Earl Nightingale once said, We are at our very best, and we are happiest when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.
Dave Lakhani has not only helped himself achieve the goals he has set for himself, but he has helped hundreds of businesses and thousands of individuals achieve their goals as well. He has been described as a Marketing Genius, Business
Acceleration Strategist, and Multipreneur by his peers and the media. He’s been responsible for developing dynamic strategies, driving record-breaking growth, and increases in sales in more than 500 business in the past ten years.
Dave is an in-demand speaker, author and trainer whose ideas have been applied by some of the biggest companies in the U.S., including IBM, US Army, Rogers Media, Micron, GE, Wizard Academy, and many more. His latest book, Persuasion – The Art of Getting What You Want is a number one bestseller.
Dave is frequently seen in magazines including Selling Power, Sales and Marketing Management, Entrepreneur, Business Solutions, Retail Systems Reseller, Integrated Solutions, Home Office Computing, PC Magazine and other media,
including Business Radio Network, The Business Connection, The Today Show, and dozens more.
Dave has owned more than ten successful businesses in the past 20 years and has deeply studied the marketing and sales leaders of our time including Jay Abraham, Brian Tracy, Harvey Mackay, Roy Williams, Dr. Nick Grant, Zig Ziglar,
and many more. Dave is a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: We are thrilled to have you with us tonight, Dave, to talk about the relationship between passion and persuasion. Thank you so much for being here.
DAVE LAKHANI: Chris, I’m absolutely thrilled to be here with your audience. This is such a wonderful opportunity and I look forward to sharing a lot of great information with everybody on the call tonight.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Let’s get right into it. What do you say?
DAVE LAKHANI: I’m looking forward to it. Let’s dig in.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Okay. Dave, you’ve helped businesses boost their results dramatically again and again. Will you share with us how your passions, the things that are most important to you, have led you the work that you do today?
DAVE LAKHANI: Absolutely, and thank you for asking. I’ve done a lot of things in my life. I actually probably did more in my life by the time I was 30 than many people do in their complete lives. I’ve done everything from being a cowboy working cattle to a professional fighter to being an undercover law enforcement officer, working drugs in the eighties. I worked in Latin America and the United States.
But none of those things were really fulfilling to me. They certainly filled my time and kept me busy, but it wasn’t until I really discovered my true passion, which was for helping companies grow and for understanding the intricate details of how to
make people more effective and more persuasive that I really found what I loved.
The minute I started doing that, I excelled in ways I never believed possible before. My days were more fulfilled, happier. It never seemed like work again. That’s really one of the ways that passions have demonstrated themselves in my
life. The other way was that I began earning more money than I had ever earned in the past, and continue to do that because I follow my passions every day now.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Now, that’s good news. I have a feeling there are a lot of people listening that want to hear more about that. I know that you shared with us that you were raised in a cult. That’s a pretty radical experience. Would you
share with us how you moved from there to becoming a top business consultant and leader?
DAVE LAKHANI: Sure. I was raised in a cult. That’s very true. From the time I was six-years-old until I was in my late teens I grew up in very strict religious cult. They’re called Branhamites. There’s about two and a half million of them in the world today. They believed in an end-time prophet named William Branham. They believed he was the literal resurrection of the prophet Elijah from the Bible, and that he was the forbearer of the Apocalypse, the End Times.
They had a lot of very different beliefs: no education passed the sixth or seventh grade; no cutting your hair or wearing pants if you were a woman, no wearing makeup, no excessive jewelry, only a wedding ring and maybe a necklace, no pierced ears;
not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio; not allowed to marry outside of the church; divorce was not allowed. My mom was divorced. She wasn’t allowed to date or even remarry during the time that she was involved in the
They believed in literal demonic possession. My brother had ADHD and they literally tried to beat the devil out of him on a weekly basis. This was the kind of organization I grew up in, the kind of structure that was in my life from the
time I was six until I was in my late teens.
When I was in my late teens, the one thing that had happened to me that was different from everyone else was that I realized from really early on that, if I mentioned something at school about not being allowed to go to school while it was still
required, that they would be exposed and be in a lot of trouble. I let them know that I knew that, and so they begrudgingly allowed me to stay in school. The longer I stayed in school, the more I began to question their ideas, which is obviously the reason they didn’t want me in school.
