I'm adding this note of caution to each page of my notes because the title is misleading: the author advocates a softer approach to persuasion, but his tactics are often still manipulative. In many instances he proposes a subtler form of manipulation, but one which is still manipulative. I don't expect he has bad intentions, but lacks sufficient knowledge in the areas of rhetoric and psychology to correctly identify and avoid manipulative tactics entirely.

There's a great deal of interest in exerting power over other people, motivated by self-interest and wonton disregard for the welfare of others - and it's likely just as well as many of the coaches and authors who offer the promise of such power have nothing of real value to offer.

While it's undeniable that people can be "tricked" into acting in a way that is against their best interests, such manipulation is rather weak and temporary - a person cannot get very much for very long by these methods, and once his tactics are recognized it becomes unlikely that he will be able to gain their cooperation again, and his reputation will spread to discourage others from interacting with him.

That said, persuasion remains an important skill - but there is a significant difference between persuasion and manipulation, which the author means to explore in this book.

It Must be Applicable to All

The author's experience includes "three decades of teaching people to sell" as well as teaching sales skills to those in non-sales roles.

Those who do not sell for a living are reluctant to accept that, in truth, they sell for a living. They sell their ideas, and get others to commit to cooperating with them. It may not be the same as convincing a customer to pay money for a product, but it is still convincing a person to do something, and ideally something that is in your mutual interest.

There is also the notion that salesmen are "born" or that only individuals with certain characteristics can learn to sell. There's an extended anecdote about a highly successful salesmen who lacked all the characteristics typically associated to the profession - as a means to suggest that anyone can learn the techniques, but may not implement them in exactly the same way. There are many "styles" of selling that do not require the stereotypical behaviors, but apply the same basic techniques.

It Must be Ethical

At the prospect of exerting influence there is - or ought to be - a "moral tug of war" between our desire to get what we want of them and the imperatives of ethics. Particularly when we are financially or emotionally invested in the outcome, or moral values can be pushed to the side.

(EN: The author dodges the question of what is ethical, trotting out Webster's for a definition and then implying that people have a sense of "the right thing" afterward, so while the premise is interesting the thesis is ill-defined.)

Persuasion and influence have fallen under suspicion, and there is a general sense they are bad in general, but this is not so: one can influence another person to take an action that is in their interest rather than against it. And in fact, those people who become influential and maintain their reputation do exactly thus.

He maintains people do not generally set out with the goal of doing something unethical - they generally have a specific goal in mind and discover a way to achieve it, and simply fail to consider the secondary or precipitating consequences of their actions to any other party. Or they rationalize the damage they do to others, often in arrears.

People who are very bad at ethics tend to be very good at rationalization. Those who are good at ethics are seldom in a position to need to rationalize their actions at all.

It Must be Measurable

In general, people expect to have emotional outcomes as a result of undertaking a task: they want to feel more confident, more secure, more powerful, etc. But the author finds feelings to be vague, and they cannot be measured. And if they cannot be measured, they cannot be monitored or "fixed."

(EN: This is a red flag. The author realizes that emotion is the motivation for action, but sets the topic aside because he does not understand it and cannot measure it. Which is to confess that his metrics are going to emphasize things that are less important but easier to understand and quantify. This is not uncommon, and is always problematic.)

Ironically, he then talks about misguided metrics - the example of a life insurance company where sales quotas were "two sales a week, ten sales a month" - and he was praised or criticized for his ability to meet that metric, and nothing else. He felt that company taught him to want to sell, but never taught him how to sell.

He then mentions taking a job at Xerox, which was recognized for having sales training that was "the finest in the world" and focused not on outcomes but on the process - the theory being that if you perfect the sales process, you can sell any product. He provides little detail about what this process was, except to state it is "repeatable, predictable, and measurable."

And turning back to emotions, he mentions that he no longer had the "nagging feeling" of uncertainty about his performance.

(EN: To return to the earlier comment - here is the problem of quantification: the ultimate goal for the salesman is emotional, but because he cannot understand how his emotions are connected to outcomes, the author measures the outcomes and backs into emotions - and some have even based emotions on metrics rather than observations.)

(EN: It's not that I disagree with his premise - merely his means. Having a repeatable process and understanding how it works is critical to managing one's own performance, but insisting that it must be factorialized in a way that focuses on what is easy to quantify rather than what matters is utterly inadvisable.)

It Must be Something You Believe

The author predicts a readership of individuals who covet the power to change the minds of others. Some covet this power for the wrong reasons, but most see it as a means to an end: controlling the behavior of others is a method of reducing uncertainty and being able to accomplish things in a society where one person's success depends on the actions of others, who must be convinced to willingly cooperate.

He switches to discussing the fear of change: people recognize a deficiency in their present situation, but take comfort in familiar routines and have uncertainty that their plan will achieve the desired outcome. This stifles motivation to act.

He mentions how common it is for a person who overcomes their hesitation is often embarrassed that they did not act sooner - once the act has been completed and the outcome is known, their previous uncertainty and fear seems silly. But in advance of that decision, the outcome is unknown and the prospects are scary.

Switching back: in solving problems and achieving goals in a social context, our greatest uncertainty and our greatest fear is that others will refuse to cooperate.

A common problem with sales is that salesmen are encouraged to solve other peoples' problems for them, rather than leading them to recognize their own problems and find their own solutions. They may not recognize that they have a problem, or they may decide that there is a better solution that purchasing your product. Both of these approaches require persuasion to get the mark to believe they have a problem and to believe that your product is the solution - but people are more amenable to things they have discovered for themselves than to things that are being thrust upon them.

In order to get the prospect to believe these things, you must first believe them yourself. The hardest and most unpleasant task for a salesman is pushing an unnecessary or ineffective product upon a customer - when he believes that the outcome will be no good. In effect, the salesman must sell himself first - to truly believe that the product he offers is an effective solution to a legitimate need. It's only then that he is prepared to address the beliefs of others and persuade them to understand his way of thinking.


The author winds down the preface with an anecdote about a conversation with a reluctant audience member who did not recognize he was the speaker at the event she was about to attend.

He struck up a conversation and she unloaded on him: she didn't see the value of sales, was only there because her manager sent her, and felt the entire affair was a waste of time.

What she said bothered him, but he recognized that her perspective was by no means uncommon. This book is by way of a rebuttal, emphasizing sales as a necessary and valuable skill.