The Value of a Personal Mission Statement

Last week I concluded with a teaser about my personal mission statement so this week I’m going to address the topic and share with you my personal mission statement, or life plan, as some call it.

Back in the early ’90s, I read Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and it really resonated with me. I often tell people, after The Bible the most impacting book I’ve ever read is The 7 Habits. I’m not saying it’s the best book – I’ve read others I enjoyed more – only that it was the most impacting. The impact came because I took the step to write a personal mission statement. Now, each day a part of my mission statement pops up in a task in my daily planner, Microsoft Outlook. Having read it now for 15 plus years, I’ve reinforced who I am, who I’m trying to become and what’s most important in my life.

If you’ve not written your own mission statement I cannot encourage you enough to do so. I’ll go so far as to say it could be one of the most important things you ever do because it’s something that will serve as a guide throughout your life. The mission statement idea is presented in Covey’s book in a chapter entitled, “Begin with the End in Mind.” I’ll leave it to you to read the book, or at least that chapter, so you can write your own plan.

I think a mission statement can help you be more influential in several ways:

  • Writing something down like this will help you stay accountable to what you say is most important and that accountability is ramped up if you share your mission statement with others. When you’re consistent, people come to rely on you which adds to your credibility, a component of authority.
  • Most people I interview never write down their goals let alone have a plan for their life. If you’re ever interviewing for a job and you hand the interviewer a personal mission statement you’ll certainly impress them. I think sharing mine helped me land the job I have today.
  • If you happen to share it with someone who has similar goals or world view then you’re likely to befriend that person because you’ve touched on the principle of liking.

Below is my life plan. It’s not for everyone so yours could look totally different and that’s okay because we’re all different.

My Chief Aim in Life: When I leave this earth and stand in the presence of the Lord, I hope to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant: you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21).

In order to make this a reality I will focus on four main areas of my life. Each area, while distinctly different, overlaps with the other areas. I want to focus on my spiritual life, my family, myself as an individual and my career.

Spiritual: I want to have a close intimate relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ and I want this relationship to be the priority in my life. I want to live a life that’s consistent with Biblical principles. I will seek to do this by striving for Christ-like qualities, knowing that while I cannot completely achieve them because I am human, I will be rewarded. I want to be a good listener. Finally, I want to reach out to others sharing Biblical love and truth.

Family: I want to make my family my priority second only to my relationship with God. I want to love and honor my wife Jane, building her up so she can become the spiritual being God intends for her to be. I want to meet her needs to the best of my ability and help her live a happy and fulfilled life. I want to strive to give unconditional love to Jane and Abigail, as well as other members of my extended family. I want to create a home environment where each person in my family can come to me in times of need and develop to their fullest potential. I want to earn my family’s respect and be the kind of husband and father they can be proud of.

Personal: I want to like who God created me to be; respect myself; maintain a balance between my mental and physical health; live my life with integrity, not compromising myself but standing firm on my beliefs as outlined in my personal mission statement; be open to change and accept when I’m wrong; continue to develop in the areas of loving, learning and relationships; smile, laugh and show my emotions more; I do not want to be controlled by anyone or anything other than God and need to remember I always have free will and therefore a choice in all matters; I want strive first to understand others, then seek to be understood; to be a leader and role model for others.

Career: I want Christ to be the centerpiece for all that I do at work; I want to give my best effort to whatever task is laid before me; be remembered for making my workplace better for having been there in both a productive and personal sense; obtain satisfaction from my chosen career; be fair and honest while remaining firm and decisive; remember the people involved; earn the trust, respect and confidence of those I work with; continue to develop personally and seek new challenges. Last, I need to remember that I work to live — I don’t live to work. Therefore, I will never sacrifice my spiritual, personal or my family’s well being at the expense of my career.

So there you have it. You now know more about me than you may have cared to know. I encourage you to take a similar step in your own life. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Personal Branding

Last week I wrote about association and how we all have opportunities to create the associations we want people to hold when they think of us. We can do more than just respond positively to “thanks” to create a strong association. What I’ll share this week I owe in great measure to a coworker and good friend, James Seay, MBA.

