What Can You Learn from This Failed Attempt to Influence?

This is a real life example of how not to influence someone. The email below is  just the beginning of a failed persuasion attempt. Let's look at it more closely so you can learn what not to do. And, don't worry, I changed the names to protect the guilty ...

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read

Here is an email I recently received:

Hi Lisa, 

At XYZ Software Company we did a recent webinar with Michael Port and some of our expert public speaker friends: <link to webinar landing page> (It was awesome!)

We couldn't fit any more speakers on the webinar because of time constraints but I'd like to offer the audio to Quick and Dirty Tips as a special podcast episode before we release it to the public.

Would that interest you? (I can share a private copy of the audio) - SG

At first, I wasn't even sure what SG was asking. To be clear, they wanted me to use the audio from their webinar to create a podcast episode (and not exclusively either; they were giving it to many people). I suppose they were simply imaging that I would introduce their webinar and then use the entire recording for an episode of The Public Speaker. So basically they were asking for me to promote an hour-long advertisement for their company and their invited guests to Public Speaker listeners. To be fair, he didn't describe the webinar in detail, so I wasn't sure exactly how content-rich it was and how much advertising was included. 

But again, when I got the email, none of that was clear to me—I think I must have misread "I'd like to offer to Quick and Dirty Tips" as "I'd like to offer audio of Quick and Dirty Tips"—I thought they were asking to use an episode of The Public Speaker as part of their promotion. Since I wasn't clear on their request, I picked up the phone and called. 

SG was clearly surprised that I called and when I asked him to clarify the request, it was then that I realized exactly what he was requesting. I was stunned. First, I have absolutely no connection to this company. They don't follow me on social media and, more importantly, he clearly was not familiar with the show or Quick and Dirty Tips at all, since well, we promise "quick and dirty tips," not hour-long webinars. Nor do I think was he aware of the popularity of the show. 

So basically I felt like he was asking me to marry him before we even went out on a first date or even introducing himself on Match.com!  It's funny because a fellow podcaster Shane Purnell (Platformgiant.com / @Platformgiant)  just tonight promoted on his social media platform a quote from my Influence: Maximize Your Impact video course. It said, "Persuasion is more effective when it's not a one-night stand but a long term relationship." Over the past year, Shane has connected with me on social media, set up a time to call me to get to know me, invited me to be on his podcast, purchased some of my products, and promoted my work on social media.  If SG wanted me to promote the webinar, he should have followed Shane's example: perhaps by retweeting my work, perhaps by listening to the show and connecting with me on LinkedIn, perhaps by requesting I somehow participate in the webinar, or perhaps by contacting someone I know and setting up an introduction.

At  the very minimum SG could have listened to an episode of the podcast and then written something like, "I listened to your recent episode, "Who Interrupts More: The Truth About Interruptions," and I really appreciated your evidence-based approach. He could have at least attempted to make an effort by listening for a few minutes then writing a sincere compliment. Doesn't he know we are more easily persuaded by someone we like, are similar to, or who compliments us?

And for the final communication faux paux when I called and asked him to clarify his request, he said, "We wanted people like you to use the webinar audio as a podcast." I wondered and then blatantly asked him, "Well then, what is the benefit to people like me?" I don't think he picked up on the fact that I was calling his attention to the fact that he wasn't even tailoring his request to the specific person he was talking with, and worse, he didn't position the request from our point of view. If he wanted me to comply with his request, he would have had more success if he shared how the demographics of his audience align with my audience and how his request would benefit QDT and QDT listeners.  

Ultimately, his persuasion attempt was an epic fail. My advice to SG? He needs to purchase my new video course on Influence. Do you think I should send him a link to this blog post? If you do read this SG, contact me and I'll send you my Influence course for free, but somehow I doubt you are following my work!

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence.  If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.