November, 2007

Emotional Persuasion through Storytelling

By Persuasion Fundamentals, Using Stories 3 Comments

Hi Persuader,

I cry during movies. I’ll admit it. I’m absolutely comfortable with it and not ashamed in the slightest. Stories have been used to elicit emotional responses, whether by design or by accident, since the beginning of man and some of the best stories are extraordinarily moving. That emotion may manifest as heartbreaking or uplifting or revolutionary or life changing-but the important thing to remember is that it is an unbelievably powerful opening-a hole, so to speak-that can be filled up with a message.

When we tell stories in business and when selling, we need to keep in mind the emotional state the story is going to put our prospect in. When we’re persuading, we’re really using stories to control emotional states. The value of a story is as much in the emotional state it puts my audience in as it is in the point that the story ultimately makes. (See: ‘Master of Stories‘ for more information on ‘the point’ of a story.)

My preference is that a story does both-that it makes a point and puts someone into a really profound state. What I want to do is I want to carry people away. I want them completely carried away.

We can have an arsenal of emotionally persuasive and powerful stories at our ready at all times. For example, take respect. To a more affluent and, perhaps elderly clientele, respect is quite possibly a motivating factor.

I try to really instill in my son a sense of respecting his elders and I wanted to reinforce the point that respect is paramount in dealing with people with him at his martial arts lesson the other day. In front of my son I was talking to his Sensei and I said, ‘Sensei, I wanted to tell you that at the last belt advancement that I was just at with my son, I was really impressed. There was a man there that must have been in his seventies.’ And Sensei smiled broadly and he said, ‘Yes. He’s about 73.’

And I said, ‘He was up for the test to advance his rank. When it came time for his sparring, his sensei jumped up to spar with him. I noticed that the older man was having to think before reacting, he would see something coming, he would stand there for a brief second and then he would react. It was clear that his faculties weren’t as sharp and his body wasn’t as quick, but yet, it almost brought tears to my eyes to see this man walking into the ring, walking onto the mat and doing his level best. Moreover, it impressed me that his sensei made him look so good. He respected him enough to make him look good. I realized this wasn’t about outperforming the man, it was about respecting the human spirit.’ My son’s Sensei just beamed and he responded, ‘That’s absolutely correct. You’ve got it right on all fronts.’

There’s a two paragraph story on respect that elicits an emotional response. Its goal was that I wanted my son to understand how important it is that we show respect to our elders and that this was a way the sensei showed respect to this man far his elder.

The story worked. It did exactly what I wanted it to do. And the story really touches me, profoundly. I have great love for both the sensei and for the older gentleman in the ring.

So with emotional story persuasion I’m looking to constantly maneuver the emotions because if I can get you opened up emotionally, I can put anything in that I want.

So now I’ve told you a story about respect. If I’m in front of the room talking or I’m relaying this to a client, what’s that going to do? It’s going to show you I have respect for my elders. If you were an older person coming to me for financial advice or to buy property or to improve your business or in any way to move forward in your life, what might you now believe about me as a result of hearing that story? That I’m highly respectful.

It manages the emotional state. This guy’s a respectful guy and he values our older citizens. So now we have the frame of respect set. Within that let’s leverage knowledge so the next story might be about the knowledge that somebody has that made them like an undiscovered hero. Then we’d have respect and knowledge.

What are some of your stories that might elicit deep emotional responses and how can you incorporate them into your persuasion repertoire?

Until Next Time,

Kenrick E. Cleveland

Master of Stories

By Persuasion Fundamentals, Using Stories 2 Comments

‘Facts and figures are forgotten. Stories are retold.’ -Jeffrey Gitomer

Hi Persuader,

Unless you’re a really mathematically oriented person, you’re not going to remember the charts and graphs of a presentation, and neither is your audience. If you give presentations to groups of people, while sometimes you may need to get specific, the real core, the real power of your presentation is going to be ‘The Story’.

I used to believe I wasn’t a very good story teller. I didn’t have any shyness or esteem issues where my persuasion skills were concerned, but up until a few years ago, I didn’t really think my stories were actual stories. I didn’t understand that MY stories are the real juice, the lifeblood of my persuasion.

We all have a story. In a previous article, ‘What’s Your Story?‘ I described how stories work. But your story may not have presented itself to you. It might be a tangential story. The most important story you can tell in relation to your business may be your grandparents struggle. If you’re a financial advisor, it may have to do with your father’s financial ruin when you were very young. If you’re a realtor, you might have a story about someone who you sold a house to whose life was changed irrevocably for the better.