James has been with State Auto for many years. He took a break to serve our great country in Iraq and upon his return – because of his passion for branding – he started putting on personal branding workshops at State Auto. The sessions are high energy, fun and interactive. His goal is to get people to realize other people (customers, coworkers, the boss) have opinions about each of us and we should be doing what we can to shape those opinions as much as possible. It’s not unlike companies wanting to direct customer’s thoughts when it come to their products or services. As I shared last week, sometimes hard work and a doing a great aren’t enough because that’s what’s expected in today’s economy. To see what James has to say about personal branding click here. You can also see him on YouTube.

I went through James’ workshop and walked away with this as my personal brand, “When it needs to be Done Well!” That tag line now appears on every email I send at work. If you were to get an email from me here’s what my signature would look like:

When it needs to be Done Well!

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CMCT
Senior Sales Specialist
State Auto Insurance Companies
PO Box 182822, Columbus, OH 43218-2822
Phone: 614.917.5472 Fax: 614.719.0201

State Auto is one of only 13 companies to earn an A+ Rating by AM Best every year since 1954!

I want people to know they can count on me to do things well so every new email, every reply and every forwarded email people see, “When it needs to be Done Well!” Do you think they’ve started remembering that? I can tell you they absolutely have because some people will jokingly email, “I need something done well…” I know this; I have them thinking the way I want.

I’ve even incorporated my personal brand into my voicemail. If you called and I was unavailable you’d hear this, “Do you need something done well? Then you’ve come to the right place! Hi, this is Brian Ahearn and you’ve reached my voicemail.” One person, my college roommate from my sophomore year at Miami University, left me a very funny message after hearing my voicemail. When I called him back he said, “I have to be totally serious; if I didn’t know you and I heard that message, I’d say to myself, ‘Now that’s a guy I want to do business with!'” That exactly what I want people to think and act on.

Here’s one more proof positive story. A little over a week ago I met one of our Regional Vice Presidents for the first time. We’d had interaction through email and by phone but had not personally met. When we finally shook hands his first comments in a room full of others had to do with my personal brand. He complimented me on the voicemail, emails and most of all, my work.

Here’s a quick side benefit. When you “advertise” yourself you realize you now have a reputation to uphold and consistency kicks in. You find yourself working hard to maintain that reputation because you don’t want to let yourself or others down. If you live up to your brand then you also add to your authority because people hold you in higher regard. As the saying goes, “It’s all good!”

If you wonder why I choose “Done Well” instead of “Well Done” it’s because I didn’t want people to think I was some lousy chef. Seriously, after much soul searching, considering my likes, dislikes, passions, talents, etc., I came up with that personal brand because it tied into my personal mission statement. Next week I’ll share my thoughts about writing a personal mission statement because a personal mission statement can also help you be more influential.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Associations and Michael Jackson


The passing of Michael Jackson has everyone talking. The morning after he passed away I was running with a friend and I wondered to myself, “How long will it take before Michael Jackson is mentioned.” It was less than half a mile, just three or four minutes into the run, before he became the topic of conversation.

I have to admit, I’m not nearly as bothered by his death as many people. I think it’s because I had a hard time dealing with who he’d become. The part of me that’s interested in the psychology of sales and communication was stuck on trying to figure out what was going on inside his head more than I cared about his music.

But, as more time passed and I saw the tributes, I was amazed at just how many songs I remembered. While I never bought his albums his music was so prevalent that it could not be ignored. What I quickly came to realize is, fan or not, his music helped define a part of my life. I was in high school in the early 80s and graduated from college in 1986. I met my wife right after school and we got married in 1988.

Those are all pretty significant events in a person’s life and music, as much as anything, triggers feelings and memories about those times. Michael Jackson’s music carries many of those associations and memories for me. And that leads me to the subject of this week’s post – associations.

