The success of your business depends on how well you persuade. Sharing his mastery on the art of persuasion is Mr. Persuasion himself, Jeff Tippett. As the founder of the award-winning PR firm, Targeted Persuasion, Jeff gives great insights on what it takes to successfully do a pitch, whether you are a new client, someone who wants to get hired, or looking for funding. He talks about what captures people’s attention and, at the same time, how to be consistent with your brand and messaging. Believing that everyone has this superpower to persuade, he suggests ways on how people can tap into that. Jeff also reveals the steps to building trust, crafting a call to action, and storytelling.
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Mr. Persuasion, Jeff Tippett
I have Jeff Tippett, who is known to many as Mr. Persuasion. He’s a subject matter expert on persuasive communications. He speaks to international audiences through keynotes and seminars and helps everybody become more effective and he has some secret tools to share. His book is called Unleashing Your Superpower: Why Persuasive Communication is the Only Force You Will Ever Need. His bold statement is that we all live or die based on our ability to persuade. He founded Targeted Persuasion, an award-winning PR firm and has worked with big brands like Airbnb and League of Women Voters. He’s an expert on how to get your heart and soul into an emotional story. Jeff, welcome.
Thanks for having me on. I’m excited for us to talk a little bit.
Tell me a little bit about your own story of origin. I know in your book, Unleashing Your Superpower, you have that. I’d like to go back to your high school days.
My first experience as a kid was founding what I thought was a company at the time that I called Snoopy’s Yard Club. At Snoopy’s Yard Club, I would go out and I would knock on doors. In the summertime, I would get gigs mowing grass. In the fall, I would get gigs raking leaves and pine straw. I would hire my friends to come and fulfill those contracts for me so I could go on to then securing the next job. Being an entrepreneur is in my DNA. I grew up this way. It’s who I am. I’m excited that we can talk especially with entrepreneurs to help them better themselves when it comes to persuasion and moving their audience.
You not only sold the job but then you hired other people to do the job. In your book, you talk about the importance of capturing people’s attention. What is the biggest mistake you see people make when they open a pitch, whether it’s to get a new client or to get hired or to get funding for their startup?
The mistake that people often make in capturing their attention is crafting that message. Understanding what it is they’re trying to say to people. We have so much content all over the place and we haven’t figured out how to narrow that content down. Make that content user-facing, make it user-friendly, and speak to the needs of the other person within that content. Once we have this great content out there, it is extremely important to capture people’s attention early especially in today’s world. We have many things that are bombarding us and are out there trying to capture our attention. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it this way, “Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.” What can we do to be out there to capture people’s attention, but at the same time being extremely consistent with our brand and the look and the feel that we put out there for ourselves?Trust is the foundation to success. Click To Tweet
I made a huge mistake in this at one point and here’s what I did wrong. I have a congenial type personality. I love to affirm people. I love to encourage people that match who I am. I love to see people succeed. However, when I look especially on social media and I see people make these little snarky posts and it seems to capture so much attention, they all of a sudden have 500 likes on their posts. I have to admit. I had this little jealousy, a little envy here of what other people were doing to capture attention. I tried it and I wrote a blog post. I sent it out on email, put it out on social media and it created a storm fire of negativity. The subject matter here was, “Your Social Media Sucks, But You Know That.” What I was trying to do here was to give people some great tips of what they could do to capture attention on social media and make things stand out. People took it personally because they know how much I care for people. They thought I had gone to look at their social media and I was upset. I spent days doing damage control over my brand because I tried to capture attention but I didn’t do it incongruity with my brand standards.
That’s a great distinction that it’s not just any attention you want to capture. You want to capture the right attention.
We all have to go through the phase of know, like and trust us. We’re dealing with new clients, pitches, whatever that looks like. We have to go through those phases and sometimes we’ve tried to push the envelope a little bit too much to gain more attention and it can backfire on us as it did for me.
One of the things you are an expert on is helping people unleash their superpower. You talk about that in your book and you say that everyone has this superpower which is to be able to persuade people. Can you tell us what you suggest people do to try and tap into that?
My bold statement in the book is that I believe that we all live or die based on our ability to persuade. That doesn’t matter if we’re a CEO moving a company forward, if we’re in sales, if we’re a sales manager, if we’re an entrepreneur. Maybe we’re pitching for funding. Maybe we’re trying to attract the right type of talent to help our company move forward. Maybe it’s attracting the right type of clients, the customers that we’re looking for. What I help people do is I go through the early stage of messaging, “How do you craft the message?” I talk about the audience and the importance of making that connection with the audience. We’re going to talk through how we position and how we structure a call to action. I talk a little bit too about trust and the importance of trust and building trust with our audience as well. I like to walk through all of those phases with people to help them understand and give them their cape of superpower to persuade others.
