Why You Need This Book
"I can understand your wanting to write poems, but I don't quite know what you mean by 'being a poet' . . ."
--T. S. Eliot
My wife, a liberal arts major in college, took a course in her freshman year that she affectionately called Astronomy for Poets. She learned basic astronomy, studied the constellations, and viewed planets and stars for the first time through a telescope. Cool. She loved the course and signed up for the second in the series in her sophomore year.
Big mistake. The professor started the first class by announcing, "Well, now that we're all here for something beyond fulfilling the basic science requirement, we can get down to work." My wife's reaction as she looked around the room was Uh-oh. There were eight students in the class--six astronomy majors, one physics major, and one political science major: her. Not good. The course covered spherical trigonometry, sidereal time, parallax motion, optics, and a lot of other astronomy stuff that was of no interest or use to people not majoring in astronomy. My wife stuck it out, but broke the sound barrier getting to the registrar's office to change her status to pass-fail.
My wife's college and her Astronomy for Poets course weren't unique. Although they're listed in course catalogs with less irreverent titles, there's Physics for Poets, Chemistry for Poets, Rocks for Jocks (Introduction to Geology). "Poet" is a metaphor for "enlightened amateur," a person who wants to know something about astronomy--or physics, chemistry, or geology--but who doesn't want to get lost in the minutiae that only science majors need and love.3 Steps to Yes
is the persuasion equivalent of Astronomy for Poets. Here, "Poets" is a metaphor for people who must get others to agree with them, ordinary people who need to move others from no or maybe to yes, but who don't want to spend their lives learning and perfecting sales and negotiation strategies. Moreover, Poets must persuade gently, eschewing the coercion and manipulation that professional persuaders use, but that tend to corrode personal relationships.
In 3 Steps to Yes
, "Poets" are the enlightened amateurs of persuasion. They're managers, employees, parents, spouses, teachers, students, business executives, lawyers, accountants, consultants, investment bankers, job seekers, and, yes, even poets. They may even be people who sell for a living.
But "Poets" are not hard-core, high-pressure salespeople and negotiators, people who care only about winning and not about the quality of their long-term relationships with the people they persuade. Poets care about being liked and accepted, and avoid doing anything they feel might hurt their personal relationships.
Nevertheless, Poets must persuade.The Poet Persuader
As this book neared completion, I needed a publicist, a professional public-relations person to help tell the world about my book. I narrowed my search to three firms, each run by a woman founder/entrepreneur. They were all strong, self-confident professionals working in the heart of the New York City publishing world, where only the most intelligent and influential succeed. So I was unprepared for their strong Poet aversion to persuading.
As it turned out, each woman disliked selling, and worked hard to appear not to be trying to persuade me. Each one seemed to operate on the theory that persuasion was unnecessary, even unseemly, and that if she simply described what she did, I'd automatically conclude that she was the best. But it doesn't work that way.
This was an important decision, so I met with the head of each firm personally. The women were competent, hardworking, and enthusiastic, and they were anxious for me to believe they could help me. They were intelligent, articulate professionals, perhaps even brilliant, but they Talked Without Communicating. My last meeting was typical, although also the most frustrating of the three.
I'd heard from an independent source that this person was "the best," so I went into this final meeting prepared to make a positive decision. I had a book about to be published, I needed help getting the word out, and I wanted to put this behind me. I was a soft pitch ready to be hit over the outfield fence. But it was not to be.
She refused to try to persuade me. Instead we played "Stump the Band," with me asking the questions and trying to guess why she was the best choice. At one point I asked her outright, "Why won't you just tell me why I should hire you instead of someone else? Honest, I won't think less of you if you tell me why you're better than people you clearly don't think are as good as you are."
Her response was that she didn't feel comfortable selling herself, telling me why she was better. She knew she was the best, but she wanted me to figure it out for myself based on her objective presentation of facts. All three women, though, told me nearly the same facts about their firms: "We work hard for our clients." "All our clients come to us through word-of-mouth recommendations." "We're well connected with the print, radio, and TV media." "We have an impressive list of successful and satisfied clients." I couldn't distinguish among the different stories and capabilities, because all said essentially the same good and impressive things.
Even the woman I was predisposed to choose didn't give me what I needed to make a decision. She was not persuasive. If I were to make a decision based on the three meetings, I might just as well have flipped a coin.Sell Yourself
These three women were Poets who needed to sell in the classic sense, to get someone to pay money for their services. But you don't have to be a CEO or a professional salesperson to have to sell yourself, your ideas, or your services.
In everyday life, a Poet can be a parent persuading a child to drive sensibly or avoid drugs, or a caring son or daughter persuading an elderly parent to move to a nursing home. A Poet can be a manager persuading a boss to approve her budget or an employee to work over the weekend; a job candidate persuading an interviewer about his qualifications; a lawyer, accountant, or other professional persuading a client; or a wife persuading her husband to vacation trekking in Maine instead of visiting his old college roommate in Minnesota.
For Poets, persuasion is serious life stuff. The people in your life won't do what you want just because you happen to be right. They need to be persuaded. And if you're right, if it's in everyone's best interest that you get your way, it's not just your job to persuade them, it's your responsibility. Sometimes even your moral responsibility.
You're responsible as a parent to persuade your children to do what's right. It's your job to persuade your clients or prospects to make the best decision. You must persuade the person interviewing you to hire you if you're the right person for the job, and it's your responsibility to persuade your boss to approve your plans and budgets if they're the best for the company. You owe it to your friends, spouse, or parents to persuade them to make good decisions. If you're a professional salesperson, you owe it to your company and to your family to persuade people to buy what you're selling.
But you also have a responsibility to yourself to be persuasive, because there's little that can affect your life as profoundly as your ability to sell yourself, your ideas, and your services. It's the difference between having good ideas and having others put your good ideas into action; the difference between providing excellent service and having clients willing to pay you to provide the service; the difference between having the ability to lead and being given the opportunity to lead. If you're a professional salesperson, persuasion is the difference between being in line for a promotion and standing in the unemployment line.
Persuasion is the difference between having potential and achieving your potential. It's what connects being smart and working hard with making partner or vice-president. It's the link between being a caring parent and having your children embrace your values. It's an essential ingredient in turning a competent, trustworthy, hardworking Poet into a winner in everyday life.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Three Steps to Yes by Gene Bedell. . Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.