Good or bad, people form thoughts about you when they meet you. Over time those thoughts can change but most people leave that to chance. Oh sure, you may work hard and hope someone notices but that’s like making a good product or offering a great service and hoping someone notices enough to buy. It ain’t gonna happen!

That’s why I always encourage people to do one simple thing after they’ve done something which elicited a “Thank you” response. First of all, never, ever, ever do any of the following:

Say nothing in response.
“No problem.”
“No big deal.”
“I’d have done it for anyone.”

Those do nothing except discount your efforts. Whatever you did might not seem like a big deal to you but it might have been for the other person. What I coach people so say is one of the following:

“That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with [company name].” Or
“That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me!”

Why do this? Because, when you reinforce your great service time and time again, people start associating you with great service. The subconscious drives much more of your behavior than you realize and it’s the same for other people. The more you do something like I’ve suggested to set yourself apart, the more people will form that positive association and think of you next time they need something.

Too often when I interview people for sales positions they talk about providing great service but never talk about selling it. Great service and selling are two different things, just like a great product is different than selling. The problem is, people will take your great service for granted…if you don’t “sell” it.

So here’s where you want to end up. Let’s say you’ve reinforced your good deeds time and time again. After a while people pick up the phone and call you before they call a competitor because you’ve formed that association and they realize, consciously or unconsciously, they can rely on you. It’s easy enough, one simple sentence so why not give it a try?

As for Michael Jackson, strange or not, it’s too bad he’ll never fully know the impact he had on people and how much people loved him for that. To a lesser degree we all impact people and are impacted by people so this might be a nice time to let someone (parent, coach, friend, etc.) know how much they’ve influenced your life.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Need Something Done?

Suppose it’s Monday the 22nd and you need to get a report to your boss by next Monday, the 29th. Life’s never easy and in your case, in order to get the report done, you need some stats from a coworker in another department. This is big because your report, after being reviewed by the boss, will be incorporated into the CEO’s quarterly board report. How are you going to make your request to that coworker to ensure the best chance of getting what you need in time to fulfill your obligation?

After nearly 25 years in the working world my observation is that most people will shoot an email off to the coworker that’s basic and to the point, “Harold, I need the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Friday.” That’s completely legitimate but doomed to fail quite often. So how do we start recreating the message to ensure success?

First of all, don’t tell, ask. The principle of consistency tells us people are far more likely to do something that’s in line with something they’ve previously said or done, so a key to success is to get them to commit. It would be easy enough to get the coworker to commit by asking him for help rather than telling him. So our message changes to, “Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Friday?” Your request has gone from a statement to a question. If
Harold says “Yes” your odds of success just went up significantly. After all, people feel good about themselves when their words and deeds match so Harold will probably try a little harder to make sure he lives up to what he committed to.

But wait, Harold’s a busy guy and despite being a nice guy, he feels he’s too busy to help out. A knee jerk response might be, “Alice, I’d love to help but I’m just too busy right now” — and your heart sinks. Not so fast, there might be a way around this potential problem! A better request would have been, “Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Wednesday?”

Why is asking with a small buffer a better tactic? The rule of reciprocity tells us people feel obligated to give to us when we give first. If Harold says no to Wednesday then you’d want to come back immediately with something like this, “I understand completely Harold, it’s never been busier around here. Could you possibly get the numbers by Friday?” Studies show when you make a second request, offering a concession immediately after someone says no, they’re very likely to concede too which means you might just hear “yes” to that second request.

We’re not done just yet because there’s one more strategy you could employ, the word “because.” You’ll recall from my post several weeks ago, Because I said so!, when you use the word “because” it’s almost like an automatic trigger and people tend to comply with requests when we give them a reason. So here’s how the master persuader approaches this request:

“Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by
Wednesday because I need them for the board report?”

This approach uses “because,” which gives the best chance of hearing “Yes!” It’s also in a question format which engages consistency, upping the odds that Harold will follow through. And, should Harold say no, you have an opportunity to engage reciprocity by making a concession and falling back to Friday.