Your object in telling a story is first to get the listener to agree with you. Once that happens, persuasion is inevitable.

The most important aspect for your story is to have a point. We’ve all heard meandering speeches about someone’s surgery or the kind of day they had that never, ever get to the point. These are NOT the kind of stories we want to tell in business.

Our stories have to have a similarity to the situation to which we’re presenting, as well as the important aspects of ‘The Hero’s Journey’. (If you’re not familiar with ‘The Hero’s Journey‘ by Joseph Campbell, become familiar with it. It is the single most important work on archetypes and stories starting pulling from sources back to the dawn of time, and has had profound impact on my teachings and learnings, as well as the teachings and learnings of millions of others.)

With a story, you don’t have to start at the beginning. In fact, there’s usually a lot of wasted words at the beginning of a story. A writing teacher I once knew had a general rule that the first paragraph or two of a story was completely dispensable. By starting in the middle, or even practically in mid-sentence, the audience is compelled to listen intently. ‘What did I miss? What do I need to know for this to make sense? What’s going on here? I can’t wait to find out.’

Another way to do this is to start with ‘the point’ of the story and work your way back. Since the point, the outcome, or what you want to teach, is the absolute goal, it’s most important that this is crystal clear.

A member of my coaching club actually ‘reverse engineers’ his stories so that the very first thing he works out is the outcome. From there he works back through the journey that got him to the goal.

When working on your story, begin by beginning. Start by starting. Write, write, write. And when you’ve written it out, read it out loud. You’ll see exactly where it needs to be edited when you read it out loud.

For more on persuasive storytelling, call Kim. She’s probably got a good story for you.

Until Next Time,

Kenrick E. Cleveland

Persuasion Continuums: The Key To Your Prospect's Particulars

By Advanced Persuasion, Persuasion Continuums No Comments

Hi Persuader,

Recently I heard a comedian tell this joke, ‘I have the idea that one person’s dream is another person’s nightmare. For example, it’s my dream to sleep with Cindy Crawford. I’ll bet you anything that would be her nightmare.’

Some of us like to take tests. Some of us like maps. Some of us actually enjoy cleaning. Our differences are what make us unique. And our differences are what can make persuasion unbelievably powerful.

The key to unlocking your prospect’s particulars is finding the key, deciphering their messages and understanding that all of our keys are uniquely configured.

This is a strategy that will make it easier for you to grasp persuasion continuums and how you can take advantage of them in your life.

Persuasion continuums are an interesting phenomenon. What is a persuasion continuum? If you were to draw a straight line on a piece of paper and if you were to put one of the directions of the continuum on the right side and the opposite on the left side, then you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say ‘continuum‘. These are patterns that exist in the minds of people and they exist in particular contexts. As the context changes, so too can a continuum. They won’t always hold the same across all contexts.

In future articles I’ll explore these more specifically, but a few of the continuums we’re working with are: ‘towards and away’, ‘sameness and difference’, ‘internal and external’ and ‘options and procedures.’

A lot of these are intertwined with or are dependent upon or utilize your understanding of criteria. If we define criteria as that what which points people to relevance, we are in fact giving people relevance.

You’ve heard of WIIFM. What’s in it for me? Well, that, in essence, is the concept of criteria and values. Is there something here for me or is this not for me? That’s the big question everybody has when they come to talk to you.

Continuums are content free strategies, meaning they’re not dependent on what you’re going to be saying, it depends upon the context that you’re talking about.

So if you’re an advisor and you’re talking to people about their finances, then that’s the context with which these will hold, then they’ll hold today, tomorrow, next week, next year. They tend to not change over time much if at all.

What are we doing here? We’re increasing rapport, increasing our persuasion skills and creating magical differences fast.

The continuums I’ve mentioned are ones that we can spot and find everywhere. There are significantly more but over the next few articles, we’ll just be focusing in on these four.

Phew! This is some deep, powerful persuasion and if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, it’s perfectly natural. This discussion of continuums will be continued in an upcoming article but if you’re as fascinated by this stuff as I am, and can’t wait for more, check out my Persuasion Factor program.

P.S. The discussion of continuums now continues in my post “Persuasion Continuum II: Getting in Deeper“.


Kenrick E. Cleveland

Is Your Persuasion Talent Worthless?

By Persuasion Fundamentals 10 Comments

Dear Persuader,

What if a person went into a courthouse and told the judge that he was an attorney and should be allowed to practice in that court? Only one catch — the person telling the judge this has no knowledge of the law.

Would that person be admitted to practice before the court? Hopefully not, I’m sure you’d agree.

But what if that person argued that they have natural talent, or great intelligence, or a knack for legal things? Would that persuade you that they should defend you if you had to go before that court? If you’re like me, it probably would not be enough. You’d probably insist that they had an honest-to-goodness foundation in the law if you were to entrust your life to their care.

It makes sense, on the other hand, that if a person had a law degree and 30+ years of experience in front of that court, they would be easily capable of protecting their clients rights. And I imagine, all things being equal, you’d be thrilled having them represent you.

What if all this was a metaphor that enabled you to predict how well you or others would be able to wield the power of persuasion?

I just saw such a metaphor — and you can too. I watched a short video clip of a 91-year-old man who gives a secret for success in life. (This is a secret that I’ve used to create what some are calling the most powerful persuasion materials available — anywhere.)

This video is so good that I want you to go and see it right away. This modern day Da Vinci has an incredibly powerful message. And watching the video will explain why I used the subject line I did.

Just follow this link:

And for those of you with a bit more advanced skill, he launches right into a persuasion strategy that is extremely covert. Can you recognize it? Here’s a hint — he keeps it up the whole way through.

Post a comment to the blog and let me know what you think it is that he’s doing. Do your best to figure it out and tell me what you think.

Until next time,

Kenrick E. Cleveland

Seeing What Sticks: The Problem with Features and Benefits

By Eliciting Criteria, Persuasion Fundamentals 2 Comments

People will teach you how to sell them if you’ll pay attention to the messages they send you. Source Unknown

Dear Persuader,

There’s an old wives’ tale that suggests you can tell when dinner is ready by throwing a piece of spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. If it sticks, it’s done. If not, keep cooking. Whenever I think of ‘features and benefits’ selling, I think of someone throwing a whole pot of spaghetti noodles against the wall and trying to see what sticks. Stupid, right? I think so.

Dale Carnegie would say that you have features and benefits, listing all the features and benefits of your product or service in the hopes that if you say enough you’ll finally hit on something of importance to your prospect and they’ll scream out, “Ooh! I want that one!”

Features and benefits is the quickest way to expose yourself as an old-fashioned sales person. Does it work? About as well as throwing a whole bunch of pasta against the wall. And as an added bonus, it makes you seem smarmy and outdated.

It brings to mind the character of Gil Gunderson on ‘The Simpson’s’ who is a hapless and nervous salesman who uses old-fashioned techniques to no avail. He sweats, he begs, he lists all the reasons why you should buy the product he’s selling or the house he has listed or any number of things (he’s had dozens of jobs), and he always ends up failing because it’s all about Gil. It’s never about his prospect or their needs.

Features and benefits doesn’t work, first and foremost, because it focuses on you. You’re not the one you’re trying to sell. Secondly, features and benefits puts you in the perspective of continuing to ask the wrong questions.

What’s the antidote to features and benefits? One word: criteria. In whatever you’re doing, whether it be sales, whether it be real estate, whether you’re working this in terms of relationships, or whatever you’re doing, if you throw enough stuff on the wall, the old theory goes, some of it will stick. Maybe. But using by using criteria, you’re laser focusing on exactly what the prospect wants and thereby significantly improving your odds and the predictability of sales.

So my new theory says, if you throw enough stuff on the wall, you’ve got dirty walls. Features and benefits, for the most part, are baloney, they’re not effective, and they simply mark you as someone who is unskilled and unprofessional.

The exception to the rule is when the prospect knows absolutely nothing about what it is that they’re there to buy from you. They’ve hardly ever seen or heard of the service or product, and they’ve come to you to ask you about buying it. Under those conditions, you might use some features and benefits, to help them to learn about the product, but even then, I’ll tell you, that would be the second step, not the first step.

The first step is giving yourself the ability to target straight into their heart. Straight into their emotions, into their deepest desires. If I can speak directly to you about what it is you want, if I can talk about persuasion, and about the benefit to you of being able to master it, all of the sudden I might start having a little bit more of your attention.

Until Next Time,

Kenrick E. Cleveland

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