Title Image


Great Ideas Don’t Persuade

A great offer coupled with a well-reasoned presentation will get your audience engaged and your customers lining up, right? Yeah, not so much.

The world’s most creative and important products, inventions, and solutions were nothing more than ideas until someone persuaded someone else to do something. Great persuaders bring ideas to life. Persuaders make things happen.

The greatest historical achievements ever created are the results of persuasion. The empire builders, the Caesars and Napoleons, won by persuading others to follow. Cities and civilizations were built with persuasion. Columbus persuaded Queen Isabella that he could reach the East, India, by sailing west; then persuaded her to finance his ships.READ MORE

Healthcare Sales: Diagnosing Doctors’ Decisions

If patient behavior affects diagnosis, what does that mean for the behavior of the healthcare sales rep?

It’s perfectly understandable to assume that those in professions characterized by scholarship, research, and data analysis would be more influenced by the workings of the pre-frontal cortex, the reason and logic area of the brain, than by the emotional centers located in the limbic system. Understandable, but wrong.

When it comes to decision-making, physicians are just as subject to the overwhelming power of the emotional brain as are their non-STEM neighbors. Even, according to two separate studies published recently in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, on decisions related to one of their core scientific functions, the diagnosing of patients.  “Most reps demand a level of cognitive function that physicians have neither the time, energy, nor inclination to invest.”

In the first study, researchers found that even when the medical issues were identical, the doctors provided less accurate diagnoses when faced with disruptive patients (e.g., demanding or aggressive). “And the effects weren’t small,” writes  Julia Belluz in her article on the studies in Vox. “When the patients’ medical problems were complex, the doctors made 42 percent more mistakes diagnosing difficult patients compared with more agreeable ones.”

In the second study, diagnostic accuracy was 20 percent lower for the annoying patients, even though time spent on diagnosis was the same. The doctors also tended to recall more about the behaviors of difficult patients, forgetting their clinical histories.

According to Belluz:

The researchers suspected physicians' mental resources are so taxed from thinking about how to deal with tricky patients that their ability to process medical information becomes impaired. ``If resource depletion affects simpler, everyday problems,`` they wrote, ``it is not surprising that these highly complex cognitive processes are impaired if a substantial proportion of mental resources is seized by the confrontation with emotional experiences triggered by patients’ troublesome behaviors.

These findings have important implications for healthcare sales reps.

We know from neuroscience that data-based decision analysis of any kind is a “highly complex cognitive process” requiring approximately 300% more calories than “mental cruising,” and that the brain waves emitted during such activity are precisely the same as those produced by plunging our hand in a bucket of ice water. Heavy analysis hurts; it’s not our natural inclination, and it’s easy to derail.

And yet, most healthcare reps, in a well-intentioned effort to appeal to their customers’ clinical interests, inadvertently demand a level of cognitive function that physicians have neither the time, energy, nor inclination to invest.

Reps who know how to trigger these natural responses sidestep the heavy lifting of logical analysis and clear a path to yes.

In these studies, researchers’ speculation of “taxed mental resources” as the cause of debilitated diagnoses is likely correct, but there’s a little more to it than that. It’s not just that more mental resources allocated to managing patient emotions are inhibiting cognitive function, but that the physician’s emotional brain (the limbic system), as the default taskmaster of the logical brain (the pre-frontal cortex), is more easily overcoming their cognitive function when engaged by negative emotional factors.

Here’s the critical insight for the sales rep: The same is true in reverse. A positive emotional engagement will align with what the brain is already inclined to do just as effectively as a negative one. Reps who know how to trigger these natural responses not only sidestep the heavy lifting of logical analysis, they clear a path to “yes” rather than put up the cognitive barriers for “no.”

The evidence that a doctor’s diagnosis is influenced by emotional factors during examination may be bad news for the misbehaving patient, but it’s good news for the skillful sales rep.



Persuasive Marketing: A Fully Triggered Newsletter

The proper lineup of multiple, well-crafted triggers can coalesce to become an almost irresistible pitch when condensed into an email, a web page, a sales sheet or, in this case, a newsletter.

Kim Castleberry hit my radar quite by accident, as I was searching reviews for learning management platforms. A video review of Kajabi she posted caught my attention. The woman I saw was engaging, authentic, knowledgable and – best of all – she obviously understood her customer. Kim didn’t just review the various aspects of this technology tool based on generic abstractions like feature sets or ease-of-use, she related her analysis quite specifically to what would likely be important to her particular customers. I liked and respected her immediately, and sought out her website where I promptly signed up for her newsletter.

The first delivery I received was a veritable master class in persuasive email newsletter writing.

Whether she does so from natural instinct, years of trial-and-error, or by having studied persuasion techniques and best practices, this lady knows her emotional triggers and uses them with great ease and skill. I know when I’ve come across someone who is particularly adept at this when I find myself (or, more accurately, when my brain finds itself) responding to a Trigger activation even when I understand explicitly not only that it is, in fact, a Trigger, but even which Trigger it is.