Could Harold still say no to Friday? Sure. But think about the person who regularly makes requests as I’ve just laid out vs. John Doe who always tells people what he needs with no forethought to timing or reason. Who do you think will be successful more often? Certainly the savvy communicator. That translates into more work accomplished on time and probably under budget. That’s most likely the person who’s in line for a raise or promotion because work is about results. Now you can have results because you know the keys to making successful requests.

Helping you Learn to Hear “Yes!”

When You’re Wrong, Admit it Quickly and Emphatically

“When you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” If that sounds familiar it’s becau
se it’s advice that been around since 1935, the year Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie observed the lives of successful people during his day and looked at what worked for him when he wrote that classic book. I call it a classic because so many books come and go but you can still find How to Win Friends and Influence People at any bookstore today, more than 70 years after it first came out! I highly recommend it.

The reason I chose this topic this week is twofold. First, admitting when you’re wrong shows weakness and vulnerability. Contrary to popular opinion, admitting weakness can actually help enhance your authority. The principle of authority tells us people typically look to those with superior knowledge when making decisions. If you want to be persuasive you need to establish your authority so people will listen to you. Authority is established by conveying expertise and credibility. You’re seen as more credible when you show your humanity, that you make mistakes and are honest enough to own up to them.

Dale Carnegie didn’t have social science experiments to fall back on when he told people to own up to their faults quickly but what that advice did was tap into the principle of authority. That’s why owning up to mistakes can be so powerful.

The other reason for this topic at this time is because of a mistake I recently made. I was working with my boss to send an email to some insurance agency owners. They were personalized with the name of each agency owner and agency name on each email. Without getting into technical detail, we used Microsoft Word and the “track changes” feature was left on. Every email went out with the correct name…and the incorrect name crossed out right next to it! Needless to say, as the one with the “technical expertise” on the project I was shocked. My boss was none too happy either since the email went out under his name.

We did the only thing we could; we got a note of apology out immediately. The email that followed said we were trying to add a personal touch to the original email and then acknowledge our mistake. While there were a few snippy replies to our original email with the error, we were flooded with replies to the second email…all positive!

I really believe in this day and age, when so many prominent people fail to simply admit their mistakes, these agents found it refreshing that someone finally admitted to a blunder. One agent told my boss he ought to run for public office.

Think about this for a moment; what if Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) had admitted to Katie Couric during that now famous interview that he indeed had taken steroids? I believe baseball fans
would have said, “Finally, someone who doesn’t have to get caught, go before Congress or have a scandal to force the truth.” Had he done that, I believe A-Rod would have been put on a pedestal and admired as an example of how to handle yourself once you’ve blown it and you know you have. An admission followed up by hard work in an effort to restore his name would not have left him as tainted as he is today.

I’m not saying you can always come up smelling like roses but you probably are far better off than waiting to get caught. On a personal note I’ve seen this to be the case on many occasions. I remember one occassion in particular where I could have treated a store Wal-Mart manager better than I did. While I never said or did anything I was ashamed of, I let my anger at the situation, which was out of his control, show and I’m sure it made for a bad evening for him.

I called him a couple of days later and apologized for how I acted. His first response was, “You didn’t act bad compared to other customers.” I told him that may be true but it still wasn’t the way I know I should have acted. His response was great, “You just made my day. No, you made my week. If you ever need anything you just ask for me by name.”

I could have blown that off but then his day, his week, would not have been as bright. It also made my day and taught me a valuable lesson. That lesson has been passed on to my daughter (she was with me when I got mad), to many people I’ve taught and now it’s been passed on to you. So, next time you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically!

Teaching You to Hear “Yes!”

Coming to Terms

I thought it would be good time to review some influence and persuasion terms with you. A few of these you’ve seen in some past blogs and others you will certainly see in future posts.

