you”.
And to do that, there’s a couple of things. And we could spend an entire 45 minutes just doing this, but the one thing that’s important is to understand what the other person really, really wants. That involves knowing the other person. It involves, in copywriting – when we talk about copy in a marketing context – market research. When I have conversations with copywriters who either have a writer’s block or they don’t know what kind of sales message, what kind of story they want to tell – I tell them, “Go back to your market. Do more market research.” The more you question, the more you probe, the more you dig deeper into your market, the more things will pop out at you almost instantaneously.
And it’s the same thing with persuasion in an office environment with coworkers, with subordinates, even with superiors, where you have to understand what makes them tick, what is keeping them up at night, what is something that they would want. Sometimes we look at things and we think that they’re looking for a specific thing, when it might be a whole other motivation, a whole other intent, a whole other behavior. And the more we know that, the more we can position the same request that we can make, but in a certain way that makes them feel like it’s their request, they own it, they possess it, but at the same time they’re doing it for their benefit and you’re making them feel like they’re the hero.
And that’s what I do. I do that at work. I work in an agency where it’s fast paced, it’s high energy here all the time, and we do have to have a lot of people on our side, and even with clients – trying to sell with clients. The more you know about who you’re trying to persuade, the more you’ll be able to position whatever request you’re making to get them to do what you want them to do. Not because you know what they want, but you found out what they really want.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, could you maybe give us some examples of perhaps an assumption that we might be making when we’re looking through our own glasses, versus a better way to make that request when you step into their shoes?

Michel Fortin

Absolutely. One of the things that I’ve done a lot in my life are seminars, and especially seminars in copywriting. And I did a seminar one time with David Garfinkel – one of the most well-known copywriting coaches – a brilliant man, a very good copywriter too. Fantastic copywriter actually. And he told a story once of a sales situation that kind of demonstrates that, where he was talking about a bunch of engineers sitting around a table, where some kind of chemistry machine… I can’t remember what it was, it’s some kind of laboratory instrument that they were trying to sell to this group of engineers.
And the person trying to sell to the group was talking about all the statistics and the data and the performance efficiency, and all those wonderful things. And he told the story where he found out when the people decided to buy the product, they said to the salesperson, “I’m not buying this because… There are so many things that we can actually do research on and find out about your product. We buy it because we like to touch it. We like to use it. We like to play with it in our laboratories, and we like to do things with it.”
We think that all engineers are all about numbers, but it comes down to I think something that is more fundamental, is that people do buy on emotion but they justify their decision with logic. And that applies to engineers as much as it applies to anybody else. And so, this person then went into more presentations afterwards, kind of positioning or repositioning the presentation. “Yes, I will talk about how neat and new and fun, and how you can geek out all over this product in your laboratory, but here are all the numbers and all the statistics and all the data that you can use to help justify this to your superior, to your purchasing committees and all that stuff.” So, that is a story that is very much applicable. I think you can apply that to any situation.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s interesting. So, we buy on emotion, and then justify that with logic. And so, I’m thinking… So many purchases I’ve made are flashing before my eyes.

Michel Fortin

Well, when you make those decisions to buy those products, your first reaction was to probably buy it for some kind of emotional reason. And sometimes that doesn’t mean it’s a childish emotion. It could be actually, “It makes me happy”, “I like buying stuff”. That’s probably just as normal and human as anybody. But then you’ll start to go into your mind. And you could do both things too. You can talk about all the wonderful reasons why you should buy this product; you’re trying to justify it.
But you know what a lot of people do? They also try to justify not buying the product, and they try to think of all the negative that can be associated with buying this product. They’re trying to talk themselves out of it. And as a copywriter, we need to do three things: A) we need to sell on emotion, B) we need to justify it with logic, but C) we need to handle and respond to objections or possible objections that they might have, that they will surely have when they’re going through that justification process.
So, in a job environment, in an office environment, whatever the case is – you might have to think about how you’re going to sell a particular idea to staff, whatever the case is. You might back it up with justifiable, logical reasons why they should go ahead, but at the same time you also have to think about, what are the things that they’ll come up with to negatively impact your decision, or what they’ll try to outsell themselves, or to sell themselves away from that product or service, or in this case, the idea, the task, the project. And you have to kind of prepare yourself, to anticipate those things and answer them.

Pete Mockaitis

It is interesting. I’m thinking about in an office environment, in terms of, there are so many projects that require collaboration across many functional areas and groups. And so, it’s like, “Hey everyone, give us your input on this” or, “Come to a meeting about that”, and they don’t want to. So I’m just imagining, if we look at the emotional angle, maybe you’re courting a project for a new software, tool or modular add-on that will help people do their jobs. And it might be something like, “Imagine a world where your Friday time and expense reporting doesn’t involve painstakingly pulling out receipt after receipt and taping it to pages and scanning them, but rather with a quick push of a button you can power through that moment.”

Michel Fortin

Yeah. You can say something like, “Hey John, I know that we’ve talked about your need for an assistant. That’s something that I’m trying to desperately find the budget for. And I know that you really need help, you’re overwhelmed right now. I would love for you to come to this meeting. We’re going to be talking about this new software that will be A, B and C and that will do one, two, three. However, it’s going to help us save some money, maybe be able to allocate some of that budget in order to help justify hiring an assistant for you. So, your input is so valuable and I would love for you to be at that meeting if you could. Could you come?”
That would be a way to position that. That’s just one example of course; I just pulled that off the top of my head. But it’s, where you can find ways to reposition something that is in their favor or somehow could be in their favor, and then maybe also look at how they come out on top if they do whatever you’re asking them to do.

Pete Mockaitis

Right. And it was interesting, when you talk about overwhelm – that’s a feeling. It’s like, “Yeah, I am, and it would be such a relief to have some help, support in that way.” So, maybe could you touch upon some other powerful emotions to get the wheels turning, associated with, if I’m going for an emotion as opposed to logic, what sort of emotions am I going after and can I stir up in an ethical and moral sort of a way to be more persuasive?

Michel Fortin

Well, I use a rule in copywriting called “the three rules of the 3s”. And that means that there are three things that people tend to look for when they, in this case, re-copy. But it could be applied in other situations. I talk about the three greatest human goals. The three greatest human goals are to either make or save time, money or energy. So, if you can find ways to position things that will make them or help them to understand that they can save or make more time, more money, more energy – then you’ve got them. You’ve got them hooked.
Now, the second, we’re going down the emotional path here. The second is, the three greatest human desires. And I have found in all copy that I’ve read, all copy that I’ve written, all copy that I’ve researched, it comes down to three essential things – greed, lust, or comfort. Greed – of course, doesn’t have to be greed about money. It could be great about life, it could be greed for possessions, it could be greed for having more time to travel, whatever the case is. Lust – of course, there is a sexual component, but it could also be lust for life, could be lust for health, could be feeling younger, feeling more active, more energetic, living longer, whatever the case is.
And of course comfort is the path of least resistance. People love convenience, they love to do things in a more efficient way. How can they get more time is important, but what they can do to be more convenient, to be more efficient so that they can have more time? Well, that’s the comfort level. And that’s the three greatest human desires.
And finally, we’re going to step up again – the three greatest human teasers – controversy, curiosity, and scarcity. So controversy of course is something that’s hot, that’s topical, that’s trendy. Putting politics and religion and all that stuff on the side, there’s always something that’s very controversial in the industry, in the news, whatever the case is. And if you can use that in your – and I call it “story-selling” – in your story-selling process, the more you can engage some of those emotions that will get people to do what you want them to do.
The second of course is curiosity. Creating curiosity is, I think, fundamental. We have this new term that wasn’t around when I first started on the Internet 20 years ago. But we call it “clickbait”. Clickbait is kind of funny, because I’m sure that people call something “clickbait” if they’re enticed into something that really doesn’t satisfy their curiosity or it makes them feel like, “Oh, you got me hooked onto something like this.”

Pete Mockaitis

Like a fake worm.