Let’s double-click on trust. Everybody knows it’s important to have it and get it. What shortcuts or ideas or must-have on a checklist do you come up with to give people some instant takeaways from the book, as well as your keynote and seminars on how to be better at building trust faster?In sales, it's not just any attention you want to capture. You want to capture the right attention. Click To Tweet
When I was finishing up my book, I got a note back from my editor. My editor said, “Jeff, you’ve talked about trust in every single chapter of your book. You haven’t hit this head-on, expounded and gone deep into the topic of trust. Is trust important to you? Is trust important to your message?” It was like a ton of bricks hitting me, “I really haven’t done this,” and here’s the point. Trust is the foundation. Without trust, every other chapter of my book you might as well shred it and put it into recycling. It’s of no value whatsoever. You can have the best message in the world. You can capture people’s attention. You can find ways to make your message stick. You can do all of those things, but if you don’t have the trust of your audience it’s not going to matter and you’re not going to go anywhere. In the book, I walked through ten tips that users can use to help them get trust with their audience. The first one is being consistent. That’s all areas of our life. Brand messaging, our imagery, our response, everything we do we have to create this consistency.
Sometimes especially with our online, we’re all over the place. People don’t even understand who we are. They don’t understand what they’re doing. How can they trust that? Be consistent day in, day out in every single aspect of our business. The second one is to deliver as promised. If we say that we’re going to get a proposal out by 5:00 PM on Friday, it needs to be there by 4:00 PM on Friday. People are watching every small move that we make, making sure that whatever we say that we exceed expectation. That we deliver as promised. This is one that we often don’t think about, but being open and being authentic with our audience. Sometimes we feel we have to have this fake facade of who we are and create this impression. We can gain more trust from our audience if we are open and we are authentic with them. When I’m on stage, people love to hear about my failures, which is great. I have many of those failures. I can be open about them. The fourth one is show confidence. If you believe that your product is the right solution, is a great solution, have confidence in your message. Have confidence in what it is that you’re doing. Be truthful with people.
Number six is to make people feel safe in our presence. That makes them feel safe with the things that we’re doing with them. If they’re on our website, make them feel safe. All aspects of interaction with people, making them feel safe. Number seven, saying no sometimes especially entrepreneurs. We want a break in the money or saying, “Yes.” Sometimes telling people no and say, “No, I’m not a good fit for what you’re doing here. However, let me tell you about my friend X or my friend, Mary, or my friend, John. That person would be perfect.” We can gain trust for them. When things do align in the future, they’re more likely to come back to us if we’ve been honest and we’ve said, “No, we’re not the right fit. No, this isn’t the right solution for you.” Being open to feedback, listening to what our audience has to say, and bringing value to what they’re saying to us. Making time for people sometimes in our busy schedule, we’re all over the place and we’re making things happen. We’re clicking but we forget the people portion of this. Making sure we make time for people. The last one that I talk about is being reliable in our relationships.
Talk a little bit about how you define reliability? The second one I sum up is integrity, doing what you say you’re going to do. You meet a deadline. Is that kissing cousins to reliability or is there a distinction between reliability and integrity for you?
Reliability for us is similar to some of these other aspects there, but what sets us apart is making sure that in whatever it is that what we’re agreeing to with our audience. Whether it’s through an email response or whatever it is. That without being reliable, the trust isn’t going to be there for our audience. Making sure that we’re following through, that we are the expert in this space, that they can count on us and they’re not questioning at any point, “Is Jeff going to show up? Is Jeff going to be on stage on time? Is Jeff going to return my email on time?” That reliability is there in every aspect.
The way to build that is through number one, the consistency. I love how there’s a thread that one of these characteristics supports the other, which is the overall vibe of at the end of the day, people trust you. I personally resonate with feeling safe and the biggest compliment I can ever give someone or get is that I feel safe enough to be myself in your presence. I can take down the mask, be open, and authentic. If you do that first, then when you’re giving your keynotes and you are open and authentic, that makes the audience feel like, “I can trust this guy. He’s not pretending like he never makes a mistake and therefore I can’t relate to him.” That’s a key takeaway for everybody in our audience.Without your audience’s trust, a good messaging and marketing is not going anywhere. Click To Tweet
The foundation here is trust and we have to gain the trust of other people. Everything else is important. It all matters. This is the real foundation. We don’t even understand why, but if we were to get feedback from our audience, maybe they do not trust us for one reason or another.