Understanding and ethically applying these psychological principles doesn’t guarantee everybody will do what you want. After all, they don’t represent some kind of magic wand. However, I can say with certainty; if you employee these more strategically and regularly you will hear more people say “Yes!” to your requests.

As you read through these you might think, “That doesn’t apply to me” or “I don’t fall for that.” That assessment may be true quite often but certainly not all the time. To get you to critically think it through I’ve added a question after each principle to give you cause to pause and think. While you may have seen right through some manipulative person’s attempts to persuade you, I’m willing to bet there are other times where you were influenced into action without even knowing it.

Reciprocity – Some might describe reciprocity as the “good old give and take principle” or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This principle describes the internal pressure we all feel to return the favor. At its most extreme it might be the person trying to think of a way to repay someone who saved their life. For most of us it’s as simple as picking up the tab at a restaurant because our friend got it last time. Have you ever sent someone a Christmas card because they sent you one first? If so, it’s because of reciprocity.

Liking – In business there’s a saying, “People like to do business with people they like.” Jeffrey
Gitomer, sales trainer and author, likes to say, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” We like to be around people we like and they naturally have more influence on us than those we don’t know or don’t like. In turn, the more likable we are the more persuasive we’ll be. Have you ever bought something because a good friend recommended the product or service?

Consensus – A farmer would say we’re like cattle because we like to “mooove” with the crowd. When we see lots of people taking action, or people just like us, quite often that’s enough to get us to go along with the crowd. You’ll also hear consensus referred to as “social proof.” Be honest now; have you ever stood up during a standing ovation when truthfully, you didn’t think the performance deserved it? If so, it’s because you were moved along by the actions of others.

Authority – We don’t have enough time to weigh all the decisions that come our way so quite often we defer to people we view as authorities, or experts. In fact we do so with such regularity that studies show our brain activity actually slows down when experts tell us what to do! In other words, critical reasoning can go right out the door! Experts need not be actual people either. Have you bought something, perhaps a car or major appliance, primarily because Consumer Reports rated the vehicle high?

Consistency – We all feel an internal pressure to live up to our promises. We feel good about ourselves when our words and deeds match, when we’ve done what we said we would. Have you ever found yourself doing something, not because you really wanted to (i.e., help someone move), but because you gave your word?

Scarcity – When we sense something is becoming less available or diminishing in some way, there’s something in us that all of a sudden wants the thing even more. When was the last time you rushed out to the store because you suddenly remembered, “Sale Ends Sunday!”? If that was you it’s because you were motivated by the potential loss of an opportunity.

Compare and Contrast – Did you know two things can appear more different than they really are depending on how they are presented? Considered for a moment how that might impact your decision making. For example, you go to the store to buy something and you’re not sure what that item might cost. When you arrive you see a sign that states, “Normally $150, now only $99!” By comparison $99 appears to be a very good deal. I’ve hear people justify purchases like that because “it was too good a deal to pass up.”

So there you have it, the layman’s overview of several psychological principles than affect us all to one degree or another every day. Most of the time these principles impact us in such subtle ways that we’re not aware of it and yet they’re major factors in our decision making. As we continue our journey together I think your eyes will be opened to how politicians, marketers, salesmen and so many others try to persuade you to do what they want.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

What Chevy Chase Didn’t Do Before Vacation

I’m sure many of you reading this remember the classic movie Vacation where Chevy Chase played the well meaning but inept family man, Clark Griswold. This week I’m going to share a principle of influence with you then give you a great idea, something Clark Griswold probably didn’t do but you can.

Did you know most people are more motivated by what they stand to lose as opposed to what they might gain? That’s right, people presented with the same opportunity will take you up on that opportunity more often when it’s presented in terms of what they might lose rather than what they stand to gain or save. For example, talking about the money someone might save using your product will not be as big a motivator to buy the product as it would be if you told them how much money they’ll lose if they don’t buy it. “Mr. Customer, if you install our thermal sealed windows you’ll save $300 on your electric bill over the next year,” will not sell as many windows as, “Mr. Customer, if you don’t use our thermal sealed windows you’ll end up paying $300 more on your electric bill over the next year.” It’s really the same thing just stated in a different way.