When I was in my late teens, I decided to leave. During that time, I had become a very fervent believer to some extent. I was being groomed to be a minister in the church, someone who would continue to carry on the message. As a result of that,
when I left, they did something that was very unique. They ex-communicated me.
They asked me to come to church one last time and come up on stage. The deacons and pastor and the lay ministers laid their hands on me and prayed to God that He would turn my soul over to Satan for the destruction of my flesh, that I would
be killed or mortally wounded so that I might drag myself back and beg for forgiveness, if I didn’t just die and go directly to hell.
They sent me out of the church that day. I was no longer allowed to have anything to do with my family or they with me. That was how my teenage years ended with my family. I didn’t speak to my family for some time after that. But what I did
instead, that very day – I remember it very distinctly – I drove to the Carnegie Public Library in my town. If you remember the Carnegie Libraries, Andrew Carnegie funded these libraries all over the United States, these big palatial flagstone libraries with palatial lawns and foreboding doors, full of books. I started studying that very moment.
I began studying persuasion, coercion and manipulation. I began studying advertising, sales and marketing. I began studying selling. I had to understand what had caused my mom to make this bizarre decision to raise me and my two brothers in this organization.
As I began to study – that was a study that has continued for more than 25 years now- along the way, I discovered many, many interesting that allow people to become much more effective in all they do to help their businesses grow more completely and how to become completely persuasive. I also discovered what it was that my mom was seeking that kept her in the organization for so long and had her make the decisions that she did.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: What was that?
DAVE LAKHANI: That’s a great question. What it was was salvation, in this case, for her very soul. She was looking for salvation, and no matter what she did for us she always did it out of the construct that she was helping our souls be saved. The interesting thing about that is, even after she left the organization, and this is very interesting because my mom died some years ago.
When she passed away, she passed away very unexpectedly. You kind of relive those conversations that you have with somebody close to you like that that you’d recently had. We were talking and she said, You know, some days I still wonder
if I made the very worst decision of my life by leaving this organization. She literally went to her grave with a question in her mind.
Now, if she had seen the 200 people who showed up for her funeral and every single one of them wanted to tell a story about how they had helped her, she wouldn’t have believed it. The interesting thing is that, as I was contemplating my mom’s
passing, it occurred to me that the salvation she was searching for is the same thing that people are looking for, our client’s particularly, when they start engaging us, when they start working with us, when they interview with us.
They’re seeking salvation, they’re looking for someone to save them, so that they don’t have to think anymore, so they can take their information that they’ve received, that they can say, Yes, I agree with this. I’ve found my place, and stop
thinking about it and then just react in the confines of the information that they have.
That really is a great construct for persuasion. My definition of persuasion is simply you’re helping people come to their own most logical conclusion, which happens to be one you share.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Will you talk to us about the difference between manipulation, coercion, and persuasion? Obviously, within the environment you were raised, there was a lot of coercion, it appears.
DAVE LAKHANI: Coercion and manipulation, for sure.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s obviously very different from what you mean by persuasion. Will you talk about the differences?
DAVE LAKHANI: Absolutely, I will, and thank you for asking, because it’s one of the most important things I cover in my book, Persuasion – The Art of Getting What You Want. I teach people how manipulation occurs so they can recognize the process when it happens.
Manipulation and persuasion are closely related.
When I was doing interviews for my book, I talked to a lot of different people who were detailed researchers on persuasion and manipulation. Nearly all of the could not draw a clear distinction between the two. Some of them would say any attempt to change people’s minds or behaviors is manipulation. Others would say only if it’s negative, and that kind of thing.
What I came down to was a very simple, one word differentiator that can help anyone determine what the difference is between persuasion and manipulation. That single word is intent. If your intent is to mislead people, to lie to them, to misdirect them, to confuse them, to get them to do whatever you want them to do regardless of the outcome for them, then you’re manipulating people. Manipulation is negative, and it’s always discovered.
Persuasion, on the other hand, is simply helping people come to their own best conclusion, which happens to be one you share. As you lead people down that path of understanding what it is that they are looking for, helping them find it, presenting them with opportunities, presenting them with information and messages in ways their conditioned and expect to hear it, they’re much more likely to do business with you, because they feel comfortable with you.
People will say, is manipulation always negative? My answer is no, it’s not always negative, but if the intent is wrong then it becomes negative, and oftentimes, illegal. Let me give you an example of when manipulation is okay.