I love saying no sometimes and how I don’t think I’ve heard that concept before. The clearer you are on what your product or service, who it’s for and who it’s not for, the better people can self-identify with, “He’s not trying to be all things to all people,” or “The brand isn’t trying to be all things to all people.” This willingness to say no is a huge differentiator if people are saying, “Suddenly, your trust factor in my book went up ten notches because you said, ‘No, I don’t do that. I’m not a specialist in blockchain or whatever it is. I know tech but not blockchain tech. I know sales but if you want marketing expertise, then that probably should be Jeff and not me,’” or whatever it would be. I always say that the riches are in the niches. Your niche is so clear that it’s persuasive communication. That could be for salespeople, but it’s a much broader use there because you’re doing deep dives in people’s culture from the work you’re doing. For example, with hospitals where everyone who’s not a salesperson somehow still needs to be working on customer satisfaction, which is different skillsets than selling skills. Correct?
Absolutely. When my editor first read this section on saying no, I got a little pushback from my editor and he was like, “Jeff, your whole book is about getting people to say yes. Does this fit in? Are you sure this fits because you’re giving them an out in this?” I was like, “Absolutely not about giving them an out and absolutely yes this is staying in.” This is extremely important. If someone comes to us and we know it’s not in our niche area, we know it’s not what we do too well, but we take it because we want the money, or we think we need it. We don’t perform well because it’s not what we do. We’re going to lose their trust versus handing this to someone else and saying, “No, I’m not good at crafting an exact pitch. I need to hand you over to my friend, John, because that’s his specialty,” and great. John makes the money. John gets the contract. They do the work there, but then that person will remember me and they’ll trust me because I didn’t lead them astray.
This plays out into all areas of our lives. I’m thrilled to hear you say this about the message and the audience because that was my intent. I want to be a specialist. I am a specialist. I want to continue pushing that in persuasive communications. Does it play out in multiple fields? Absolutely. As an entrepreneur, does it play out? Yes. For healthcare professionals? I do a lot of work for healthcare professionals. Does it matter? Yes, because they have to work toward compliance. Sometimes they struggle a little bit in helping patients understand why this should be taken to the next step with them and what that looks like, but also satisfaction. Hospitals are graded by patients. Even now, a single tweet at times can create multiple havocs for us. It can span to go into the media. It can go all over the place if we haven’t had that customer satisfaction. Persuasion is around that as well.
One of your niches is how to craft a call to action that users can’t resist. Is this call to action something that’s on a website? Is it something a salesperson’s saying? Bring that to life for us.
The answer is yes. That’s what’s beautiful about this book. You could take the topics that are here and you can apply them to an email that you’re going to send. You can apply them to a face to face conversation with a person. You can apply them to a landing page that you’re creating. You could apply this to a regular website that’s part of your product. These tools apply across multiple platforms. They’re not media-specific. You can understand these tools and play them across a variety. Let’s talk a little bit about a call to action. I put thirteen tips in here to help people understand how to craft a call to action that users can’t resist. The first one is to make your ask clear. How many times have you read an email or left a meeting? You walked out scratching your head saying, “What exactly do they want me to do next?” Hang up the phone and like, “Am I supposed to do something?” What’s happening next in this whole thing? Making sure that our ask is clear.The riches are in the niches. Click To Tweet
The second one is making sure that there are strong action verbs in the ask as well. We don’t want a passive voice. We want strong action verb in there. The third one is to make it personal. I encourage people to put the word you or your early in our communication, in our language, in our conversations. What it does is it pulls the person in. It helps them understand that this message is for them. This isn’t a generic message where it could apply to anyone. This is for you. This is for your success. This is for your results. When the user hears that or when they read that, they feel connected and they feel that what you’re offering is specifically for them. The fourth one is to communicate value. This is extremely important on the landing page. We’re asking people to give up something personal, oftentimes it’s their email address. What value are they getting in return? Making sure we clearly put in front of people, “This is the value,” and sometimes it’s affixing a number. Sometimes it’s an outcome. It can vary, but understanding, “What is the value that you’re offering? Have you clearly put that in front of the user?”