This all goes back to a psychological principle of persuasion known as scarcity. We are motivated to action when we see something that’s rare or when we believe something will suddenly become less available. It creates in us a greater desire for the thing that’s perceived to be scarce. If you doubt that just think about how much we take people for granted until we lose them or fear we might lose them.

Okay, so perhaps you’re wondering, “How does scarcity tie into Vacation and Clark Griswold?” As I write this we’ve unofficially entered summer because we’re into the first week of June. For those with families it means kids will soon be out of school and summer vacations are just around the corner. That also means many of you will leave work for a week or two in the coming months. You can tap into the scarcity principle to make your vacation a little more enjoyable, provide great customer service and possibly land (or prevent losing) some accounts.

In the past, before you’ve left for vacation, have you ever contacted all of your customers a week in advance to let them know you’d be gone? If you haven’t don’t feel bad because I’m willing to bet 99.9% of people don’t do that even though email and customer lists make it very easy to do. Most people simply tell co-workers they’ll be gone, change their voicemail and turn on the out-of-office message. Think for a moment about what would happen if you took the extra time to contact your customers to let them know a week in advance that you’ll be gone and when they can expect you back.

Doing this allows you to tap into scarcity because I guarantee customers will call or email you very quickly saying something like, “Thanks for letting me know you’d be gone because I really need to talk with you about…”

You may not have ever considered this before but you are a scarce resource because many people depend on you. If those people know you won’t be around much longer that simple fact will change their behavior just like your behavior is changed when you hear or read, “Sale Ends Sunday” or “Only While Supplies Last!”


With those calls and emails come your opportunities to land new business and possibly prevent losing some. After all, if a customer needs you they might not want to talk with someone else in your absence. To them that could be the right time to give the other guy, the one who’s begged for their business, a chance. But you can prevent that from happening!


And here’s another cool thing. When those people thank you, it’s your chance to strengthen your personal brand so don’t blow them off with something stupid like, “No problem” or “I’d have done it for anyone.” Both of those statements devalue what you’ve just done for them.


A better response would be, “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me. Can I ask you a quick question? Don’t your other suppliers (reps, agents, etc.) let you k
now in advance when they’ll be gone and when they’ll be back?” The answer to that will be, “No, they don’t.” Bingo, you’ve not bad mouthed the competition but you’ve set yourself apart by comparing what you do to what your competitors don’t do.


Maybe if Clark Griswold had done this he would have been a little farther up the food chain at work and could have afforded some nicer vacations!


Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

“Because I said so!” Mom (or Dad)

You may not be aware of how your mom and dad conditioned you to simply comply with other people’s requests but I’m here to tell you they did. Unknowingly, all mom and dad did was use a single word, the same word their parents probably used on them, and you were set up to be more compliant. What word am I talking about? “Because!”

While “because” makes you “fall in line,” it can actually help you get to the front of the line. A behavioral scientist named Ellen Langer conducted a study in which people standing in line at a copier machine were approached by a stranger who asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Nearly two out of three people (60%) generously allowed the person to go in front of them. Later the person conducting the experiment approached the copier line and asked unsuspecting people, “May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” Hearing she was in a rush, nearly everyone, 94%, told the experimenter she could get in front of them.

Of course if someone is in a rush we might be more generous but the question is this – was it due to being “in a rush” or could it have been something else that caused those people to say “Yes”? Back at it one more time the experimenter asked, “May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” You’d think people might have denied that request saying, or at least thinking, “We’re all in line to make copies so wait your turn like everybody else!” After all, her was reason irrelevant…and still, 93% of the people let her go ahead! There was virtually no difference in response between a valid and bogus reason when “because” was used.