I have a three-year-old daughter. My three-year-old daughter loves Oreo cookies. If she were left to her own, she would go and eat the whole bag of Oreo cookies. I can’t say as I blame her. Oreos are pretty tasty. She would do it at nine o’clock at night, right before she went to bed. You know what that means, right? I’d never get any sleep.
She’s three-years-old, so she doesn’t have the reasoning skills yet to understand that if I tell her, No, you can’t eat a whole bag of Oreos because it’s going to cause your blood-sugar to spike, it’s going to cause you to be zooming around the house at 90 miles an hour for the next three hours and then when your blood-sugar crashes, you’re going to have a headache, your stomach’s going to hurt, you’re not going to feel good, plus you’re not going to sleep all night.
She wouldn’t get that. She just couldn’t understand it. So I manipulate her behavior instead. I say, to my daughter, Here’s the thing. You can have two cookies or no cookies. Now there’s the impression that there’s choice, but the only real choice that exists is my choice. That’s manipulation, but it’s okay.
Now there’s other times when it’s okay to manipulate people. Let’s just say, for example, that you knew somebody who was a terrible heroin addict and they were going to kill themselves if they continued, and you manipulated them to get them into treatment.
Your intent is very positive, just like my intent with my daughter is very positive. I want her to feel good. I don’t want her to go through the processes of what would happen if she ate a whole bag of cookies because she still wouldn’t understand the cause and effect. You know, I ate all those cookies and this is what happened. I just want her to change the behavior and she’s perfectly happy and content with two Oreos. That’s kind of the difference between persuasion and manipulation. It simply comes down to intent.
The persuasion process and the manipulation process look very similar, so it’s very important to understand and be able to break things out and ask the right questions when you see it happening. That’s why I explain it in such great detail in my book Persuasion.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Right. Now, it occurs to me, Dave, that persuasion, as you’re using it, has a lot to do with the value that you’re providing to someone. When you say, an idea that I share, what comes to my mind is that, then I believe that I can provide something of real value to someone else, that it seems, I’ve always felt, actually, that it’s almost incumbent upon me to do the best I can to persuade those who can benefit from it.
If I don’t, I am robbing them of the opportunity of being able to have something that can improve their lives in a substantial way. Does that make any sense? How does that fit in with the way you’re talking about persuasion?
DAVE LAKHANI: That makes perfect sense. It really goes back to what you’re all about, which is passion. When you’re
passionate about something, you want everyone who is a good fit for it to have some of that passion as well. Even the people who belong to the cult that I belonged to, who were true believers, were passionate about what they believed, and they truly felt that converting people was the highest and best good they could do, and so they did it.
But, the interesting thing is that when people go out with that level of passion and they tie it into persuasion, it’s infectious. Rapport becomes much more easy. People begin to completely and clearly understand exactly what it is that you’re all about. They understand, through your positioning, your packaging, your persona, that you’re going to be able to help them in ways other people haven’t.
Having that zeal for what you’re doing, that passion for what you’re doing makes persuasion nearly impossible. Going out and sharing the idea – and I completely agree with you, by the way – when you have something that you’re so fixated on and you’re so passionate about, that it’s not hard to share the message at all because you’re so overcome with the idea. That’s powerful. It’s infectious. People want some of it.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Is persuasion just for sales people? If people don’t feel that they’re in the business of selling things, is persuasion still something of value for them to study?
DAVE LAKHANI: The people who think it’s just for sales people haven’t met my daughter, yet. The interesting thing about it is that we’re all persuading all the time. Here’s an interesting kind of dilemma, which is why I call one of my courses The Dark Art of Persuasion.
The reason I do that is because of this dilemma. If I walk into a room with you, Chris, and I introduce you to the room of people and I say, This is my friend, Chris. Chris is the most charismatic human being you’ll ever meet, which is true, by the way. People would say, I want to meet him. I’ve got to get close to him. I want to know what makes him so charismatic. I want to experience that.
If we also walk into the next room to a new group of people and I said, Allow me to introduce you to my great friend, Chris. He’s one of the most persuasive people you’ll ever meet. People will immediately put their guard up. There’s this impression that persuasion is something that sales people do and then that immediately links them to used car sales people.