Michel Fortin

Yeah, that’s it. So I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about creating actual genuine curiosity. And I can talk a little bit more about that, but I’ll talk about the third, and I’ll come back to that. So, scarcity – people tend to want something more when there’s less available of it, or when it’s about to run out, because people love something that’s rare, that’s hard to get, that’s “only one left”, whatever the case is. So scarcity – when there’s less time to do something, or to get something, or to have something, and limited quantities, limited resources, whatever the case is.
So, all that to say that the three greatest human goals, the three greatest human desires and the three greatest human teasers are things that we can incorporate in our persuasion methods that will get people emotionally hooked onto what we’re trying to say and what we’re trying to get them to do.
Now, just to come back and finish on the curiosity thing. The reason why I love curiosity – it’s probably one of my favorite ones – is because of something psychologists call “the Zeigarnik effect”. And I say “Zee”, not “Zed”, of course. I’m Canadian. So the Zeigarnik effect is something that psychologists use to explain this kind of feeling of uneasiness, discomfort, when something is left unsaid, undone, not finished, until they get that closure.
And that Zeigarnik effect is very powerful because we can open a discussion, we can open an idea, we can open a request, and people won’t feel comfortable until they get that idea, thing – whatever – finished, completed, that thought finished. And it’s like finishing a movie halfway through.
I think one of the biggest controversial endings was The Sopranos. I don’t know if you remember that show, and it just faded to black when they were all in the restaurant. So, the Zeigarnik effect is powerful to create that controversy. If I say, for example, “You should do these three things”, and that’s the title of some kind of sales letter – and I’m being very simplistic, of course. And people will say, “Well, what are those three things?” There’s a very popular… This is a hundred years ago, title for an ad that said, “Do you make these mistakes in English?” Of course it was for an ad for teaching English.

Pete Mockaitis

Which ones? I might be.

Michel Fortin

Yeah, exactly. So it forces you to read what those mistakes are. So, curiosity is very, very powerful, and we can certainly use that in our interactions at the office and dealing with staff, because people are always intrinsically and innately curious.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s intriguing. And I guess in terms of closing the loop, it’s so true – I’m thinking now about my experience of watching the TV series Prison Break. I thought the first season was amazing. It was just some of the most thrilling television I’ve ever witnessed. The second season was okay; it was kind of fun. And then the rest of them – I think there are five – I think I watched the rest of the seasons just like, “I’ve just got to know what happens to these guys.” [laugh] I think I finally broke down and said, “Okay, I’m just not going to watch the episodes. I’m going to read the summaries and then watch the last one.” I had to know.

Michel Fortin

Right. And those are the best shows. Those are the ones that have the highest ratings. If you go back to, my gosh, the very famous Dallas show, when everybody was asking, “Who shot J.R.? Who shot J.R.?”, and then when they finally showed the person who shot J.R., the ratings just dropped like a rock. And that’s the Zeigarnik effect, right? But we can use that to our advantage. We can create a little bit of curiosity, get people a little bit enticed: “John, I really need you to come to this meeting. There’s something that I wanted to ask you that’s been bothering me; it’s on my mind.” And he says, “Well, what is it?” “Well, I can’t really tell you right now, I don’t have time. But actually just join me at 3:00 o’clock at the meeting and I’ll tell you.” [laugh]

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, absolutely. A lot of this is reminding me of Robert Cialdini’s fantastic books Influence: Science and Practice, and his latest, Pre-Suasion.

Michel Fortin

Yes.

Pete Mockaitis

And I look forward to the day we have him on the show. And in Pre-Suasion he talked about how he had cracked the code of getting students to not pack up and leave before the class was over, which was, he would paint a little bit of a picture for a case study, like, “How did so-and-so company pull off this, when A, B, C, D and E were stacked against them? You would expect with these sort of factors, that they would have a terrible time getting a marketed option for this offering.”

Michel Fortin

Yeah. I remember reading a sales letter where the headline introduced – and it was a question – and then you had the whole sales letter, and then finally, the final P.S. at the end, “Oh, by the way – you know that question I asked earlier? Here’s the answer.” So it literally forced you to read, but it got people to read the whole sales letter. So, it was interesting, and it’s a very common tactic.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s fascinating, how when you open up a question that’s interesting, and you leave out the answer, folks want to get to it. And so, that’s great. Are there any other approaches for stoking that curiosity fire within people?

Michel Fortin

Remember I told you about market research, finding out more about the market. There’s something that I teach in copywriting that we can certainly apply in an office or in a job setting, is what I call “the OATH formula”. And the OATH formula means how prepared are people to take an oath? I know I use acronyms a lot – I’m an acronym fanatic. I love mnemonics and acronyms to help me remember stuff.
And OATH is just an easy way to remember what stage of awareness are people at? Are they oblivious – which is the O, apathetic – which is A, thinking, or hurting? And that means simply this: Oblivious is, they don’t know. They just don’t know. So, you would probably need to get them a little bit more educated so that you can get them to the next level. And that may be somebody who’s not aware of a problem – some people are not aware of a situation. Maybe somebody’s asking for a raise in your company, and they don’t necessarily understand that there’s a problem that they need to solve in order to get to that level or get to the point where they can ask for it. So, they’re oblivious. And of course you can create curiosity to educate them a little bit better or get them to want to be educated a little bit better, and that’s fine, but you won’t know that until you do that kind of research.
And again, I call it “market research”, but in an office setting sometimes just sitting down with people or finding out more about who they are, what makes them tick, what are their goals, what are the goals of the company. Sometimes we say people want a raise. I found whenever we’ve done surveys within companies, especially companies that I work with, that a lot of times money is not the number one thing. Sometimes it might just be a snack machine in the corner. It could be a coffee machine. It could be more flexible hours, that they can work at home more often because Jane can be with her child, or Bob could pick up his child from school, whatever the case is. Anyways, so oblivious.
Then apathetic is, they know about the problem, they’re educated about it, but they just don’t care. So now you probably have to create curiosity, not about the situation, but about why the situation is important, and especially why it’s important to them.
The next level up is then thinking. So, they’re no longer oblivious; they know about the problem, and now they sort of care about the problem, now they’re looking for a solution. It might be any kind of solution, but they’re thinking about it. They’re thinking about possibly getting to the next level, or going ahead with it. And that’s where you need to create more urgency – why it’s important to get that issue resolved now. So now you might have to think about things that will help persuade them, not just to get them to do whatever the case is, but to why they should do it as soon as possible, why it’s important to get it done soon, sooner rather than later.
And of course, hurting is the lowest hanging fruit. They know about the problem, they know there’s a solution. They’re not just thinking about getting it; they want it now. They need it now, they’re hurting. And that’s where your lowest hanging fruit is in any situation in the market, or whatever the case is. So, it’s going to be pretty easy to create curiosity in this particular case. But at any rate, the OATH formula is something to remember.
And when you have a situation where you’re sitting down with a coworker or a staff member, and there’s a situation that you want to bring up to them – try to think about, where are they at in their level of awareness about the situation? Are they oblivious, are they apathetic, are they thinking, or are they hurting? And that will kind of frame the whole situation, the whole conversation, and help you to position in a much better way so that you can get them to do whatever you want them to do, or to get the results that you want to get out of the staff, out of the business, out of the office environment.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s excellent, because I think I’ve often seen the mismatch, in terms of, I think I saw some email that told me that I could play with better predictions and win ETH in the process. It was like, “I don’t even know what you’re saying.”

Michel Fortin

Exactly, yes.

Pete Mockaitis

I was oblivious. I think it was a tool to help you choose Fantasy Football teams and win Ethereum –  a cryptocurrency, along the way. But it took me a while just to know what are we even talking about here. I don’t know why I didn’t delete it; maybe it was curiosity at work. It was like, “I have no idea what you’re even saying to me. Am I supposed to know? I feel out of the loop. … double-check this stuff.”
So, that’s really cool, to avoid those mismatches and not just assume, “Oh, of course they’re thinking about it because I’m thinking about it non-stop.” Well, maybe they’re not. They’re not you. Sort of that Platinum Rule again. And I’m thinking I’d like to zero in on the apathetic part, because I think in a professional setting that will be a large segment of your audience that you’re trying to persuade. It’s like, “Not my job, not my prob. I’m pretty apathetic as to what you’re asking me for.” So, what are some approaches to specifically get those folks engaged?

