How To Convince A Prospect To Outsource Their Thinking To You

The kids packed into the car. We rushed out of the house to meet up with their cousins at the mall. This is a mall I’ve never been to. Like any responsible driver these days I plugged the address into the GPS.  Off we went following the instructions of our automated friend.

Thirty minutes later we got off the parkway exit for the mall. With a quarter mile to go the friendly voice advised me the destination was coming up on our right. We arrived at the finish line and realized we were in the wrong place. Uh oh. Now we’re going to be late.

Using Your Brain Is A Drag

Do you remember the days when you had to think and plan a trip? Most of us now outsource this thinking to artificial intelligence.

Before the days of these systems I’d print out directions. Heck, when I was in my 20’s I actually kept maps in my car. I had an instinctive feel for directions back then.

Today, I’ve handed that power over to a computer. You may have done the same. But why? What compelled us to relinquish this power?

Better yet, how can we compel our customers to depend on us with the same devotion?

Conserve Energy

We humans like to conserve our energy. It’s a relic from our hunter gatherer ancestors. GPS systems allow us to conserve our energy. We no longer need to memorize routes, directions or street names. It frees up our brain for other efforts. We conserve our mental energy and that makes our lives easier.

Does your product make the lives of your customers easier?  Does it relieve them of an energy taxing activity? Don’t just assume it does. In my days in the software business we once put out software so buggy our clients put in twelve hour days to deal with the problems. We made their lives more difficult. It sapped more of their energy.


Nobody will outsource their thinking based on a promise. Sure, you may sell your customer on the idea. Until you actually prove you can do it they’ll be looking over your shoulder. The first few times I used a GPS I printed out directions. I wanted a backup just in case something went wrong. After a few trips I experienced enough success to go all in on my GPS.

As businesses we accumulate proof our products produce positive results. As we pile on the proof, our current and future customers deepen their confidence in us and our products.

When belief and confidence grow we begin to gain trust.


Consistently delivering good, dependable results builds trust. My GPS  promises precise directions each time. For the most part it does what it promises. We need to do the same thing. We make promises to our customers. If we fulfill our promises each and every time, our customers trust that we’ll meet our commitments.

Sometimes we fail at keeping our promises. We’re human. It happens. Still, we can at least make sure they trust we’ll have their backs.

Our little snafu with the car’s GPS hasn’t dampened my trust. Most of the time it serves me well.

It turns out there is a mall and shopping center each with the same address. It took a pair of human eyes to figure out the problem. Sometimes we still need to use our brain. I’ll still rely on my computerized friend for directions.


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A Bungled Kitchen Remodel On A Special Day… And A Subtle Lesson In Connecting With Your Customer

Four years ago we moved into our new home. By new I mean it was new to us. The house itself was a 1950’s fixer upper. Our top priority was renovating the kitchen. One look at it and the nostalgic feeling of an 80’s family sitcom slaps you in the face.

Things did not go as planned. The insurance company forced us to replace our roof as soon as we moved in.  Our porch flooded every time it rained. That needed replacement. I failed  at a “do it yourself” repair on our walkway. That debacle forced my hand yet again. Other little surprises popped up that required urgent attention. Each one pushed out the kitchen remodel.

Finally, the time is right to attack the kitchen.

We picked a special day to kick off this event. When we strolled into the showroom we couldn’t wait for someone to whip up a design for us. We expected to walk out with a plan an hour later.

A nice man greeted us and asked how he could help.

“We need a new kitchen”  I told him

Great. Do you have measurements? We can build out a design on the computer.”

“Sure. Our kitchen is 14×13. We also want to knock down a wall that connects to the dining room.”

You’re Wasting My Time

The excitement on his face vanished. He explained that our measurements were not good enough.

“Where are the windows located? How big are they?”

“There’s a big window in the middle. I don’t know the specifics” I replied

“I also need to know location of the doors and their height and width” he added

Okay, so we’re not as prepared as we thought.” I replied

He suggested (in a nice way)  we hire a professional to measure the kitchen.

We Struck Out

We expected to leave this place with a plan. Now, we find out it won’t be possible. No big deal, right? We simply hire someone to measure and come back when we’re ready.