The social psychologists think we don’t pay attention the reason given because we are so conditioned by the word “because” that we hardly pay attention what comes next. Again, think about your parents when you questioned them about why you had to do something. I’ll bet quite often you heard (and might say to your kids), “Because I said so!”

So how does this understanding impact you? Two ways come to mind. First, it can help you protect yourself. Don’t mindlessly comply with a request without giving thought to the reason you’re being asked to do something. If you don’t you may just find yourself doing something you wished you would not have done.

The second way you can use “because” is to be more persuasive. When my daughter Abigail was younger she used to ask me (she’s a teenager now and doesn’t seem to ask as much any more) what I did at work. I’d share things I thought she’d find interesting and things I felt would really help her some day. Once during a conversation I shared the copier study and told her, “Abigail, whenever you ask someone to do something, always say ‘because’ and give them a reason. If you do that more people will say ‘Yes’ to you.”

Here’s the really cool thing. Some time ago, long after that conversation, Abigail and I were w
atching American Idol and the latest American Idol CD was about to hit stores. Ryan Seacrest was promoting the CD outside a music store where there was a long line. Smart producers were using consensus to get you to believe everyone wanted to buy the new Idol CD. As Ryan would talk about the CD he would try to make his way into the line but each time people motioned him farther back. Eventually he was at the very end of the line with a disappointed look on his face. Out of nowhere Abigail blurts out, “He should have said ‘because.’” I looked surprised and replied, “What?” She said, “Dad, don’t you remember the copier story?”

Wow! I have no clue why some stories stick with kids and other stories don’t but I was sure glad that one stuck because it’s a life skill that will serve her well. It will serve you well too, if you look for ways to use your new understanding of “because.” You know how I know, because the science tells me so…and you can believe that reason!

To let me know what you thought of this week’s posting click on the comments link below and share your thoughts.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

The World’s Most Cited Living Social Psychologist

In several past blogs I’ve mentioned the name Dr. Robert Cialdini. I thought it would be helpful to let you know more about him for several reasons. First, Dr. Cialdini’s work is the basis for most of what I have shared and will continue to share in this blog.

Obviously having a doctorate gives him lots of credibility but I thought you should know more because he’s the Tiger Woods of his field. He is billed as the world’s most frequently cited living social psychologist.

I met Dr. Cialdini in the summer of 2004 when he was a guest speaker at State Auto. His presentations to our agents on the ethical use of influence were some of the best received ever. Later that year I attended his two-day Principles of Persuasion workshop. His work in the area of ethical influence became the basis for much of the sales training I have conducted since that time.

In January 2008 I had the privilege of spending a week with Dr. Cialdini, Dr. Gregory Neidert and other members of the Influence at Work staff when I earned my CMCT (Cialdini Method Certified Trainer) designation. That week-long training, which concluded with a rather rigorous test (he is a professor after all!), allowed me to earn my CMCT designation. Currently there are only about two dozen active CMCTs world-wide. That certification allows me to conduct Dr. Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion workshop, which I’ve been doing the past year and a half with State Auto managers and supervisors.