Michel Fortin

Well, there’s a trick in copywriting called the “so that” technique. When you’re trying to explain a feature, of course a lot of people say, “Explain benefits rather than features.” And I say, “A lot of people will think a benefit is a benefit, but it’s not. It’s more like an advantage, because it doesn’t really apply to the person specifically.” So I call them “features to advantages” and then “advantages to benefits”.
I’ll give you an example. There’s an old saying; I think it was from Theodore Levitt that said that people don’t buy quarter-inch drills, they buy quarter-inch holes. And I would say that’s kind of a benefit, but it’s more of an advantage. Why would people need a hole in the first place? It could be because they want to build something faster, or it could be because they want to get whatever they’re building faster, whatever the case is.
So, in the case when we use the “so that” – “so that” is a question that you would ask at every time you try to explain something. And of course you need to be educated beforehand. You need to do your research, whether it’s knowing about the person you’re trying to persuade, or the environment that you’re in, or what that person’s aspirations are, what’s keeping them up at night, what makes them tick, what makes them excited. So when you come to explain a particular job request or task or project, whatever the case is – when you say… Actually I’ll kind of back up a little bit.
One of the things that my son, whenever he grew up, drove me nuts, was, “Why? Why? Why?” He kept asking me, “Why, Dad?” “Son, I need you to do your room.” “Why?” “Well, because it’s really dirty.” “But why?” And then I realized if I say, “Well, if you clean it up, you’ll either get a reward” or I say, “If you clean it up, you’ll have more space that you can sit on the floor and play your other toys with.” “Oh, okay. Great.”
So that technique says, if you’re saying to John or Jane in the office, “I need you to do this, so that…” And then go on, and then do another “so that”. So, “I want you to look at this new piece of accounting software, so that we can see if we can implement it in our office, so that we will have a way to save money in our accounting processes, so that we might be able to actually look at extra money in the budget, so that we can hire you an assistant you’re desperately needing right now because you’re so overwhelmed.” So that, so that, so that.

Pete Mockaitis

I dig it, because you have an understanding of where they’re coming from, and then you can link sometimes multiple – three, four, five “so that’s” to get them where they need to go. And it’s funny, as you talk about drills, I’m thinking about my wife. It’s like, “What would my wife really be into for a drill?” And I’m thinking it would be, “This drill has a shroud and vacuum around it, so that there will be no dust, so that there will be no lead particles whatsoever into the air, so that precious baby Jonathan will be completely safe of any risk whatsoever.”

Michel Fortin

Exactly. [laugh] My wife loves… First of all we call our house “the magazine house”, because she loves decorating and all that, although she’s not a decorator; she’s a nurse. And if you were to try to sell her on doing something that is, I don’t know, something that’s not related to that, you can say – the drill, “So that you’ll be able to hang up those wall pieces.” First of all, I know that she wants the house to look great because she likes to impress especially our friends and our guests.
So I’ll say, “Buy that drill so that you’ll be able to hang up those pictures that you really wanted at the store that you saw the other day at Target”, or whatever the case is. “So that it really makes the room stand out, so that when Tracy comes along, she’s going to fall in love with your living room over again, so that you’ll be the talk of the town”, and so on and so forth.

Pete Mockaitis

Certainly. And that just brings it all right back to the market research again. It’s like, there could be a hundred different ways to position into “so that” bridge for what matters, from what you want to what they want. And that’s very handy, just to make that very clear and direct there.

Michel Fortin

And one of the powerful tools that psychologists and psychiatrists have – whenever they try to, quote unquote, “shrink your head”, as they say – they don’t often ask questions to be answered. They’re asking questions you to find out how you feel. For example, if you say, “I really hate my mother!” “Well, how does that make you feel?” Or, “I hate it when she does this!” “Well, how does that make you feel?”
Well, guess what? That technique is a powerful technique that you can easily use in an office environment. We often tend to do research by just trying to meet and have meetings, and then surveys or focus groups. You don’t need to do all that stuff. You just sit down with the person and say, “How does that make you feel? How do you feel about that? How do you feel about this accounting software?” Or in this case, “How do you feel about being overwhelmed without an assistant? How would that make you feel if we finally found somebody to actually take a lot of the load off of your desk and off your lap?” Or, “How would it make you feel if we found a tool that can actually save us money so it allowed you to do that?” “Oh, great.”
So, probe further, ask questions. Again, people love to talk about themselves. People love to talk about what’s ailing them as much as what makes them happy. And we don’t often listen. We kind of put our fingers in our ears because all we care about is what we feel or how we think the other person feels. And that’s where we have to go into what Tony Alessandra calls “dynamic listening” or “active listening”, where we actually do listen to what they say, and then we can use that. That’s fodder that you can use in your persuasion attempts later on, and it’s a great skill to actually learn too.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great, thank you. Well, tell me, Michel – is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear a few of your favorite things?

Michel Fortin

Sure. Let me tell you a little bit about… Sometimes people say, “When I write a sales letter or a memo in the office, or a letter to my superiors” – whatever the case is, or even just a project brief – they say, “How can I make that more persuasive?” And one thing that I teach in copywriting that I found when I read other people’s copy is that it’s very cold, very data-driven, very corporate-y, corporate language. And I can understand how that is important when you’re appealing to a group – maybe C-level executives, maybe stakeholders, whatever the case is, but when you’re talking one-on-one with the person, or when you’re writing something to get one particular person involved or persuaded, even a small group of people – keep in mind that people will try to write in a corporate-y type of language, but people, like I said, buy on emotion, they justify their decision with logic.
So when you hit them upfront with the logic, even the style, the language that you use, can be seen as, quote unquote, “logical”, in this case cold, too highfalutin. So I say, be more conversational, write like you talk. You don’t have to say things that are crass or you don’t have to use street language, but you can have a conversation. And I tell people this – first of all, I’m a drummer, and I play in different bands and that forces me to learn different styles of music. But at the same time we often record ourselves at almost every practice – band practice, band rehearsal.
And the reason that we do that is not because we’re trying to have a recording of what we’re doing; it’s because I like to listen to myself. I can see where I stumble, I can see where I missed a particular drum roll, I can see where I slowed down, my tempo was not right, or I can see where I wasn’t, in drumming we call it “in the pocket”. I was not in the pocket, it didn’t feel right – the style of music, whatever the case is.
Well, it’s no different than when you’re trying to write copy, or even when you’re trying to do a presentation. A lot of people will write a presentation and they’ll expect to do a presentation, no problem. Well, guess what? It’s the same idea. Write down your thoughts, or write your sales letter or your memo, but then speak out load and maybe even record yourself while you’re doing it. And if you stumble at any point, if you hit any snag, even if you stutter – you might say to yourself that that part is not clear, or you said it in such a way where it’s not going to drive the point home, because if you’ve stuttered or you had a point where you hit a snag or you stumbled while you were reading it yourself, you know that the person reading it will even be in a worse position, because they’re not the person who wrote it.
And here’s another thing: If you have somebody else read it out loud in front of you – not necessarily the person who you intended to send it to, the recipient, but somebody else – and if they stutter or they stop or they’re asking you questions; if you have to stop in order to explain to them something, then you know that, “Maybe I have to re-write that part”, whatever the case is.
Same thing as in a presentation. If you’re doing a sales presentation in your team, at the office, in front of your group – you might want to record yourself doing that presentation. We often look at ourselves in the mirror, and that’s perfectly fine because you’re doing it live, but here’s the thing: People will try to do a presentation when they look at themselves in the mirror. You can see yourself doing the presentation, you could probably see the immediate stuff, but you’ll probably miss out on a lot of the nuances and the innuendos, or the slight, subtle stuff that you cannot catch, because you’re so focused on giving a good presentation. So, record yourself, don’t be shy. Nobody has to see it. So, when I write sales letters, I always re-read my sales letters and I record myself saying them out loud. And I will listen to them and I can see where I stumble, I can see where I need to have parts re-written or rearranged in certain ways so that the flow is better.
And so, it’s a long way to explain this, but here’s the bottom line – always record yourself in some way, whether it’s a video, whether it’s an audio, and then you can go back and fix things and change things, because at the same time you will notice things as an observer or as an audience member yourself of what you’re saying, rather than not just how you’re saying it. Sometimes I listen to myself saying it twice, because I’ll focus on what I’m saying the first time, then I’ll focus on how I said it the second time. And I’ll change things around.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s excellent. Yes, wise words. And I think I’ve felt that with my own writing and then with writing and reviewing from others. It’s like, “Have you read that yourself, because there are some flubs here?” So, lovely. Thank you for that. Now, can you tell us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Michel Fortin

There are so many. I am a quote fanatic. I tend to love quotes. It’s not just because they’re quotes and it could be nice and sometimes they’re platitudes, whatever the case is. That’s not the point. The point is, how you can look at it and apply it to yourself, to your life. That’s what’s important to me.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” And I think it’s great because at the same time it applies to copy, it also applies to life in general.
So, that’s a quote that I love, because when I tend to write copy and I feel it’s not really getting the point home – again, write something worth reading. Is it worth reading, in this particular case? And sometimes it needs a little “Oomph”, it needs to be jazzed up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the “How” you say it; it could be the “What”. It could be changing the whole idea, the premise, the story that you’re trying to sell.

Pete Mockaitis

Excellent, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Michel Fortin

I think that anything from Tony Alessandra is. It probably resonated throughout our entire call today. I would highly recommend anything from him. He’s one of my favorite motivational speakers, as well as a sales psychologist, sales trainer. The Platinum Rule is by far my favorite one. Of course he’s come out with so many different ones throughout the years. But if you were to get your hands on any one course, that would be the one.
I learned about personality styles and bio personality styles when I was writing copy, teaching it to my classes. It helped me a lot to understand how some people are more numbers-driven, versus some people are more relationship-driven, versus other people who are more emotion-driven, and other people are more bottom line results-driven.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite book?

Michel Fortin

Oh, favorite book. I think a really good one, if you want to learn about copywriting especially, is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. It’s probably a little bit outdated.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s hard to get too.

Michel Fortin

Yes, it is.

Pete Mockaitis

Way out of print.

Michel Fortin

Yeah. But there are copies floating around here and there. I believe there are some digital copies made, I cannot tell you where. I’ve had my copy for, my Lord, maybe 25 years now. But it’s my favorite book, in terms of copywriting, learning persuasion in print. And I recommend it highly.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite tool?

Michel Fortin

A favorite tool. I told you a little bit earlier about recording yourself, and I’ll finish with this. This is kind of my little inside tip. This is something that I do a lot when I write copy, especially when I’m stuck, when I really don’t have a lot to go on, or if I feel I’m not really getting, to use a drumming term or a musical term, in the pocket of what I’m trying to say. I will try to find somebody who can sell me on that idea. And what I do is, I record them. I get them to sell me on this idea, or something similar, if I want to use that.
And here’s the point: I will record the conversation, and then I’ll get it transcribed. I’ll pretty much get my copy written for me, or at least in large chunks of it, that I can use in my own persuasion, in my own writing attempts. So, sometimes when I do market research for example, I will actually call some of the happiest clients that my client has sold to, that are very happy with the product or service that they bought. And I’ll get them to explain to me why they’re so happy. I’ll try to get them to be excited and tell me what they like about the product. They’re basically trying to sell it to me. And I’ll record that conversation, transcribe it, and I pretty much have my copy written for myself.
And in order to apply this to, let’s say, a job environment, if you’re trying to sell, let’s say, some kind of accounting software to your staff or coworkers – look at other piece of software that you probably had success in selling the idea to your staff in the past, and maybe interview those people and find out what they liked about it or why they liked it. How it helped them, how it advanced their careers, or how it helped simplify their jobs or made things easier. And then try to record those conversations; not necessarily in an audio format, because sometimes people don’t like to be recorded, but take notes, find out what makes them tick. And then you can certainly look at how you can apply that to your current situation or your current attempts at persuading your coworkers.

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch with you, where would you point them?

Michel Fortin

Well, I work at a digital marketing agency. I’m Director of Communications at SEOTwist.com. That’s where you can reach me, certainly. And of course if you are looking at some of the companies that I own, I own a company called Supportibles.com. And that’s a company that offers customer service and customer support, outsourced customer support. So, Supportibles.com or especially where I work right now, SEOTwist.com.

Pete Mockaitis

And do you have a final challenge or call to action for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Michel Fortin

A lot of people say, “Think about a famous quote”, and I always like to regurgitate sometimes, since it’s so often said – think different, as Steve Jobs often said. In this particular case, I would say, do different. Not just think different, but do different. Look at how something is being done or how something has always been done, and try to do it differently. Or think about ways you can do it differently. Do different.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome, thank you. Well, Michel, you don’t like being called a legend, but it has been legendary chatting with you.

Michel Fortin

[laugh] Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you so much for generously sharing these goodies. And I wish you and SEOTwist and Supportibles and all you’re up to lots and lots of luck!

Michel Fortin

Thank you.

236: Persuasion Pointers from a Legendary Infomercial Pitchman with Anthony Sullivan

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Infomercial star Anthony “Sully” Sullivan shares his best lessons learned about the art and science of persuasion.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Approaches to understanding the pain and being the cure
  2. How to make an entrance and take control
  3. Why you should own your nerves and not hide them

About Sully 

Best-known as the spokesman for OxiClean, Anthony is the pitchman of choice for dozens of innovative, practical usage consumer products including the X5 5-in-1 Steamer, the Sticky Buddy and Smart Mop. Star and Co-Producer of the Discovery Channel series “PitchMen,” Sully is also a regular guest of choice on a variety of television news and entertainment outlets including “The Today Show,”  “Good Morning America,” “Rachel Ray,” “The Tonight Show,” “Conan” and “Katie,” as well as news programs MSNBC, ABC, CBS, BBC and Fox News Channel.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Anthony Sullivan Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Sully, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Anthony Sullivan
Thank you for having me. The whole idea of being awesome at your job just is, who does not want to be awesome at their job?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Well, certainly, that’s how we think and believe here, and so it’s fun to have someone who is legendary at a particular job of pitching products. But I’d like to, for a moment, hear a quick version of your backstory about coming to America, sleeping in a van, and selling mops. How did this unfold?

Anthony Sullivan
You know, every time I tell this story I think back to what an epic journey it was. I was about 20 and I was a little bit lost in my career, I didn’t have a career. I had bartended, I had my own karaoke show, I had delivered slot machines and pool tables, I had swept floors, I had managed a bar, and I was a little bit lost. And I was kind of weighing up going back to university to get a degree. I couldn’t find a passion, I say, “What am I going to do?” And my mom was trying to convince me to get into journalism. She said, “You’re a writer. You love to write. Why don’t you go to Cardiff University and get a degree in journalism?”

So, while I was hovering around, in between in kind of this sort of space where I wasn’t quite sure what’s happening, I stumbled across a friend of mine had a market stand. And being a market trader in England is a little bit looked down upon. Market traders are seen as somewhat maybe a little bit shady and very few people, at least from my background, kind of looked up to guys that worked at markets, kind of a flea market thing. And I never really went to the market.

Anyway, my friend had a stand, and it’s traveling market around in North Devon and he sold T-shirts and he had a speeding ticket, and he said, “Look, it’s Wednesday. Can you go down to the market stand? I’m going to go to court and fight my speeding ticket. Can you just go and watch my market stand?” I didn’t have anything to do, so I said, “All right. I’ll go down.”