Not so fast. This is our special day. We did this on our ten year wedding anniversary.

You read that right. Instead of going away or doing something fun we kicked off a kitchen renovation. Most couples describe renovations as stressful events.

Here’s the thing.

It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. We both decided we wanted this on our ten year anniversary.

We both shared the same desire. Shared desires equate to connection. This is true for any kind of relationship whether it’s romantic, friendship or business.

Why We Connect With Others

As you build your relationship with your prospects and customers, keep this important persuasion rule in mind:

People feel connection with others who think as they do. We feel validated to learn that others hold our beliefs and even share some of our flaws.

My wife and I both wanted to look at kitchens on our wedding anniversary. It doesn’t matter if others agree with that or not.

When you and your customer both believe the problem you solve is the most important thing in the world you develop a connection. Find that strong belief you both share and they’ll never ignore you.

How did this all play out?

The nice kitchen expert took pity on us and showed us counter tops, cabinets and appliances. He also recommended someone to measure our space.

I can only hope that we’ll continue to think alike as our remodel gets underway.


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Do you want soup with that? Three Persuasion Tricks That Got Me

I found myself back in Manhattan for the first time in six months. Even though I live just twenty miles away, I only make the trip if there’s a need.  Back when I worked there, I had my favorite lunch spot. I went out of my way to stop in and grab some lunch.

Amazing. Of all the restaurants I choose one which I’ve eaten at dozens of times.

They still offer the same menu as they did when it was my regular hang out spot. I put in my typical order of a chicken hummus platter. Before the lady at the counter rang me up, she paused:

Shall I add a  small butternut squash soup for just $1.99?”


I responded without even thinking. After I answered her, I remembered their portions are huge.

“I don’t really need the soup, Why did I agree to it? Is it too late to cancel it?” – As that thought wrestled around in my brain she told me my order number and gave a warm greeting to the next person in line.

This is happening. I’m getting the soup. There’s no turning back.

Lunchtime Persuasion Tricks

As a glutton of all things persuasion I spent my lunch breaking down what happened. There’s three techniques at play here.

Reference Point

My lunch already totaled thirteen dollars. She asked if I wanted to add soup for a paltry two dollars. Another two bucks on top of thirteen? Sure. Why not. Had I bought a five dollar sandwich, the two extra dollars would seem  more significant. See the difference?

This sort of ploy happens in almost any market. When you buy a car and the dealer tacks on rust proofing for a few hundred you barely notice. You’re already paying a thirty thousand.

Now, let’s suppose you go in for an oil change. There’s no way you would let them tack on a few hundred for rust proofing. The high price tag of buying a car alters your reference point.


Next, she took advantage of the element of surprise. I had no idea she would try and sell me an additional item.

If I had been prepared for her question, I would have thought about it and realized it’s too much food for me. I would have declined the offer. Of course, the next time I go back the element of surprise is gone. I’ll be expecting it. Surprise is a powerful persuasion tool but it’s fleeting. You can try switching it up but eventually they’ll learn to expect some sort of surprise.

Since the question caught me off guard I used a quick thinking reflex to answer the question.


Finally, if there’s one thing we all love, it’s  good deal.  We love how it feels. We love bragging to our friends and peers about getting a good deal.

In hindsight, it wasn’t a good deal for me. I only ate half my lunch. I filled up too much on the soup. Still, for someone with a heartier appetite, it might be a good deal.

Let’s sum up the three tools at play here:

  1. Reference Points – high base prace versus a low tack on
  2. Surprise – results in knee-jerk reactions
  3. Our love of a good deal – hits the emotional hot buttons
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Since We’re Already Making Changes, Can We Also? – How To Use Persuasion To Avoid Project Killers

“This sounds like a good opportunity to fit this in. Let’s make it happen”

I got that exact email yesterday. A big wig on a project I’m working on sent it to at least twenty people. He challenged us to add a time consuming, expensive and logistical nightmare to a project. This project is already struggling to meet a deadline.

Great, I thought.

This will make a great case study in persuasion.

All I needed to do was persuade him to back off from the idea. How could I succeed without turning him into an enemy?