So what’s the big deal about Dr. Cialdini compared to other social psychologists? As I alluded to earlier, he’s recognized as the undisputed leader in his field. If you happened to have read the Time Magazine article “How Obama is Using the Science of Change” you might recall the opening paragraph mentioning “a world-famous team of scientists, psychologists and economists.” The first person quoted in the next paragraph was Dr. Cialdini, the most famous of the world-famous team!
His book Influence: Science and Practice, now on its 5th edition, has sold more than million copies. And, the book recently received an incredible endorsement when it was named the best marketing book of all time in a book entitled The 100 Best Business Books of All-Time. Wow!
Dr. Cialdini recently co-authored Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive along with Dr. Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin. Yes focuses on real world, every day things you can do to be more persuasive. I highly recommend the book.
What I love about teaching ethical influence is its versatility. By that I mean, when you learn about persuasion and adjust your communication style accordingly it will help you be more successful in your career, you’ll negotiate better deals when you’re the customer, and it can even help you be a better spouse or parent. Bottom line, it can help you be more effective and successful in all your relationships.
If you have any doubt about the impact of social psychology and influence then consider this recent example. My daughter Abigail and I were at the Polaris Mall on Saturday and we noticed what looked like a book signing in front of Waldenbooks. We slowed down long enough to see the name of the book which was The Christian Athlete. I told Abigail I didn’t recognize the man behind the counter, who I assumed was the author. A man at the end of the line heard me said, “I’m not sure what it is but it must be good because there’s a line.”
That man’s comment tracks right along with one of Dr. Cialdini’s six principles of influence – consensus. I’ve mentioned consensus (also referred to as “social proof“) before – it’s the psychological principle which tells us people look to others for clues on how they should act. For the man at the end of the line, the simple fact that many people were in line meant something good awaited him so he joined the crowd. If you take a look at last week’s posting, “Make Your Next Event the One Everybody Attends,” you’ll see how consensus can help, or hurt, your efforts when it comes to promoting a product or gathering.


Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Make Your Next Event the One Everybody Attends

As a kid I remember my mom saying things come in threes. I don’t know if there’s any scientific validity to that but it always seemed like famous people died in sets of three. Right or wrong, superstition or coincidence, what my mom said stuck with me. So, when I recently noticed three similar things occurring in a relatively short period of time I thought I should write about it in this week’s blog.

What I’m going to share might just help your next event be a little more successful, and a little better attended, because of the power of persuasion.

A good friend asked me to review an invitation she was getting ready to send for an upcoming webinar. Part of the invitation read as follows:

“Registration limited to only 20 organizational teams, and 4 teams have already signed up.”

Mentioning the limited seating was good use of the principle of scarcity because people are motivated to act when things they want appear to be limited, rare or dwindling. The fact that only 20 teams would get to participate should motivate people to sign up rather quickly so they won’t miss out on what could be a great learning opportunity.

However, mentioning only four teams had signed up was working against my friend because it was not a motivator to sign up. In fact, it was a demotivator because it goes counter to another principle of influence known as consensus.
Consensus is the name for the psychological principle that tells us people look to others when deciding what actions to take, especially when they’re not quite sure what to do. With kids we call it “peer pressure” but that same psychological pressure is at work on us as adults, too. If we see many people, or people similar to ourselves, doing something, we tend believe it’s probably the right thing to do and quite often we go along with the crowd. If you don’t believe that then ask yourself why you stood up last time there was a standing ovation for some event that really, you didn’t particularly care for.
Consensus can help motivate people to action but it can also work in reverse. If we don’t see many people doing something then we might not be inclined to do it either. For example, talking about what a shame it is that so many people don’t vote only legitimizes not voting in the minds of many people. As far as my friend’s invitation, although four registered teams before the official invitation went out was a good thing, my advice was to change the wording, or remove it altogether, because people receiving the invitation might see that as a lack of participation and decide not to sign up.
At the beginning of this week’s posting I said three things came to my attention so here are the other two. These were also invitations to public events but they differed slightly from the previous example. When I went to sign up for these events there was a section at the bottom of each registration page with a list of attendees. Because I went to the registration sites as soon as I got the email invitations I noticed there were no attendees listed on either Web page. Falling back on my understanding of consensus I knew that was not going to motivate anyone to sign up and could actually be a deterrent.
As I’ve been writing this I just saw another invitation, this for a networking event, and 53 were signed up to attend and another 21 were interested. Those numbers will most likely entice others to join the crowd.
Consider this for just a moment; what would you think if you went to register for some event you thought was going to be a big deal but only saw a couple of people on the guest list? You might not feel the event will be worth your time. So here’s my suggestion; if you use Web sites that allow you to show people who’ve registered, don’t show the list until some critical mass is achieved. Otherwise it will probably work against you. Doing this might just make your next event the one everybody wants to attend!
I welcome your feedback so click on the comments link below and let me know what you thought of this week’s article.
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.