Come on, Chris, you know you want to buy this sedan. I’m going give you four or five reasons you got to buy this car. Let me just tell you why you’re going to do it now, you’re going to do it with all the payments we offer, we’re going to get you all the extras, you’re going to go home tonight and drive this tomorrow, it’s going to break and when it breaks, you’re still going to have payments, but that’s okay because I’m going to be driving my boat. Right? Nobody wants that.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s pretty good, Dave. Right.
DAVE LAKHANI: Nobody wants that, but that’s what people think. They say, Oh my gosh, somebody’s going to persuade me. In reality, we’re persuading each other every day, all day long. If we weren’t, we would never have a significant other. We would never get married. We would never have children. We would never have food on our table, or jobs, or anything else.
Persuasion is a naturally occurring event. Learning how to persuade effectively simply helps you better understand how to control the events that are going on around you every single day in a way that benefits you best.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Very neat. You were talking a little bit about passion and its relationship to persuasion. Cansomeone be persuasive about something that they are not passionate about?
DAVE LAKHANI: The answer is yes, but it sure sucks. Let me put it this way. If your car breaks down in the middle of the road in the winter in Wyoming, and there’s one tow truck company and they want to charge you $1,500 to tow your car for a mile to get you out of the blizzard, they can probably persuade you to spend the money. You won’t be happy about it. You won’t like it, but you’ll need it enough that you’ll do it.
Even if you’re not passionate about something, you can certainly persuade people if they have enough interest or need at the time. On the other hand, it just doesn’t work long term. People who are not passionate about what they’re doing, people who are not passionate about persuading people to purchase the goods and services or interact in the ways that you want to interact.
And, by the way, Chris, persuasion works with you. You’re constantly persuading yourself all the time. If you’re not passionate about that, it’s just not going to work as well. It’s not as much fun, it’s not as effective, and nobody wants to be around someone who’s uncommitted to what it is that they’re trying to explain.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: It occurs to me that if someone’s not passionate about what
it is that they’re persuading about, that it would be more likely that it would
become manipulation. Do you think that’s true?
DAVE LAKHANI: It could become manipulative. Let’s just say that they have a heavy quota or something and they are in sales. They had a heavy quota attached to something. Then it could become manipulative. But, at the end of the day, what it becomes is just wildly ineffective, because if you’re not passionate about it, that comes through.
If I tell you something like, You know what, Chris, you can buy this thing or not. These teleseminars are great. They’re fine. I think people do okay if they listen to them. They might get smarter. Maybe they’ll get something out of it. I don’t know. But hey, you should get on, because you might learn something. You instantly get that maybe, possibly, I’m not committed to that idea. If I’m not committed enough, why would you buy anything from me? Why would you believe me?
People who are passionate are believable. What we’re really trying to do is tell powerful stories that allow people to really become a part of the story. Do you want to become a part of that story that I just told? Of course you don’t. Nobody wants to be dragged into it.
If you want to get depressed, I love the old Charlie Brown cartoon where he says, Look, before I get depressed, I have to get into my depressed stance. Then he drops his head and shrugs his shoulders. That’s kind of the same thing. If you want to persuade less, if you want to be less effective, then just get into your non-persuasive, non-passionate mode. People will acknowledge you by not doing anything for you, with you, or, in the future, even want to be around you.
Being passionate is imperative to effective persuasion, but it’s not imperative 100% of the time. Even the best persuaders have bad days. But, when you go through the process of effectively persuading and you know what to do, here’s what happens. It’s just like a baseball player, football player, or somebody who plays an instrument, whatever it is, even on a bad day, you can get into your rhythm quickly.
As soon as you start going through this process, once you’ve conditioned yourself to react to the stimulus that’s around you allthe time, in an appropriate and persuasive manner, that’s what happens even on the bad days. So you still outpace, out-excel all the people around you who are just moving through life, letting things kind of occur to them, or happen to them, without taking an active role in it.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Makes sense. In your book, Persuasion – The Art of Getting What You Want, you talk about a word you mentioned briefly earlier, persona. You describe it as the invisible persuader. What does that mean? What do you mean by persona and why do you call it the invisible persuader?
DAVE LAKHANI: Persona is the invisible persuader because it’s what people see of us the moment that they interact with
us. Persona is not limited to a human interaction. Persona also exists on your website, your brand, around your business the experience people have the moment they walk through the door with you.
You see, what’s happening all the time is people are telling stories about us, about our business, about their interactions with us.