Avoid This At All Costs

Let’s talk about the obvious.

First, avoid hitting “reply-all” no matter what your response. We can use the utmost care in crafting our response. We cannot, however, control how they interpret it.

What happens when the recipient feels embarrassed, humiliated or mocked in front of others?

You’re finished. It’s nearly impossible to recover.

This may sound like common sense. We ignore it more than we like to admit. You can avoid so many battles, hurt feeling and anger by choosing to hit reply.

Next, remember one of our laws of persuasion.

Never tell the other person they’re wrong for thinking, believing or feeling something.

We know to hit reply instead of reply-all. We know we must avoid telling him his idea is a clunker. How do we get him to withdraw his idea but allow him to save face?

The Persuasive Solution

Here’s how I did it. Your solution will vary according to circumstances.

“Steve, I love the idea. It adds to our product pipeline. What’s needed to get that done? We have a hard deadline of six weeks to finish. If we miss the date, we miss our revenue numbers. When should we move forward with this?

He responded that he was unaware of the deadline. He agreed the timing was off for this project. Plus, he thanked me for contacting him in private. See, they do notice.

He replied to the group that we’d put off this plan until the next project. Everyone’s happy.

Here’s the key:

He came to the conclusion to put this off by himself. I led him down the path but I resisted the urge to force it.

Finally, I praised his idea. Empty praise hurts. I added specificity to make it feel genuine.

Responses, language and actual words will vary but the rules remain.

The Three Rules Summarized

1.   Never tell anyone they’re wrong for thinking, believing or feeling something

2.   Lead your opponent to come to the conclusion you desire. Avoid drawing that conclusion for him.

3.   All of us believe we’re exceptional in the skills we most value. Give praise to the skills your opponent values most.

I hate list articles but one of these days I’ll do one. You’ll have all the rules in one place.

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Are “Fluffery” Words Killing Your Sales And Marketing?

Do you hate shopping for big ticket items? I love it. I always walk away with a sales or persuasion lesson.

Here’s what happened.

We’re nearing the end of winter. I figured I could get a good deal on a heated mat for my walkway. The size I’m looking at costs a few hundred dollars. I zip through a bit of online research. Next, I drive down to the home improvement store. I need to see it with my own eyes.

A salesman approaches me. I give him clear instructions on what I want.

“What’s the best deal you can give me on a 20×5 heated mat? I’m looking for the best value.”

Mass Confusion

He quotes me the price. I can feel the anger swell inside me.

“This is the best value? I can get 20% more coverage for $50 less.”

Another salesman trying to swindle me? How quaint.

Before I walk away he gets frantic. He senses I’m unhappy with him. He went on to explain that he meant it had the most durable materials for the lowest cost.

Now it all makes sense.

The Curse Of “Fluffery” Benefits

We each had our own definition of the word value. Value is an example of a fluffery benefit.

Fluffery benefits lack concrete meaning. Each individual assigns their own meaning to these words or phrases.

That’s a bit of mouthful to understand. Let’s break it down to real world examples. In the exchange I laid out earlier, the salesman sold me on value. Value is an abstract concept.

I defined value as most coverage for lowest price.

The salesman defined it as best materials for lowest price.

You may describe it as most energy efficient for lowest price.

See the problem?

In my corporate job we once sold software with the benefit of risk reduction. That’s even more of a fluffery benefit. Good luck trying to find two people who agree on that definition.

The Concrete Alternative

When you talk about benefits in sales or marketing, break down your abstract benefit into concrete terms. Specificity, vividness and precision make your benefits concrete.

Value exists only as an idea. We all assign our own specific meaning to it. As the communicator, it’s your job to add specifics and vivid imagery and transform it into something concrete. There should be zero chance of confusion.

Here’s some common fluffery benefit’s  and their concrete alternatives

Fluffery Benefit: We offer the best value.

Concrete Benefit: Most coverage for lowest price.

Fluffery Benefit: We offer the best value.

Concrete Benefit: We combine the most coverage and best materials for lowest price.

Fluffery Benefit: Our software reduces your risk.