Fact is: Triggers work even when you know they’re being used!

Following is Kim’s email newsletter. Can you identify the persuasion triggers? Hover over the hotspot icons to see which triggers are being used, along with descriptions of Kim’s persuasive expertise.


Chief Creator of Awesomeness? I am thoroughly persuaded!


Trigger Basics: How to Engage the Emotional Brain

The most successful people in the world are those who can get things done with and through others. By applying new scientific breakthroughs, it’s easier than ever to get “Yes!” decisions and actions.

Getting others to act on our ideas, proposals, solutions and offers is what business is all about. Even the most solitary professions eventually have to rely on engagement and support from others if success in the wider world is to be achieved. Marketers, salespeople, and entrepreneurs rely even more on the ability to get attention, engagement, and decision. If we hope to become more successful at influencing others’ decisions, it stands to reason that we might start with a deeper understanding of the human decision process in the first place. Easiest place to start? How about a brief look at our own decisions…

Life’s Challenges

Let’s face it, life is a challenge. But it would be worse – much worse – if it weren’t for the role the emotional brain plays in making our lives less chaotic.

Consider this: Every day is an avalanche of decisions. Get out of bed now or snooze? What to wear? What for breakfast – stick to the diet or enjoy? Which route to work? Stop for gas now or on the way home? Listen to the news or some new music? Which music? At work it’s the same. Get that report out first or answer the emails and voice mail? Take a call or let voice mail pick up? What are the boss’s priorities? What are yours? Whose do you execute first?

All day long, requests and decisions drive activities. The need to decide is incessant; the issues never stop, never let up.

Dealing with this many decisions sounds difficult. It could be. If we had to use logic, reason, and cognitive thinking – if we had to rationally evaluate and think through each decision – we’d be trapped, locked in place, unable to move in any direction as we analyze, evaluate, contemplate, measure, and critique the options. We’d wind up dazed and immobile.

Nature’s Triggers to the Rescue

Fortunately, nature – by way of our brain’s limbic system – has provided us with a highly effective, simple solution to easily get through so many decision-making moments. This system resides in the most primal area of the brain, and is activated by our own personal databank of internal “triggers.”

The take-away summary from recent brain research focused on this “emotional center” is this:

We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.

What is a trigger? What is this powerful internal navigation tool that initiates quicker, easier decisions? A trigger is an emotion-based, “gut-feeling” shortcut that helps us avoid the pain of rational thinking, of laborious cognitive mental analysis. We are pre-programmed to comply with offers, opportunities, and requests when those request activate the appropriate triggers.

The secret for persuasion success is to determine which triggers can be activated for each situation. The odd irony of this need for quick, easy, emotion-based decisions is that the more sophisticated and complex our lives get, the more information we have, the more we need and rely on simple ways to help us make those decisions. The smart entrepreneur, executive, or sales rep understands this need and communicates accordingly.

The exciting science of live brain imaging reveals that one emotion-based brain component, the amygdala, is the first to receive most outside stimuli – requests for decisions. The amygdala has two choices. It can make an immediate emotion based decision tapping into the life long database we build. Or, if no prior emotion is triggered it can send the request to the pre-frontal cortex for lengthy, rational, time consuming cognitive evaluation. Here’s a newly discovered scientific fact: Reason and logic do not persuade. They might back up an emotional decision, but they do not heavily influence the decision.

To get what you want through others you must activate their emotional triggers.

How Exactly Do You Activate an Emotional Trigger?

Triggers are activated when communication engages the emotional brain faster, easier, or more strongly than it does the analytical brain. Triggers remain dormant when communication gets “stuck” in the pre-frontal cortex, in the “brain pain” of analysis. Persuasive communication makes a beeline for the limbic system, where the amygdala can drive perceptions and decisions with such irresistible force as to be completely oblivious to facts or evidence.

Of course, it’s ideal if facts and evidence also support your “triggerized,” persuasive messaging. But if all you have is facts and evidence alone, your likelihood of being persuasive will be extremely small.

Although persuasive communication can function in every mode or dimension of message transfer – across all five senses and through the elements of every media channel (e.g. words, symbols, pictures, audio, etc.) – a lot of persuasion can be accomplished through essentially two aspects of written or verbal communication: what we say and how we say it. A simple way to think about this is activating triggers by either topic  (the content of our communication) or tactic (the style of our communication or the words we choose).

Understanding what the triggers are and why they work is like getting the essential strategic guidelines for persuasive communication. But then it takes some practice to fill in all the tactical details to really make it work. Here’s a classic example of a tactical (versus topical) persuasive communication solution, a brief video we often use in our learning programs as an especially compelling example of “words matter” when it comes to persuasion: