Key Concepts: The Hidden Agenda

By Kevin Allen

You pitch something every day.  When you have an idea. When you sell a product or service.  Have to convince someone to come alongside your thinking on an issue?  Well, you have to present your point of view in order to have it accepted.  The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following presents a framework to help understand what the prime motivators are that lie behind all the research and business jargon that results in winning someone over to your side.

Author Kevin Allen, a modern-day, jet-setting advertising ‘Mad Man’, maintains that there is presumption behind every business decision to buy where there is ‘an unspoken emotional motivation’ that can sway a success of the pitch and this is… ‘the hidden agenda’.

While there are many different categories of hidden agendas, they can be grouped into three primary categories and understanding them will provide a foundation to unearth what the hidden agenda is for your prospect.   They are:

WANT:  This is based upon ambition. People in this category generally have an optimistic view of the future and will respond to bold gestures.  You must convince them that you understand their work, can see what they see and that you are excited to become part of their journey.

NEEDS:  This one is linked to fear and the prospect has a sense that ‘something is missing, is lacking’.  A feeling of urgency lurks and the call to action for the pitch revolves around a “call for confidence’’. These people tend to be more quiet, reserved, and cautious. Give them assurance that you can deliver.

VALUES:  These people are motivated by values that are connected to deeply held beliefs, which they continually connect an issue to.  Their actions are set, calibrated and measured inside their value system.  They will respond to your ability to connect an over-arching vision to those core values.

When you identify the hidden agenda and ‘connect your strengths, beliefs, and ambitions to this hidden agenda, you win.’  But so does the person you are pitching.

Here’s how you do it.  Begin with the connection.  Slow down, listen carefully, and raise your antennae to receive the signals the other personal is transmitting. “What is required is emotional insight, human sensitivity, thoughtfulness, empathy and very good listening skills.”

There are five key steps in locating the hidden agenda:

1. Prepare: Before the pitch, estimate what lies in the heart of the prospect and how you’ll respond to what’s there. You should arrive at any meeting with a hypothesis as to what category their hidden agenda might be.

2. Be Receptive: It’s not about your product or service, it’s all about them. The objective is not to show off what you are presenting but to get them to reveal and share the things you need to know about their lives. Be aware of the rules of good body language and look for an emotional vein that will lead you to their desire.

3. Think like a Shrink: Before the pitch, ask: “What makes them tick?”, “Who is this person?”, and “What kind of personality profile are they?”

4. Listen the Right Way: It’s the smart one who stays quiet. Through listening you can get to the core of a person. Develop ‘emotional x-ray vision’ by understanding that good listening skills are an act of generosity.

5. Ask the Right Questions: Functional Questions = Functional Answers. Ask questions that “invite the prospect to express {his/her} views, feelings, and instincts…the answers will reveal the elements of the hidden agenda.”

The Hidden Agenda is about emotionally bonding with your prospect by taking the time to figure out their unspoken, emotional needs and connecting your pitch to those needs.  The search for the hidden agenda is a search for desire.  Uncover these unspoken desires and what your prospects hold dear and they will follow you.  When you ferret out and indentify those needs, and then connect the pitch directly to them, you win and your prospect wins.

Hidden Agenda