Concrete Benefit: Our software prevents you from losing your money due to market swings.

Get On The Same Page

Try this simple assignment:

Go back and pull some sales and marketing material. Locate any fluffery benefits. Next, replace them with their concrete equivalents. Here’s a sample list of the common offenders:

  1. Best value
  2. Risk reduction
  3. More succcessful
  4. Happier
  5. Better off

You may find that even within your team you disagree on the concrete meaning. If that’s the case this exercise will also help your team get on the same page.

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Why We Empty The Racks Of Stores Before A Snowstorm

I see snowflakes the size of pancakes out my window. I dread the cleanup in store for me later. Yesterday was a different story. Yesterday was all about getting ready.

Looming snowstorms give us amazing glimpses into human behavior.

The media hypes up the storm.

They exploit scary words.

Fear hits us.

Everyone rushes to the stores.

The suckers empty the racks to prepare for the twelve hours they’re left stranded in their homes..

I’m Guilty Too

On my way home from work I stopped at the grocery store. The lines backed up into the aisles. I waited an eternity to buy bread and eggs.  Next, I filled up my gas can in case the power goes out. Then, I picked up a bag of salt for my driveway. A woman who was also shopping picked up a shovel. She told the salesman she already had two shovels.  She just wanted to feel like she was doing something.

That one line explains so much about behavior and buying decisions.

“I just want to feel like I’m doing something”

I can’t criticize. After all, I did the same thing. I don’t need another fifty pound bag of salt. I already had one. Buying it made me feel prepared. I felt content that I did something.

Most of our customers buy from us to solve a problem. They buy because they want to solve their problem. They also buy because the action of buying makes them feel like they are doing something. It provides a sense of certainty that their pain will come to an end.

“I’m finally doing something to take my life back”

“I’m finally doing something to get control of my business”

It’s Like A Drug

Even if they fail to take action, they still feel good just from buying. Of course, we want our clients to use what we sell them. We want them to get amazing results. If they get great results they tell others.

Before that happens, they first need to buy. That’s the first hurdle.

Remind them that the mere act of buying does something to help them. Remind them that by taking action, they’re doing more than what most will ever do. They’re one of the few action takers. That alone puts them in a special category.

Yes, fixing problems feels great. When your customer buys he gains the expectation that his problem will be solved. That feels great too. Don’t deny him that pleasure. It’s part of the customer experience.


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A Simple 8 Word Phrase That Puts Every Other Marketing Tactic To Shame

I always seem to get my best ideas when driving or taking a shower. The ill-timed flashes of brilliance often escape my brain as fast as they arrive . I’m never able to access  a phone or pen before the idea  drifts into oblivion. Sometimes, those lost ideas lead to even better ones. Take yesterday, for example.

I began writing a new sales letter for a project I’m working on. While in the shower I came up with a great idea on how to position it. I reminded myself of it a few times so I would remember.

You know how these things go, right? You forget it unless you write it down. That’s what happened to me. I got out of the shower. My mind drifted to something else.  An hour later it hit me. What was that brilliant idea? Shoot. I can’t remember.

Opportunity lost.

A Distant Memory Resurfaces

I go through a little ritual whenever something like this happens.  I pull out a pen and paper and start writing. Whatever pops into my mind goes on the paper. It’s like magic. Forgotten ideas just resurface out of nowhere. That doesn’t always happen. And today was one of my failures. My idea did not come back.

Instead, a distant memory came back.

The memory of an email from three years ago resurfaced.

When  I decided to transition to a career in writing I searched for mentors who could help me learn the copywriting craft. Most of what I found was crap. Most of the people I found were scavengers. They knew little and cared little. Eventually, I found a few good ones but never took any action to approach them. Nobody resonated with me.

Eight Words That Changed It All

Then, one day I got an email from one of these guys. He wrote something that connected with me.

At the bottom of his email he wrote:

“I’m not taking on any new coaching clients this year. Still, if there’s something you’re struggling with, reply to my email. Let me know how I can help you”

I replied. I didn’t really know what to expect. Was he legit? Did he really want to help? Or was he about to send me down a rabbit hole of sales pitches?