So, opposite me is this guy selling these car washes called The Amazing Wash-Matic. And while I’m sitting there, drinking cups of tea, selling one T-shirt every hour because, you know, I was just literally watching his stall for him while he was in court, and I was mesmerized by this guy who was selling these car washes, and he would do a pitch.

It was the first time I ever paid attention to a pitch. I had seen people pitching products before but here I was for seven hours, it was a beautiful sunny day, and I watched this guy. And by the end of the day I could almost do the pitch because he must’ve done it 50 times, you know, I want to say five minutes, and so 12 in an hour. So, at least 50 times I heard it.

And I started to count his money. They say never count other people’s money, right? But I was bored so I’m like, “Oh, my God, this guy is selling five to six car washes every five minutes, and at 10 pounds a pop, he just popped out like 700 pounds worth of car washes, or $1500.” And I was just fascinated by his pitch. He said the same thing, over and over again, and every time he would finish, he converted it into a sale. And I’m like, “Man, if I have to stand out there in the market, I’d much rather be pitching than just sitting here waiting for people to come to me.”

So, I went over to him at the end of the day, I introduced myself, and he sort of was boxing up his lack of product because he’s sold it all, and he kind of blew me off and drove off. Anyway, I went back to my friend’s house that night who went to get his speeding ticket, his name was Phil. I said, “Phil, that guy, Mark, he’s unbelievable.” I said, “You got to tell him that I want to work for him. I want to do what he does.”

So, Phil, being a good friend of mine, went over, he said, “Hey, my friend, Sully, was watching the stand. He really wants to do this.” So, long story short, the guy teaches me how to pitch, and he was very, very clear to me, he said, “This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to write this down with a tape recorder,” I took an old-school tape recorder with me, and he dictated the pitch, or he did the pitch and I wrote it down on a piece of paper, I stuck it to my visor in my car, and I learned it word for word.

And he said, “When you know it word for word, come back to me and you can have a try at it and see if you’re any good at it.” Well, it’s kind of funny, so I literally learned it word for word. I stopped at a stop light, took my visor down, I read it and I put it back up, and I memorized it. It was about two pages of copy, which is quite a lot of copy to remember, but I remembered it word for word.

So, I called him up, back in the day they didn’t have cellphones, I rang him at home, I say, “Hey, Mark, I think I’m ready to come and pitch.” So, he said, “Come down to the markets tomorrow at 12:00 o’clock and try your hand at it, see if you’re any good at it.” So, I get down there, and he literally, I showed up and said, “Hey, Mark,” it’s 12:00 o’clock. He throws me the car washing device, it’s called the Car Wash-Matic, I think I told you that. And then he just walks up, he says, “Good luck. You got an hour. Just knock yourself out.”

So, I’m sitting there, and I’m like, “Holy crap, I got to go. I’ve got to pitch.” And I had never pitched in my life. I knew the words but I’m like, “How do you get a crowd?” The only thing I failed to do, I’d never really practiced with the unit. So, I knew the words and I knew how to work it but I’d never actually put it all together.

So, anyway, this guy comes up to me, he says, “Hey, how does this thing work?” And I’m like, “Okay, I’ll show you.” So, I’m like, all right, go into the pitch, I guess, so I did the pitch. I wish I had it on tape because it was probably the worst pitch in the history of pitches. Anyway, I got a little crowd, and I was like, “Oh, my God, I got a crowd of people here.” And before I knew it there were 10 people standing around watching me fumble through my first presentation with my first pitch.

Anyway, sold one, and I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Holy crap, I’d never done this before and I sold one car wash to the guy that asked me how it worked.” Well, in that hour actually I ended up selling seven.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Anthony Sullivan
So, Mark came back, and he said, “How many did you sell?” And I said, “I sold seven.” And he said, “Seven?” and I gave him 70 pounds, and then he looked at me, he’s like, “You sold seven in your first hour of ever doing this?” I said, “Yes. Is that good or bad?” He said, “That’s amazing. It’s like I didn’t expect you to sell any.”

So, that was my introduction to pitching, and it was great. I remember the transaction, it was like striking gold for me. I was like, “This is just… I’m loving this. All I got to do is talk and people will hand me money.” So, very quickly, I ended out in London. I took to it like a duck to water. I went from all over Devon to Cardiff to Bristol, and then people would watch me work. And I got asked to come to London to work in sort of big leagues, if you will, of that world, the big-name street markets like Petticoat Lane, Wembley Stadium, Black Bush.

So, I went from this little country market, country bumpkin because I’m from the boondocks of England, to working fairly high-profile markets with mobsters. I mean, I worked for Charlie Kray who’s one of the infamous Kray Brothers. I worked for Charlie for a little while. And then I turned the TV on one day, and this is the quick story, I got to shorten the story up.

But I turned the TV on one day and I see my first infomercial, and that’s when the lightbulb really went off, and I’m like, “You know what, I got to go. I got to get on TV. I need to get off the street,” because it was tough. It was London, it was cold, it was raining. It all sounds great when I talk about it, but there were a couple of days when I break even and be pouring down with rain, and it was a really sketchy crowd, and I’d have to drive and my gas money, and just making ends meet in the winter time.
So, long story, I met a guy who lived in L.A. and he was selling this mop called the Super Shammy Mop, and I tried to sell this in London and it didn’t go very well because for various reasons it just didn’t sell well in England. And I heard it was selling well in America, called him up and said, “I will come out for free, and I would work for free, just let me work in America.” So, he agreed, I jumped on a plane, sold all my belongings, everything I had, cashed in everything, gave my escort van to my brother, and told my family I’m going to America, to L.A. to seek my fortune and going to get on television. And everybody laughed. Everyone.

My mom taught I was crazy. My dad actually believed in me, he’s like, “You go, son.” But I think they all thought I’d be back. And my coworkers, my neighbors, my friends, my landlord, they’re like, “You’re going to go to America to sell mops. What are you, out of your mind?” So, I landed in L.A. in 1993, and I’d actually been to L.A. before surfing, my surf trip, so I did know the lay of the land a little bit. I’ve been to Hawaii surfing, and I started beating the streets in L.A.

And, obviously, as usual, nowhere could I get on television. Now, everyone kept telling me, “You need to be on TV,” and I was like, “Yeah, I know, but who do I talk to? I don’t know who’s going to discover me.” And people will come up and offer, “Oh, we need to get you on TV.” And I said, “Yeah, I know. How do we make this happen?” I was so eager.

Anyway, in L.A. I worked up and down the West Coast selling mops and it was great, Ventura County Fair, Costa Mesa, San Diego, Boat Shows, San Jose, Portland, I also went into Vegas a couple of times, I went over to Phoenix.

Anyway, I got a phone call to go to Miami, and they were like, “Hey, do you want to do the Miami Home Show?” And I was like, “Yes,” just so I could. I need to get out of up north. Now on the way down to Miami we stopped off, me and my partner at the time, we stopped off in Clearwater because we had a week off. And I drove past HSN, and I was like, “Oh, that’s the shopping network.” I’d seen it on television, and I’m like, “Oh, maybe that’s an opportunity.”

We went down to Miami to the Miami Home Show, had a great time, spring break, two young European guys, girls everywhere. Now I felt like I was back having a little bit of a better time. I mean, we had made some money and I’m still living in the van, and we ended up working the same Home Show at Tropicana Field where the race play now, the Lightning used to play there, Tampa Bay Lightning, and a buyer came up to me from HSN, her name was Nancy Cooney, and she watched my pitch three times, and I called her out. I said, “You’re going to buy something because you just can’t stand there and watch me? I’m not here for entertainment.” That’s how cocky I used to be.