The fifth one is to be clever but don’t be tried in all of this. You’ve got to find a way that’s a little bit different, a little bit unique. It needs to adhere to your brand standards, but you’ve got to find some little way to stand out in all of this. Number six is emotion. We know that people buy for emotion, not logic, as Zig Ziglar has taught us. Making sure that we understand like, “How do we pull out the emotion in the person that we’re working with? How do we speak to that emotion?” The seventh one is to create a sense of urgency. Number eight is to create a singular call to action. Sometimes we have a call to action and there are five things that we’re asking people to do. They don’t know which one to do first, which one to do second. Am I supposed to do all five? Does number three fit me or is it number four? They look at all that and you know what they do? They do nothing. They take no action. I will admit, sometimes we do need people to take multiple steps with us to get somewhere but give it to me in a linear path.
Give me the first one. Get me to say yes. Get me to, “I bought into what you’re doing, and then take me to the second ask or the third ask.” That’s extremely important on landing pages and things of that nature, making sure there’s a singular call to action. I encourage people to use strong, punchy language when they’re asked to have the call to action there. “You were invited. Reserve your seat now.” Give us some strong, punchy language there. Number ten is to reduce the risk. Psychologically, when we look at this offer, we are analyzing the risk. What are the downsides? What bad could happen? Is this worth the money? How do we reduce the risk that’s there? Can we offer a 30-day money back guarantee? Can we offer three days? What can you do there? What risk are your users thinking of? What’s concerning them? How do you reduce the risk? Number eleven is scarcity. Pull back. Don’t have all of it out there. Create some scarcity. Number twelve is the social proof using the power of a crowd. The last one is make it easy, especially if it’s something online. If you make it too complicated, users are going to drop. You’re going to lose them. What is the easiest path forward for your user? Make it extremely easy. That’s my thirteen tips to craft a call to action that users cannot resist.
It’s similar to the steps you gave us on how to build our trust, in that a lot of these coexist. The sense of urgency is created by the scarcity. The clarity is connected to only talking about one thing to do next so you’re not confused. One of my favorite lines is, “The confused mind always says no.” People won’t even tell you that they’re confused, they’ll just say no. What I love is this emotional connection too. A lot of people intellectually know it and then forget it. That’s why I love storytelling so much because one of the best ways to have an emotional connection with people is to tell them a story. I know you have lots of great stories. Can you pick one? You can pick anything you want that gives people, “Intellectually I should have an emotional connection in what I’m doing. I’m going to remember the story Jeff told me about his personal life or whatever it is.” Maybe it’s your own journey of you can train at the same time, manipulation versus persuasion. What’s the story there? That’s an emotional hook.
I have a whole chapter in the book on making a connection and in that chapter, I’ll walk through five ways to make a connection with your audience, to make a connection with the other person. Number four is storytelling is extremely important. Early on when I’m on stage, I tell the story of going through an international adoption of where I brought a baby from the country of Haiti to the United States to be my daughter. It wasn’t a situation where I had a lifelong dream of adopting a baby or going to Haiti to bring someone here. It was not part of my thought process whatsoever. My father went over to do some humanitarian relief in Haiti. While he was there, he struck up a relationship with a translator who happened to be a ninth grader who was in an English-speaking Christian school and she happened to get pregnant. The school gave her a choice. They said, “Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re either going to give up your baby or you’re going to drop out of school because we’re not going to allow you in our Christian school as an unwed single mother.”
I can’t even imagine what was going through her head or heart to realize that she has to give up this baby in order to continue in school. I don’t know that I could even make a decision like this, but she did. She decided that the best for her was to be able to finish school. She wanted to graduate from high school. At the same time, she felt like if she could find a home that could take care of her baby, it would be the best for her baby. I looked at the picture of this unclothed baby being held there by her mom. For whatever reason, I knew in my heart that I was supposed to adopt her. I didn’t know what was going on in Haiti. At that time, Presidents Aristide’s government was collapsing. There were riots going on between his supporters and his detractors, happening all over the country. I had no idea. This was the first time in my life that I had a gun held at my head. Imagine what she would do with the machete held at your neck? Having to flee the city and jump in the back of a pickup truck to get out of the city because the college students are creating these riots and you feel unsafe. It was the first time I experienced anything like that.Sometimes, we do need people to take multiple steps with us to get somewhere. Click To Tweet
The lowest point of my adoption was I was back in the States and my Haitian attorney sent me a note and he said, “Jeff, this governmental office that needs to sign this next document for you is closed. We don’t think it’s going to open. We don’t know if it’s going to open. At best, you should consider your adoption on hold. At worse, you need to accept the fact that this adoption may be over and you may not finish this adoption. You may never be this girl’s father.” I was devastated. I had already been there. I’d held her. I had kissed her on her cheek. I was in love with this baby. I flew over the next morning and he was my mode of operation. Every morning I got up and I walked with my translator from my attorney’s house to this government office that I needed the signature. I went every day, optimistic. I thought I was going to get it signed, only to walk back totally deflated, devastated the person didn’t show up.