He replied back and gave me some help. He asked for nothing in return. It probably took him thirty seconds to reply back to me. For that, I desperately wanted to buy something and return the favor. He had nothing to sell me at the moment.

A year later he launched a new product. I bought it. He made you go through a long sales page before buying. I barely skimmed it. I paid a whopping $672 (with shipping). Ouch! His product is awesome. It still sits on my shelf as a handy  reference. I doubt I would have been so eager to buy it had he not started with those simple eight words.

One Last Twist To The Story

I don’t recall ever seeing that one liner in any email since. Maybe his subscribers flooded him with emails and decided never to do it again. I don’t know. I never asked.

It’s something I hadn’t thought of in a long time but something I will start doing myself. It’s not a slick tactic. There’s no psychological wizardry behind it. Asking your prospects how you can help them and then following through.

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The Persuasion Strategy We Learn As Kids… But Forget As Adults

Seventy-six days after Christmas we finally motivated ourselves to move a bookshelf back to where it belongs. During the holiday season we relocate this bookshelf to make room for the Christmas tree. We moved our fake tree up to the attic after the new year. That left a glaring hole in our living room.  Why did we put this off for so long? Simple. We didn’t care enough to move it.  There was no compelling reason.

What finally compelled us to take action?  Our four year old son. Yeah, that’s right. Our four year old persuaded us to move furniture. For about seven days straight he pestered us to move the bookshelf. We tired of listening to it. When it became painful to listen to his endless complaints, we gave in.

Are We Just Lazy?

For seventy-six days we knew we needed to move the bookshelf. For seventy-six days we put it off. One of our basic human instincts is to conserve energy. We rarely take action without compelling reasons to do so. That rule not only applies to moving furniture. It applies to sales, marketing or any kind of persuasion. Without compelling reasons, most of us put off action.

This explains why arousing emotion holds such powerful persuasive power. Do you ever feel compelled to take action when you feel zero emotion? Neither does your prospect.

Here’s an example to demonstrate:

Imagine a dangling tree limb about to fall in your backyard. Imagine your kids running around under the tree.

Immediately, you open the window. You yell at the top of your voice.

Get Inside!”

Then, you call the tree company and ask:

“How soon can you get here?”

Compare that to a letter you get from that tree company. It reads:

“We noticed your tree needs pruning. Call us for an estimate.”

Do you stop what you’re doing and call them? Doubtful. There’s no compelling reason to do so.

What Compels Us To Take Action

Arousing emotion is a key step. What are the compelling reasons for your prospect to take swift action? Any reason you can think of can be looped into one of two groups. The most powerful is pain. Avoiding pain drives us to take immediate action.  The pain can be emotional or physical.

Did your super-competitive neighbor just upgrade his lawn? If that pains you, your next call may be to  your lawn company. Did a doctor just give you a scary diagnosis?

“Here’s a blank check, doc. Fix me”

The other general that drives us is pleasure. By itself it’s not usually enough to get prospects to take swift action. A message exploiting both pain and pleasure produces best results.

Pain drives us more than pleasure. Our desire to eliminate pain always feels urgent. We’ll do anything to get rid of it. What pain does your product relieve?



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How To Win A Quick Jolt Of Credibility… Even When You’re Unknown

I set a goal for myself yesterday. Publish a softcover book in twenty-four hours. Eighteen hours after I set that goal I received a final approval. The book is called The Persuasion Bullet Bible. It started as a short article. I expanded it to an eighteen page guide. For the last two months I gave it away as a free pdf on my website. I added two bonus sections. That gave it enough bulk to meet printing standards. My new book entered the world.

For a long time, I craved a real book of my own. Friends of mine use them as marketing tools and get kick-ass results. Amazon’s CreateSpace prints them as you need them so you don’t need any up front investment.

A Kindle book is nice but not enough. It fails to carry the status and power of a physical book. The weight, depth and feel of a real book influences our perception. I’ll explain the process of doing this in a separate article. For now, I’ll tell you about the big mistake I made. I left something out of my book that would have hiked my credibility a few extra notches.

This step can make or break you if you’re a consultant, freelancer or even a job seeker.