She said, “No, I’m not going to buy anything from you now, but I think I want to put you on television. I think you would be great.” And she handed me a business card, and it said, “Nancy Cooney, Buyer, Home Shopping Club.” I was like, “Oh, my God.” I was so rude to her. And she gave me my first break, and she got me on TV, and they ordered 5,000 mops, and we sold 5,000 mops in 23 minutes. And I remember that was the very first time I got on TV, and that’s when I knew I wasn’t going home. The day I got off TV, I was like, “I made it. I did it. I got on television.”

And It happened fairly quick. When I look back on it, I mean, I was so impatient. I was in my early 20s. I wanted everything to happen. Within a year of coming to America, I was in front of 90 million people pitching my mops on TV. So, when I look back on it, sometimes I think it was a stroke of luck, was it right time, right place. Some people say – what do they say – luck is preparation meets opportunity. I’ve looked back on it and I’m like, “How did I end up in front of that woman at that time when she made a decision to get me on television?” And it all just fell into place. And that’s how it all started, and I haven’t looked back.

I’ve had a couple of challenges along in my career, I’ve had some bad years, but at the curve, the growth curve of my ability to learn and to, I think, grow in my business, there’s been a few peaks and troughs, peaks and valleys, but’s it’s been, “We’re going to have double-digit growth this year again.” I’ve met the late, great Billy Mays, and I’m extremely grateful and fortunate to have made a career doing something that’s quite odd. There’s not very many of us. I’m a pitchman and that’s what I do, and I guess I’m good at it.

At first, I’d be a little bit embarrassed about it when I first started out I’m working the markets and it’s kind of a lowly profession. My mom used to give me crap about it all the time. She’d be like, “You know you’re a market trader. That’s not what I sent you to school for. You’re better than that.” But in the minute I got on television she changed her tune, “My son is on television.” So, that’s how it all started.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fascinating, and thank you for walking us through that there. And so, I want to talk about some of the learning then. When you talked about it’s a rare profession, not a lot of people do it specifically, I think all of us do persuasion all the time in terms of getting folks to say yes to agree to what we want them to do.

And so, I would love it if you could share with us some of like the top principles you think are particularly applicable to professionals? Like if someone is asking for a raise, or want someone to buy into a proposal, or get budget allocated for an initiative or project, what do you think are some of the top lessons you have picked up over time that totally applied to these kinds of context?

Anthony Sullivan
Obviously, I just finished my book and you can’t go to college to learn to pitch, there’s no degree. And I feel like sometimes there should be. It should be mandatory in a sales course, sales and marketing, to understand the dynamics and the architecture and the mechanics of what makes a great pitch. So, I tried to look back at, “What was the structure of the Wash-Matic pitch? What was the structure of the Smart Mop pitch? How did I sell 5 million Swivel Sweepers?”

So, I started to look back at it. And even today, we’re actually looking a new mop called the Hurricane In-and-Out Mop, and I’m actually working the pitch today, and I had one of my colleagues break out an iPhone just to tape me doing it, and I’ve never done it before. And I watched it back actually and I started to make myself smile, I’m like, “Man, I got that.” I’m watching myself and I started to go, “I’m relaxed and I just seem like I’m having a conversation with myself.” I’m like, “Man, I’m not even selling that. I’m just enthusiastically getting you to get interested in what I’m doing and just by sheer magnetism getting you excited enough about the product where you’ll give me money.”

And that’s why, when I’m selling product, I just said I’m selling it, but I don’t feel like I’m selling. I feel like I’m having a conversation where I’m getting you interested and I’m getting you to buy in.” And in the cover of the book, I wrote Control any situation, create fierce agreement and get what you want out of life.

The fierce agreement part is something I sat down with my co-writer and I am like, “If you are in a situation where you want a raise, or you want to get your kids to eat at a restaurant where they normally wouldn’t want to go, say, you want to get sushi and they want to eat mac and cheese, or you’re going to walk into a room and you want to get funded, or you need a loan, or you’re trying to get into college, you’re going to find yourself in a pitching situation.”

So, what I tried to do is like, “How do I apply the principles that I sell product to selling yourself?” And in the book, I have 10 principles and I talk about know your acceptable outcomes and obsessive preparation are things that I talk about, when to push back, to never be closing. But one of the things that really hit me today, I have this unwavering belief in the product that I’m excited about and I think the energy, there’s a certain energy where you can just pick up on my level of enthusiasm and authenticity for the product.

And I think before you even go into a situation where you’re selling yourself, you’re pitching yourself, you got to do a mental check and it’s almost look in the mirror, and there’s a scene in The Wolf of Wall Street where Matthew McConaughey does that strange thing where he bangs his chest. I almost think before any – and I kind of wish I put this in the book – you got to go in with this positive mindset where, “I’m going to get this. I’m going to do this. Failure sounds so silly. I’m going to walk in that room and I’m going to get this. Even if I don’t get it, I’m going to die trying. I’m going to leave it all in there so even if I don’t get it I still can walk out with my head proud.” Because you’re not going to get everything all the time.

I failed. I’ve pitched to a hundred people and every single one of them walked off. But then the next pitch, I have pitched to a hundred people and sold 25 units, so it doesn’t always work. But I do that smile, and that shoulders back, and that confident attitude is something that you can’t teach, and that’s something that I really feel that some people kind of do walk around with their head down, and they have that “poor me” attitude. You’ve got to shake that completely.

And Tony Robbins will talk about this, the passion and enthusiasm, the smile, it’s got to be there, “It’s going to happen. I’m going to win. I’m going to win. I’m going to get the job. I’m going to get the job. She’s going to give me the number. She’s going to give me the number. We are going to eat sushi tonight. The kids will eat sushi. This is going to happen.” So, it’s sort of like get your eye on the prize, and get your head in the mental game. So, once you got that organized then, I think, if you study the 10 pitch powers that I talk about in the book, and I can run through them real quick.

Pete Mockaitis
You know what, the way I’d love to do this, if we could, is, all right, so we start from a place of unwavering belief, we got this smile, the shoulders back, the confidence, you completely believe it, the passion, the enthusiasm, the eye on the prize, okay. So, it’s like we’re ready to start from that starting line.

So, maybe could you walk us through over the course of, I don’t know, five or 10 minutes. Let’s say we’re going to make a pitch at work associated with, “Hey, you should promote me and/or give me a raise.” Could you maybe walk us through, “All right, how are we going to rock each of those powers to make this come together in a compelling pitch?”

Anthony Sullivan
Absolutely. Take a raise, for example, it happens to me a lot. I have employees. My employees actually are pretty good because they know. I’m like, “Don’t come in, if you want to raise, you’re going to have to pitch me on why I’ll give you a raise.” And I’m pretty good at like, “If it’s a good pitch, I’m buying what you’re selling if your pitch is great.” So, I love it when my people come in to me and they pitch me.

The first thing I do, in the book I talk about, “Right, you’re going to walk into a room. You need to know your acceptable outcomes. You have to have very clear, defined, set of goals that you’re willing to, your price, you’re going to start right.” “I’m making 50,000 a year, I want 60. It’d be nice to get 57,500. I’ll settle for 55. If you continue to pay me 50 I’m going to quit.” So you got three. You’re going in with a very clear, defined objective that you’re right.

So, before you even walk into a room you know what it is that you want. You’re making 50,000, you want 60, you’ll settle for 57.5, but 55 will do it, “If you don’t give me 55, I’m leaving.” And you need to be prepared to stick with that and have the fortitude to say, “Well, I’m going to walk in and this is what I want and this is what I’m going to go for.” So, you go on for 60 but you’ll accept 55. I like that because it takes away, now, it’s very clear. When you walk in, the person on the other end of the desk is going to go, “You know, they know exactly what they want,” and right there, that to me is very compelling.

I talk about understanding the pain and being the cure, right? If I’m an employer, if my employee understands the kind of stress that I’m in and the pain that I’m suffering because our accounting department is overloaded and we’re not getting paid on time, I’m going to go walk in here with a clear plan, “Well, here’s the deal, we’re in accounting, the accounts receivable is 90 days. We got $600,000 uncollected. So, I’m going to walk in here,” now you’re going to walk in immediately with a pitch in how you’re going to improve your employer’s life.

