You Can Play with Your Roadkill, but Don’t Eat It

Updated: Jan 30

Here is how to use undetectable persuasion to influence not only individuals, but an entire group of hundreds. The steps for this technique are like all other persuasion techniques:

  1. Identify what you want to achieve. Here, I want to convince people to do what’s in their best interest that will save their jobs and their businesses by doing what every salesperson hates to do to find new business.

  2. Then identify potential problems that will stop or hinder you from achieving your goal.

  3. Find a solution to solving those problems. It can be your own original, creative solution, or a solution based upon other people’s experiences. In this one, I use one of Robert Cialdini’s (Influence: The Power of Persuasion) techniques.

For nearly twenty years I did my national Cold Calling for Cowards® seminars on the most hated subject known to mankind. Every seminar filled up entire hotel ballrooms in every major city in America. Altogether, we estimate we’ve trained over 150,000 businesspeople on the subject. Not only salespeople and their managers but executives, entrepreneurs, business owners, engineers, military personnel (yes, even the U.S. Marines), attorneys, psychologists, and even M.D.’s.

Knowing people would rather have their appendix pulled out through their navel (been there, done that – ouch!) than cold call, knowing people don’t like attending all-day seminars, knowing people don’t like getting advice from “experts”, knowing it’s easier to attack a speaker if you’re part of a mob, I had a problem. Several actually.

I knew that in less than five minutes I had to persuade them, individually and as a group, to go on record to not attack me, to keep an open mind for the material I was going to share, that I had empathy for what they had to go through to find new business, and that it’s okay to have fun learning. Five minutes. Max.

In this case I’m using Robert Cialdini’s commitment and consistency technique. For twenty years and hundreds of seminars, here is the exact opening I used to begin every program and it never failed me.

Me, taking the stage: “Hi, I’m Jerry Hocutt, and this is our Cold Calling for Cowards seminar.” (I’m an introvert. Like the majority of people, I’m uncomfortable with public speaking. To get the butterflies out of my stomach when taking the stage, I start with something I know. By golly, I know my name. Nailed it! Believe it or not, something as simple as this can get the butterflies flying in formation and have a very calming effect.)

Holding up my rubber chicken (which looks like I’m strangling him by his long, skinny, stretched neck) for all at the back of the ballroom to see: “And this is RK, my pet rubber chicken. RK stands for Road Kill and we’ve been partners even before he lost his feathers.” (A few smiles. Some scattered pity laughter like “I feel sorry for this stupid jerk because I don’t see anything funny about a rubber chicken. I’ll never forgive my manager for forcing me to come and learn about something I have no intention of ever doing.” Tough audience. But, like a magician, this is a prop to distract the audience from what is about to happen to them.)

“I want to begin by asking two silly questions, and then one question to test your honesty. Trust me, questions like these are important when you’re cold calling, but I won’t tell you why until later in the program.” (Because I won’t tell them the importance of the questions yet, and don’t tell them the answer won’t come until after the 10 a.m. break, they’ll stay attentive for the next hour-and-a-half, not wanting to miss when the other shoe drops.)

“First silly question: By a show of hands, how many people here like to have fun?” (I do two persuasive techniques here: first, I ask an obvious “yes” question – I never met anyone who didn’t like to have fun. Second, with RK still in my grip, I lead by raising my hand first. Both are subtle persuasion techniques to see if they’ll follow. This is also a significant gauge to determine what this audience is going to be like, and if they’ll be cooperative as the program continues.) Every hand goes up. With hundreds of strangers sitting around them, they’re not about to let others know they’re the only sourpuss in the audience. By raising their hands, I know I have their attention and they’re going on record for everyone to see. These silly, no-brainer questions are critical for the seminar’s success over the next six hours.