The Instant Credibility Upgrade

An introduction or Foreword from a third party upgrades your credibility. If your intro writer carries  weight in your field, you earn even higher status. With my twenty-four hour deadline I lacked the time to reach out and get someone  to write a foreword or intro for me. I decided to publish it anyway. I do plan to add it to a future version.

What makes an intro from someone else so effective?

It’s a form of social proof. Someone else vouches for your skills, work and ability. This explains why you see celebrity endorsements. Numerous studies show that even when an audience knows the celebrity receives payment for their endorsement, it still carries weight.

What To Say

A foreword or intro should highlight your skills, qualities and achievements. It could recount your journey together if it’s relevant. Avoid glowing testimonials. Yes, those have their place but not here. Your foreword or intro should come across as high praise but dignified. Pick out a few of your favorite books in your field. Model the ones that arouse your desire.

Not Just For Books

A book may be the traditional place where you find an intro or foreword. The “Intro Influence” impacts us no matter what media we favor. Consider:

  1. An third party intro in a video
  2. Getting a peer to record an intro to your podcast
  3. Ask a client or mentor  to write a foreword for your web page
  4. A third party intro for a social media profile
  5. Anywhere else you market yourself to the world

Now that I created my book, it’s time for me to seek out a client or peer. I need a foreword for the next version.

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Would You Buy A Book For $147? Here’s How I’ll Do It

Who would spend that much on a book? Nobody. But I’m not positioning this as a book. I’m selling hard to find information. Some of it cannot be found elsewhere. The book acts as the vehicle for delivering the info.

I’m selling it as a physical book only. $147 sounds like a lot of money for a book. I should also mention you can’t buy it on Amazon or at any book store.  Plus, it appeals to a narrow audience. Only a few can benefit from the information.

None of this seems to make sense, right? It’s hard to find the product. It’s expensive, It appeals to a narrow audience. The format may not be convenient. What am I thinking?  It all seems counter-intuitive. The truth is, to sell a book for that much money you need to do things different.

Some of it seems puzzling at first glance. Here’s why it works.

Narrow The Audience

Niche down to a smaller audience with specific needs and desires. You’ll likely find an under-served audience. This audience must feel passion or have a desperate need for what you are selling.

Let’s suppose you sell a course on dog training. You’ll compete with hordes of others. Most folks seeking out this information will find tons of options.  It’s unlikely that you’ll offer something so earth shattering that you can charge a premium price for a book. You would need a different approach.

Now, let’s niche down and limit the audience to Catahoula Leopord dogs.  You’re now facing a tiny audience. Though small, their passion for these dogs radiates. Only a few providers serve them. If you can fill that gap you hold more pricing power.

Narrow The Focus

Now we’re facing a handful of competitors. How could we narrow the focus and dive deep into a really specific part of Catahoula Leopord Dogs?  What about training Catahoula Leopord dogs for competitive dog shows? Now we’re drilling down into a small but focused area of dog training. A small but fanatical crew of prospects exists. Our audience shrinks but the remaining prospects spend big dollars. That’s our opening.

Limit Availability

Scarcity drives up demand. Sure, that’s the first lesson in copywriting. If we offer our information in digital format it’s unlimited. A physical book you buy directly from the source screams scarcity. I can state that I’m printing only five hundred copies. Once I sell out they’re not coming back. It’s tough to sell that story on Amazon, even if it’s true. The limited printing gives it a feeling of exclusivity. You’ll be one of only five hundred to possess this information. Your buyer feels a sense of prestige.

Oversize The Offer

The buyer gets more than just a book. The added bonuses increase the perceived value. You see, the book is just one piece of the overall offer. The onslaught of extras make the price a no brainer. I may even include some limited premium bonuses for the first twenty buyers.

Imagine crafting a sales campaign to owners of Catahoula competition dogs. See how specific we can get in our marketing message? You can drill down into the exact needs and challenges they face. Compare that to targeting all dog owners. There’s no way you can reach them on the same personal level.

There’s one more advantage of going higher priced with a small audience. I can send a hand written thank you note to all buyers. Try doing that with a seven dollar ebook.


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