It could be you’re going to make a harder, better coffee if you’re a receptionist. You’ve decided that you don’t like the phone system works and you’re going to answer the phone in a better way, “And, by the way, I’m no longer a receptionist. I want to call myself the Director of First Impressions because I believe that everyone who walks in the door is the first thing they see is me. I’m the lowly receptionist, but I don’t want to be called the receptionist anymore. My new title is I want to be the Director of First Impressions and this is what I’m going to do for you.”

And you’re going to literally start listing off, before you even get into the money situation. Obviously, you’re going to walk in and say you’d like a raise, “And here’s what I’m going to do for you.” Not, “I deserve,” and, “I feel,” and, “I’ve been here for a year, and I think it’s my annual review.” Bollocks to that. They’ve heard all that.

You’re going to go in and you got to start rattling off the 10 things, the 10 or 15 or whatever you think you can do to improve your odds. Write them down. Walk in with a piece of paper, you know your acceptable outcomes, and you start just going down that list of how you’re going to make your employer’s life better. You haven’t even got into the money situation yet, he just knows you want a raise.

I talk about, in pitch power number 3, obsessive preparation. There’s a high likelihood that your boss knows. I know when my guys want a raise, “Can I get a meeting with you next Wednesday?” I pretty much know what’s coming of their mouth when they want that meeting, it’s a review and a raise. So, most people are going to be afraid, right? You’re going to walk in, it’s an intimidating environment, some bosses are super tyrannical. Practice. Go with your wife, your roommate, your buddies down at the bar and practice asking for this raise. Practice the eye contact. Practice in front of a mirror. I don’t give a crap. Like, get in, practice it.

And then I talk about breaching the forcefield. Make an entrance and take control is power number 4. When you walk in the room, I don’t want you to walk in the room like Billy Mays, “Hi, Billy Mays here.” But make an entrance, I talked about this earlier, shoulders back, smile, look good, firm handshake, shut the door behind you, take your seat without being asked, don’t be intimidated, sit down, take control of the room. I’m not talking about taking total control but take as much control of the situation as you can.

So, make it very clear, “I know you’re busy, Mr. Sullivan, but I just need five minutes of your time,” and sit down and make great eye contact, look good, and get right to the point, then you’re not sitting there flustering not knowing what you’re going to do. I talk about breaching the forcefield. I don’t know if this is so necessary in a job situation.

Reach across the desk, shake hands, make a comment on how great your boss looks today, or ask about how his kids are doing in school, some random bit of information or some exchange that is off-topic that warms the room a little bit, “Did you see the game last night? Great game. How’s your kids doing in school?” Something just to make it so it’s not all about the asking for the money. Get that relationship warmed up a little bit.

Power number 6. Facts tell, story sell. One of kind of the pillars of sales is the feature benefit part of it. Features and benefits are great but if you can weave a story into your pitch, “The other day when you came in and it was pouring out with rain and we didn’t have an umbrella or something and you slipped on the floor, and blah, blah, blah,” if you can weave a story and get some humor into your pitch, you can personalize it. And, all of a sudden, your ask becomes related to something that actually happened. Keep the story on point.

You know, I have 10 pals here, and I don’t know if I’m going on too long here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no, keep going.

Anthony Sullivan
If you make a mistake, which is highly likely that you probably will, in asking for a raise situation, you might be so nervous that you’re sweating. Own it. You might not be able to get that confidence, you might feel like you’re being shut down, you can just tell him, “You know, I’m very nervous asking you for this but I’m going to have a crack at it.” Own the nerves. So, if you are a nervous person, don’t hide it. We will see it. You can tell who are public speaking who are terrified at public speaking.

Rather than sit there and just shake, own your nerves, “I’m really nervous today, boss. Just to let you know I have a great respect for you and I’m shaking in my boots, but here it goes anyway.” The person on the other end of the transaction will respect you for respecting them, and owning the fact that you’re nervous. If you’re going to ask your high-profile executive for a raise, it can be nerve-wracking.

One of my favorites is there’s a high chance that your boss is just going to say, “No, there’s no money this year. There’s no money in the budget. We don’t have a raise for you. You’re going to have to work.” If you really believe, there’s a couple of things going on there. Firstly, it’s easy for them to say no, right? “No raise.” What are you going to do? You have to bank on this happening, “No, we don’t have any money plus you’ve done a lousy job.”

This is when I talk about pushing back. You double down here. You sit there and go, “Right. Let me just start again,” and you push right back. Now, I believe that a lot of people who say no the first time are doing it just to see what you’re made from, “What are you made of? How badly do you want this?” It’s quite often a coach won’t start a player, right? They want the player to want to be on the field, so that no sometimes is not a no. It’s just they want to see what you got. If they say no, double down. Now, sometimes a no is a no is a no is a no, and you’re like, “You know what, this isn’t going to work,” and just bail.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, when you say double down, do you simply mean repeat yourself or how do you…?

Anthony Sullivan
Yes, you lean in, repeat yourself. Just go back and say, “I don’t know if you really heard what I’m saying here, but let me be very clear,” and just go in again. Go for the second pitch because the pitch didn’t work the first time. Go in again and have a plan for the no. So, you’ve got maybe, “But, wait, there’s more” moment. “All right, look. I’ll tell you what I’ll do.” This is where your acceptable outcomes, “Okay, here’s what. I wanted this but I’m going to do this and I’m going to do this.”

So, I like to push back. I don’t do it all the time. There’s been plenty of times when I’ve been selling stuff and I’m looking at selling at this person who’s never going to buy. You just want to get them out of the room. And you won’t know that, I think, until you’re in the room, and then sometimes you just bail, right? The person is not engaged and this isn’t going to work.

And one of the last things I talk in my book is never be closing. I’m not a big fan of the close. I know you have to finish and you have to wrap it up, and there are times in a conversation, “Okay, so next steps.” But I’m not a big fan of the hard close. Like, did you ever see the movie Glengarry Glen Ross?

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Yes, indeed. The ABC.

Anthony Sullivan
The ABC, always be closing. A action, B I forget. First prize set of Cadillac, second prize a set of steak knives, third prize you’re fired. I feel like closing is reserved for timeshare salesman who are, by the way, if you like to close that hard, are some of the best at what they do, they block the door, you can’t get out, it’s like you’re in a maze, they turn the AC all the way, the heat all the way up.

I believe if you pitch correctly, and you’ve taken the steps that I talked about, you’ve shaken hands, you’ve made eye contact, you’ve stated your case, you’ve pushed back, you’ve prepared obsessively, you’ve got your boss nodding, you start to see the signs of, “You know what, he’s going to give me a raise. I got this. It’s going to happen.” Let it happen. Trust the process. I’ve seen this firsthand. When I’m selling or pitching, I know when I’ve got them. I can tell you the moment when I’m in front of a hundred people. We call it under the ether in the pitching world when you have the crowd under the ether.

When I was really early back in England, I used to sell this two-foot extension handle to the Wash-Matic so you could reach on the roof of your car. And when I used to sell it I used to hold it up in the air as if I was showing it to them, and then I’d move it around to the left and I’d move it to the right, and I could watch the whole audience’s head, everyone would follow like a metronome. And I’d put it down to the ground, they would all put it down to the ground, and I used to say, I tell people, “You watch what happens when I do this.”

You’ve got them under a spell because you intrigued them, you entertained them, in a way you got them interested, you entertained them, and now it’s time to persuade them. In that moment, when you see the boss’ arms unfold, he might lean and go, “ All right. I really like what you’re talking about here. Let’s talk about this a little bit more.” And you’ll find that the barriers and the walls just literally start crumbling down in a situation, in asking for a raise, he might give you a raise right there and then. He might shake your hand and go, “You know what, I’ll get back to you in 24 hours with my answer.”

