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To Grow Your Business, Find Your Customers' Hidden Agendas

Behind every decision to buy—whether the item is a service or a product, an argument or an idea—is an unspoken emotional motivation. This is the hidden agenda. People don’t follow you because they’ve been hoodwinked; they follow you because they believe in you.

They employ you, promote you, buy from you, or hire you because you understand their values, their wants, and their needs. It doesn’t matter how or where the pitch is delivered, or what it is you have to sell. People will make an active decision to follow you based upon the way you resonate with their hidden agendas. Understanding and connecting to the powerful emotions that underlie the hidden agenda is the first and most important step you can take toward winning the business and the following you intend.

Why Now?

We now enter an era of what I call pure growth. Pure growth is not deals, mergers, cost cutting, or balance sheet gymnastics. It is the basics, the fundamentals of any business, big or small. It focuses on the customer; the crystallization of a great idea; the development of an innovation that represents true value; and the channeling of company efforts, from the executive suite to the loading dock, to sell that innovation with passion. Pure growth is not a financial game, it is a people game. It is an inspired subject. It flows from a wellspring of ambition pursued with passion.

The economic downturn of the last few years is a long-awaited reckoning. Growth, as it was heralded, was brought to us by mergers, deal making, acquisition, hedging, betting, and balance sheet tricks. There’s only one way out: shoe leather.

Shoe leather by which I mean real live selling to the real live needs of a buyer, is the foundation of solid growth. Shoe leather growth, then, is about the simple, vital elements at the core of commerce. It is about creation, passion, and pursuit. It is propelled by good-hearted persuasiveness and the discipline to deliver honorably. And this philosophy is not restricted to those whose job description is to sell. It requires the mobilization of everyone in the organization. The question is, how do you reach them?

Every buyer buys with his heart, not with his head, and in every heart lies a hidden agenda. No doubt, we must be masters of the contemporary means by which we engage with our communities and with our customers. That’s staying current and relevant. No matter how complex the selling landscape is, at the root of the sale are human beings with desires. This unspoken, visceral, emotional core is the true motivator behind every pitch. When you unlock it and connect your strengths, beliefs, and ambitions that resonate with the hidden agenda, you win.

Underpinning the success of every successful shoe leather person is a simple but far-reaching logic: A pitch is always about your target’s wants or needs, or about the values they hold close. Wants, needs, and values are locked into your target’s hidden agenda. Unlocking your target’s hidden agenda wins the pitch.

In other words, if you shape your pitch based on the emotional motivation that lies in the hidden agenda of your target, you’ll win. Of course, this isn’t to say that the quality of what you are selling is unimportant. Delivering whatever great product or service you have promised is a given.

But let’s move beyond the belief that your pitch is exclusively about the product or the service. What you have to pitch only has value if it resonates with your target’s hidden agenda. I have seen many a pitch for a technically brilliant idea go down in flames because it had nothing whatsoever to do with the target’s real reason for being interested in the product or service. Building a better mousetrap is essential, but only when you pitch it effectively can you guarantee you’ll win every time. The best pitch people understand their target’s emotional motivation, have an abiding belief in what they are selling, put on a show, and  tell a story.

Remember this

Every single day we sell ourselves, our ideas, or the companies and products we represent. These pitches range from the informal meetings we have with colleagues and clients each and every day to the momentous tasks associated with leading huge organizations to accomplish the seemingly impossible. These all require that you stir people to join you, and to act.

Connect to the hidden agenda, the profound, unspoken desire that lies in the heart of your constituency, and you can move mountains.

Excerpted from The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following by Kevin Allen, available now from Bibliomotion. Known for pitching MasterCard's "priceless" campaign, Allen spent two decades on the front lines of business development at the top of advertising giants McCann-WorldGroup, the Interpublic Group and Lowe Worldwide and is recognized as one of the advertising industry’s most accomplished growth professionals. He is now head of Kevin Allen Partners. Follow him @Kevin_Allen.

[Image: Flickr user Avard Woolaver]