Any self-made billionaire can teach a few lessons. Here's one you can’t afford to pass up!
A home-town entrepreneur used his credit card to build his idea into a hugely successful payroll and HR outsourcing enterprise, Paychex. I’d been hired to lead the e-learning team and the first task was to build a new online course whose goal was to teach sales reps how to sell retirement plans through the use of typical client scenarios.
We were asked to present a demo of the course beta to our founder and CEO, Tom Golisano. It was my first interaction with him and was anxious to know his thoughts as he watched the laptop images we were projecting on the otherwise sterile conference room wall.
I didn’t have to wait long. Tom quickly asked to see how we intended to present the benefits of retirement plans to business owners. We displayed the part of the course that covered features and benefits, where he saw the phrase "maximize your retirement income." He then asked a question that my team later told me had them shaking in their boots.
"Where did you get the information you included in the course?" We told him we had interviewed top performing sales reps and managers. He asked for names, which we provided. He nodded his approval as he heard names of people who had helped build the business. He pondered a moment. Then he asked another question, "Do you really think people buy retirement plans to maximize their retirement income?"
At this point I had to take one for the team. "Yes, Tom, I do think so, but what are we missing here?" His response will stay with me always. "I think people invest in retirement plans so they can buy gifts for their grandchildren."
He had instantly humanized our environment and our purpose, and the room grew silent. "Makes sense, Tom, so you’re saying we should appeal to emotion rather than logic here?" He answered with another question, "Don’t you think that’s how we make most of our buying decisions?"
I got to know quite a bit about Tom that day. I found him patient, considerate, thoughtful, and, as usual, demanding of a high standard. It was a fine example of the principled leadership that had contributed to his success.
Dale Carnegie said influence is about "arousing in the other person an eager want." If doing that well eludes you most of the time, remember to make an authentic appeal to emotion. We tend to rely on logical considerations in our effort to persuade, but the decision to buy is propelled by emotion. So it’s my turn to ask you a question. When was the last time something you said made a group of grown men and women in a conference room choke back misty eyes?
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