We can either actively take control of the story that they’re going to tell or we can just let them make up the stories. Now, if we’re going to be effective in persuasion, we’re going to help them tell better stories and persona does that.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great book called Blink and he talks about this idea of thin slicing. It’s that people take these little pieces of information in at a time and then they make decisions based on these little slices of information.
The example he uses is art forgery detectors. These people walk into a room and they can detect which paintings are forgeries and which ones are not, even though they may not be able to explain in minute detail why they know it instantly, they just know. They have that kind of gut feeling that, in fact, this is a forgery. But it’s based on all this thin slicing based on all the information that they have that they’ve gathered in the past and their experiences. All these slices hit them at once and they make a decision.
The same thing happens to us everyday. If we see somebody who looks threatening or dangerous walking down the street, we move to the other side of the street, or we do something different. We go another direction or lock our car or something. We’re constantly taking in this information and making decisions about it.
Persona gives us the opportunity to create a persona that fully exposes who we are in relationship to who the person needs us to be in order to make a good and valid decision as it relates to doing business with us, buying from us, or even interacting with us on a daily basis.
Imagine if I wanted to get a date, Chris. I decided that I’m going to go out and wear my knee boots that I just walked in from the
farm with; they’re going to be covered in manure and everything else. I’m going to have my pants stuffed in them. I’m going to have my holey jeans on and my beat up shirt and my tore up straw hat. I’m going to go down to the fanciest club in town because I want to meet me a fine woman. Now, I might get lucky. Of course, I could also just walk down the street knocking on doors, asking people to marry me, and have about the same likelihood.
Or I can present a persona that was congruent with what people expect. It sounds like a funny kind of thing I just did there, but, what’s really interesting is, people do it everyday. They set themselves up as saying, Look, I’m the most effective coach, I’ve got the best product for your health, all these things. And then they shoot themselves in the foot by not presenting a persona that is correlated with what the people expect to see.
What that persona should look like depends on, and matters, how you dress. You should always be dressed as well or one step better than the person who you’re talking to. It matters how you sound. If you have a funny sounding voice, you need to take some voice-coaching lessons so you can correct your voice so that people understand exactly that you’re trustworthy, that you can communicate with them in a way that’s not offensive to them or off-putting to them.
It’s determined by how well you know your subject, what you’re going to be talking about so that you have powerful and strong opinions. It’s the positioning and packaging you do to let people know that you’re an expert in the area, so that, when you walk through the door or when you announce yourself, people know that they’re dealing with someone who is unique and different, somebody that they should pay attention to.
Creating that persona, building up that image of who want people to see us as, being the person that we want to be for the people, who need us to be something for them, is your persona. The same thing is true of your website. I’ve created a persona that allows people to understand who I am, what I’m about, and makes getting what you need from me very easy.
I’ve also created a persona that says I’m a recognized expert in a particular area, in this case, persuasion. So that people completely understand who I am. That persona is very carefully created, very carefully crafted, and it’s always present when I’m in front of the public that could interact with me in a particular way. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or you work in a company, if you want to be perceived as an expert, and then you have to do what experts do.
One thing that all experts have that many amateurs don’t, or people who are just average in their performance, or in their appearance to their peers, is they have opinions and they’re willing to share them. They’re willing to demonstrate why their opinions are unique or different. Those opinions are part of your persona as well.
If you think of persona as an emotional suit that you put on in the morning and step out into the world and this is the way people will see you, recognize you, and interact with you, that’s what it’s all about. The same is true of your website, of your company, of your brand, of the person who answers your phone, there’s a persona that happens there as well. That’s your company’s persona.
If the first person who answers you phone sounds like they’re hung-over and just got done smoking 15 cigars, that gives people an immediate impression of who you are. The persona of your company represents something different than the persona of yourself, which you would hope would be imbued throughout your company.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: There are two interesting things that you said, Dave, that I just wanted to make sure our listeners caught on as well. One is your mentioning of your daughter, for example, in the context that when you’re speaking is very interesting, particularly because when you’re speaking about persuasion you talked earlier that sometimes people have conceptions of what persuasion means and maybe they put up their guard. Right?
DAVE LAKHANI: Right.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: By presenting yourself as a father and a responsible father and a caring father, it occurs to me that one of things that that does with your audience is it helps to establish you as trustworthy. A father is perceived as being more trustworthy than someone who’s just off by themselves.