And that’s when it’s time to finish with confidence, “You know what, Mr. Boss, thanks very much for your time. I really appreciate it. I just want to tell you I love working here. You can count on me. I’m a team player,” and do the moonwalk out of the room backwards. Don’t turn your back on the boss, okay? You walk out of the room backwards. You don’t have to walk out bowing throwing roses down. Finish with confidence, eye contact, shake hands, walk out of the room, shut the door, say hi to the assistant. Finish with confidence.

And I run through this in the book, and I really feel that in asking for a raise, getting a job, you could’ve gone up to a beautiful stranger at a place, a public place, you’re like, “You know what, I really find that person attractive.” All these little principles can be used to get an upgrade in the airline to get in the First Class, to get an exit row, to get the last room at a hotel, to get a loan. Most people fumble through all those interactions and they wonder why they don’t get what they want. And I’m not saying you have to pitch all the time because it’d be exhausting, but it sure helps if you can do it, and it’s helped me a lot. So, that’s the long and short of it, really.

And I tried to put it all in the book, and I really wanted the book to be of value to people who are not in sales. Obviously, I think it is pitching. I use it to sell a product but if I can help one person get a raise, meet an attractive stranger, get the job of their dreams, get into college, get funded, sell a movie script. The pitching, you think about they’re always pitching movie ideas and pitching TV shows. Some people are really, really good at it, and it’s a great skill to have.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. Well, then, so now, tell me, is there anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Anthony Sullivan
When I first started this career, I think, I thought this is just one lucky pitch on how to sell a car wash. And what I did, I took these principles and I applied them into different products. And I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and got a multimillion dollar facility down there in Florida, and people come from publicly-traded companies, come to us for our expertise in this. So, I know it works.

It works for a Nutrisystem when we’re selling weight loss. It works when I’m selling OxiClean. It worked today when I was working on my new mop. I have met some of the most amazing people in my life and got to do some amazing things just because I pitch them. And I’m working on a couple of things right now, and I’m going to pitch the hell out of people. That’s what I do, so, yeah, it’s fun to talk about it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Thank you. Well, now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Anthony Sullivan
I love the whole quote, “It’s not the critic who counts,” I’m trying to think of the whole. It’d Teddy Roosevelt, right? That’s one of my favorites. “It’s not the critic that counts. The credit belongs to the man who’s actually in the arena, whose face is marked by dust and sweat and blood, who errs, who strives valiantly, who comes up short.” I think I’m butchering the quote. It’s one of my favorites. I just feel you’ve got to keep going.

And one of my other favorite quotes is Winston Churchill, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” There’s been a couple times in my career when I wanted to quit. One thing, perseverance, just keep going. Stay in the saddle. I don’t know if you watched the movie, the documentary, the HBO documentary The Defiant Ones. Have you seen it?

Pete Mockaitis
No.

Anthony Sullivan
Oh, it’s fantastic. It’s about Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, and at the end of the documentary they interview a lot of very famous, successful artists, musical artists. And there’s a little two-minute clip at the end of it, and they all say the same thing, “Keep going. Stay in the saddle.” And I would say that to anyone out there, it’s like, “Do not let them grind you down.”

Winston Churchill, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” You cannot quit. And all the successful people who I had the good fortune to meet, Joy Mangano who is a good friend of mine, CEO of HSN who just went to work for Weight Watchers, Mindy Grossman is a good friend. Everyone who’s had that trials and tribulations and difficulties.

I just met Lance Armstrong last weekend. I don’t know if there’s a lot of people, detractors of Lance. I happen to be a fan of Lance. And there’s a guy who, “Pull yourself up off the ground no matter what, and move forward.” You’ve got to move forward. And too many people, I think, give up because it’s difficult, it is hard. It is difficult successful and you do have so many failures along the way, but stay in the saddle.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, great. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Anthony Sullivan
You know what’s funny? I was thinking about this the other day, the book that I picked up that I could not put down, and it’s like you’re not going to think of like Aristotle or anything, or Marcus Aurelius. It was Andy Weir’s book The Martian. You read it?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, the one the movie is based on?

Anthony Sullivan
You saw the movie? I picked that book up. I must’ve bought 20 copies of that book and sent it to people, and gave it to people. I was just completely immersed in that book. When the movie came out, I was like a geek. I was sitting in line to watch it, first person. And I watched it twice. It just captivated me, that book.

I also I think I’ve read every self-help book known to man. In my 20s I was like craving. The shortcut, I was looking for the silver bullet – The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People, The Power of Positive Thinking, and I think a lot of those books rubbed off on me, and I start reading them after a while because they all sort of said the same thing. These guys were all talking about the same stuff.

I like Malcolm Gladwell’s book, so I think Malcolm is super talented. I’m in the middle of reading George Hincapie’s biography right now, so that’s really what I’m reading today. I do it like a chapter a day. But I’m not a massive reader, but that’s my book comment for that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. And how about a favorite habit, a personal practice of yours that helps you be awesome?

Anthony Sullivan
I love to exercise. I’m an exercising fiend, and as I get older I’ve discovered that you’ve got to keep moving. And I do everything I can to at least get an hour and 30 minutes – and it’s probably excessive – a day in the pool, on the bike, or running. I kind of cut back on my running, and I’m actually entering a triathlon called Island House Triathlon in two weeks, and I’m about to hop on my trainer. But if I’m not working or pitching, I’m normally on my bike or in the pool.

Pete Mockaitis
Now when you say when you get older, you have to keep moving. I’m curious, what happens if you don’t? What makes it a necessity?

Anthony Sullivan
I’m 48 and I’ve discovered there’s three things that you kind of need to do to have a great physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual life. And one is, eat right, it’s really simple. People are, “What do I got to do? What do I got to do?” Eat quality food whenever you can. And I know you’re going to have a cheeseburger every now and then. If there’s an opportunity to eat quality food, there’s no substitute for it.

Exercise and to find something that you love to do and do it regularly, and get plenty of rest. Sleep. Sleep is underrated. Get your eight hours. You need eight hours, go to bed early. Nothing good happens after midnight. And I’m really trying to practice those three things, and I also try and surround myself with super positive people. I really believe that if you look for happiness, you’ll find it. If you look for drama, it will come to you. So, I try and make a conscious effort to search out the great things in life each and every day.

When I wake up, I took a look, it’s 70 something degrees in Florida today. It’s absolutely beautiful. So, I try and surround myself with great people and have a great community. And I love my little girl. I got a little six-year old girl who’s birthday is this weekend who lights me up, so I’m super excited to take her for a birthday party this weekend.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, great. And, Sully, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Anthony Sullivan
AnthonySullivan.com my website. I’m super accessible. You can reach me on Instagram, SullyonTV, S-U-L-L-Y onTV. If you want a little funny video or a shoutout, just reach me on Instagram. I’m happy to do it. And you can reach me on Facebook on AnthonySullivan, and Twitter @sullyontv, that’s S-U-L-L-Y on TV. Yeah, I’m super accessible. I try to be as accessible as I can to inventors, to entrepreneurs, to students, to anyone who kind of wants a little advice. I’d love to get back and be of value.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, beautiful. Thank you. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Anthony Sullivan
You know, I think it is this era we’re living in, there’s never been a better time to be in business with the platforms that are available whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Kickstarter.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Excellent. Thank you. Well, Sully, this has been a real treat. I wish you lots of luck with your upcoming mop and book and all you’re up to.

Anthony Sullivan
Thanks. I hope your listeners will enjoy it. I really do. So, good stuff. Thanks for having me as a guest. And anything you need, just give me a holler and let me know.

227: Becoming More Persuasive with Donald Kelly

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Fellow podcaster Donald Kelly reveals keys to being more persuasive, building influence, and hustling everyday.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Principles of sales that everyone can use to become more influential
  2. Two strategies to overcome the fear of rejection
  3. Approaches for making an effective cold call or email

About Donald

Donald Kelly evangelizes effective ways for salespeople and entrepreneurs to find more qualified prospects, close more deals and make more money. He does this through motivating sales training, online courses, one-on-one coaching, workshops, seminars and dynamic keynote presentations.

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