About two weeks of doing this, finally the person showed up. You can imagine what’s happening in my head. I had all these emotions. All this stuff was happening in me. I didn’t have any English-speaking people around me to start with. I hadn’t had a chance to talk to a lot of this. I’m scared. I’m frightened. I’m afraid. I lacked hope for the future. I started talking to him and I’m going off. For 30, 60 seconds I’m expressing all this stuff. I looked at him and he looked at me. I asked if he would sign it. His response was, “No, I’m not going to sign this.” I had to figure out what was going on. I only had seconds to do this because the life of this girl, she was in an orphanage at this point. She didn’t have anyone take care of her. She didn’t have money. No promise of hope. Nothing was happening. I had to turn this around.
I had limited knowledge of Haitian culture, but what I knew was this. They loved their babies and they loved their children. They love family and they view them as jewels in their life. I turn this around because what I found was I had been using words like I, me and my in all of my ask. I was twisting his arm. I was forcing. I turned it around and I looked at him and I said, “I know you love children. I know that Haitian children are valuable to you guys as a culture. Here’s what’s happening with his girl. She doesn’t have a home. She doesn’t have anyone to love her. She doesn’t have anyone to provide an education, to provide hope for her. I’ll do that. I’ll offer that but I need you to sign this document to help me take care of this beautiful Haitian daughter.” In ten minutes, he signed it. I started walking back trying to figure out what happened in that. Here’s what I realized. I realized that I was manipulating. I was making this all about me using I, me and my instead of persuading. That was this a-ha moment that clicked for me when I began to understand what’s the difference in persuasion and manipulation? How is persuasion of value where manipulation is not? That was that a-ha moment for me that started this journey of persuasion and persuasive communication.
The stakes aren’t always that high but the lessons from that story resonate with us all. I totally get that I need to learn how to become more persuasive. I understand I need to build trust. I know I need to have a clear call to actions and I need to stop manipulating and use persuasion by shifting my language. Is there anything else to put it all together for us?
Let me leave with a conversation with this. I finished the adoption. We fly out of Port-au-Prince and I make it back to Miami. I’m in the Miami terminal. I make it through customs and all that. I’m standing in the terminal and I’m holding this baby. She’s whimpering. She had screamed the whole way. It turns out she had double ear infections and lots of things happening inside of her body. I hold her and I’m looking down at her as she was whimpering. I do feel accomplishment. I’m proud of myself that I did this in a few months during this devastating time in the country’s history. I’m proud. I’m excited. As quickly as that comes, it goes out of the window when it leaves. I looked down at her and I start wondering about her life. I began to wonder like, “What’s she going to be? Will she be a doctor and heal people? Will she become a humanitarian and relieve suffering? Will she become a teacher and impact hundreds of students that could then impact thousands of lives?” While I couldn’t answer any of those questions, what I understood at that moment was the adoption wasn’t over. This wasn’t something that was completed. This is only the beginning, like tossing a pebble into a lake or pond. We toss it in. We hear that thump that goes in. What happens next? We see those rings. They go out, the ripples that continue from that stone being tossed in.
My adoption was that stone being tossed in. I have no idea the lives that my daughter is going to positively impact because I took that step. Here’s what I do know is that she will impact lives that I will never know. People that will far exceed even her life because of the actions that I took and the lessons that I learned. Oftentimes in business and being entrepreneurs and running our companies, we can get so much into returning emails, going to meetings, doing our pitches. Going to mixers, trying to shake the next hand, meeting people, we get into all of that. Sometimes we forget that this is even bigger than these business transactions. Things like growing our companies so that we can hire people, which mean that a person can then put food on the table for his or her child. Maybe we grow the company and someone gets a promotion and they get more money. Now they can afford to tutor for the kid. The kid can then expand the knowledge there and maybe can get into a different type of college or maybe have a whole different future. This is much bigger than we think it is. It’s much bigger than the transactional elements. If we lift our heads up, we can be encouraged that our actions can live well beyond us and impact many lives.If we lift our heads up, we can be encouraged that our actions can live beyond us and impact many lives. Click To Tweet
Jeff, thanks again for being such a great guest.
John, thanks for the opportunity. Thanks for being a gracious host and allowing me to share. I appreciate it. I’m grateful.
- Jeff Tippett
- Unleashing Your Superpower: Why Persuasive Communication is the Only Force You Will Ever Need
- Targeted Persuasion
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