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Finding a prospect's 'hidden agendas' key to more business

Published October 5, 2012 8:48 pm

Identify emotional responses, then tap into them, author advises
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kevin Allen, author of "The Hidden Agenda, a Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following" and advertising executive, says success is contingent on a business owner's ability to tap into a potential client's unspoken emotional motivation and desires.

How can you identify hidden agendas?

The hidden agenda lies not in the facts but in the desire that lies in the heart. A great tool in this regard is laddering. This is a process by which after you have come across a particular emotional response, you stop and seize on this, asking "Why?" or "Can you tell me more?" This has the effect of landing on a rich emotional "vein" and drilling down to the latent desire that is at work.

Is this how you won over MasterCard with the "Priceless" campaign pitch?

It was a shock that after being in the hunt for so many months, we were told that our Priceless campaign would be put into consumer testing along with our arch rival, and that the campaign that received the best score would win. Well, our Priceless campaign bombed but the client decided that in spite of the low test results they would award us the business. It was because of two hidden agendas in parallel. The first was a profound desire on the client's part to score a victory over their arch rival, Visa. The second was an understanding of MasterCard customers' hidden agenda — good people, buying good things, for good reason, and MasterCard's DNA of simple, uncluttered, basic values. This desire was met on the day of the presentation by a slide in blazing words, Carpe Diem! It was matched by my colleagues' competitive spirit, desire, and demonstration through our Priceless campaign that we could win for MasterCard in the marketplace.

What's the story behind Marriott's slogan?

"The Spirit to Serve" actually found its roots in my days mopping floors as I put myself through college working at Marriott's airline services division at JFK airport. I learned on the job and from reading J. Willard Marriott's book that the value system of service as a noble and honorable calling was profound, very important to the company and that all employees had a part to play. In our pitch, we asserted that the solution to the threat of newcomers such as Hyatt was to be found in the very fiber of their corporate culture. We developed a conceptual target called the road warrior, who embodied the hard-working business traveler target that made up the Marriott community. One of my colleagues even read from "Death of a Salesman"— "He's a man way out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine." We then captured the essence of our mission to these road warriors in the words, "The Spirit to Serve." You can well imagine how I felt not only when we were awarded the business, but some years later when Bill Marriott titled his book "The Spirit to Serve" from a pitch led by the kid who mopped the floors.

How does communicating your credo come into play?

Your credo is your value system and the cultural glue that holds you, your colleagues and your prospects together. Although it's true that the products and services you sell are the focal point, it must always be remembered that the final choice on who is hired is an emotionally led decision. Using your credo, you connect with your prospect. They are part of your community, who see things the way you do and will show a greater likelihood to award you the business over someone with whom they share no cultural bond.

Dawn House Kevin Allen, author