Tag Archives: 4 levels of agreement

The Lost Art of Dialogue

I’m afraid my friends that we’ve gotten lost. Media in general and social media in particular is guiding us down the path of chemical dependance on the 140 character sound byte.

No wait, we don’t even need that anymore, we just click the “like” button…and then ask for a “don’t like” button. And don’t even get me started on texting (which doesn’t show up in spell check by the way). If we’re not careful we’ll soon frgt hw 2 uu vwls prprly.

How is it that with more access to more information than any three generations have had before now we seem to be less and less inclined toward discussion while at the same time more and more inclined to dismissive dogmatic certainties?  How is it that “our guy’s” statistics are surprisingly accurate while “those guy’s” statistics are always a lying mockery of the truth? Perhaps here we HAVE been most affected by the media. Ever notice how the Storm Troopers can’t seem to hit a thing with their blasters but Han Solo has a 75% hit rate?

In the interest of trying to halt this slide down the slippery slope into mindless sarcastic bashing allow me a few moments to bring to your attention three words:

1. Debate:
Some of the definitions include: To dispute or disagree about, To engage in argument or discussion, Argument or Controversy.

You see a debate is about one side trying to win. You win a debate by proving your point right, or more right, and the other side’s point wrong. A debate typically has a winner and a loser.

2. Diatribe:
Definition: a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism

Because a debate is in effect a contest with a winner and a loser they often disintegrate in a series of diatribes aimed at taking out the opponent emotionally as well as intellectually.  Not a bad tactic if you’re looking to win and particularly good if you want the other fellow to lose.

3. Dialogue:
Definition: an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, especially a political or religious issue, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.

Do you see the subtle difference here? In a debate you have one winner and one loser. In a dialogue the intent is to have no losers and all winners. The intent of dialogue is to bring about resolution to conflict that is mutually beneficial.

It’s no surprise we’ve landed here really, having forgotten what we once knew about dialogue. Ours is a capitalistic society. Capitalism thrives on competition. We’re taught to compete from the moment we play our first game of grade school kickball. We’ve become accustomed to, perhaps even programmed into, choosing sides.

But as Americans we’re all on the same side. Shoot, as humans we’re all on the same side. So shouldn’t we be looking to dialogue and resolve rather than debate and win?

Most debates are founded on three premises: declare, prove, debunk. Each side declares what they believe to be true, seeks to prove it, and seeks to debunk their opponent.

IF we are to re-discover the lost art of dialogue I think we need to learn again to begin from a different set of premises:

Dialogue starts with an agreement as to what it is we’re trying to solve or resolve. (Which I suppose literally could be said to mean “solve again”.) This is more difficult than it seems on the surface.

Take a nice controversial example like abortion. Tons of debate there yes? But it seems to me one side is arguing about rights while the other is arguing about life. Yes, I know the life guys are arguing about rights too, just for different folks.

But, what if the discussion started with trying to agree on what problem it is that abortion solves. Might different alternatives present themselves? Rather than argue we should allow it versus we should not what if the dialogue were about trying to determine if it is the best solution to a defined problem?

Agreement means we’re truly in agreement. We’re actually looking to come up with a mutually beneficial solution to the problem or issue. We’re not just agreeing on the surface for the sake of argument but willing to fight for the agreement rather than for our point to be won.

Yes, I know we were all taught never to assume. In this case though the assumption is that your counterpart in the dialogue has points, information, statistics, and suggestions that are equally as valid as yours. Assuming this serves to reinforce the agreement.

Also, the better you are at assuming brilliance (a phrase borrowed from an old friend) on the part of the other party the more likely you’ll be to listen to what they have to say, not in order to debunk it, but in order to find where you can reach agreement.

Dialogue easily slips into debate. When it does go back to the agreement, check your assumptions to see if they are still active as they should be, and persevere.

I used to work for a particularly ornery Brit. One of my favorites bosses of all time truth be told. Chris and I would sometimes get into HUGE shouting matches cross the table to the degree where once or twice people actually poked a head in the door and asked if everything was ok. At which point we laughed and said “Yes, we’re fine. We’re going to lunch in five minutes would you like to join us?”

Ours was a dialogue. A heated one to be sure. But we had agreement as to what we were trying to solve. We had deep mutual respect for one anothers brilliance and perspective, and we persevered. If only we as a country could figure out how to have less debate and more dialogue…who knows where we might once again go.

Where do you find it most difficult to have dialogue rather than debate? Why do you think that is so?

When does Discipleship begin?

If you’ve been following along at home you’ll know that I hold to the opinion that every Christian is responsible for making Disciples. Not converts to Christianity, not better Christians, but Disciples.

Again, the basic premise is that Disciple Making, in a spiritual sense, is the process of following God closely enough that you go out and create Disciples of you. In the same way John the baptist had Disciples of John and Gamaliel had Disciples of Gamaliel and Jesus had Disciples of Jesus. The twist is that we’re not called to point them ultimately to ourselves but to Christ.

So if that is the case when does Discipleship begin?

Most of the churches I have been associated with have some form of Discipleship class or curriculum. And, for most of those churches, the class or curriculum is designed to start AFTER someone has committed their lives to Christ. Hmmmm…I don’t think Jesus called the twelve AFTER they all we’re completely sold out to believing who He was, do you?

It seems to me there was a process of deepening relationship that happened all along the Discipleship journey.

Many scholars today recognize the commission in Matthew 28:19 to read: “As you’re going, make disciples of all nations…” seeming to indicate that this should not only be a part of your normal daily activities but something you should actively pursue. If that is the case then we shouldn’t expect to find the people we’re supposed to “make disciples of” sitting behind us in the pews at church.

This is where the Four Levels of Agreement starts to get me jazzed a bit. Remember, we’ve been looking at themas the process by which we deepen relationships. Level 1 is that mental click that happens when someone catches my attention.  Level 2 is my completed physical response to that mental moment. Level 3 is where we enter into some contractual responsibility based on expectations and promises. Level 4 is where we cross over into a committed rapport. Since we can walk through our daily routine marking out relational process with this tool we can ALSO use it to help determine which folks we ought to be actively engaging as potential Disciples.

Simplistically then I want to find people who are ready to enter into a Level 3 relationship, and who I desire to pursue that with as well, who may only be at a Level 1 in their understanding of spiritual matters! I have to finding people to Disciple in the work place, at the soccer field and at Starbucks…not in my small group! Ok, that was probably a bit hasty for those churches that invite new attenders to join a small group before they even know their names, but you get my drift.

Go back and read the Gospel account of the calling of the twelve, particularly in Mark. Everyone seems to be going about their business as relationships start to form. Where are relationships forming around YOUR daily life with folks that are not yet spiritually fully bought in?

Which of those relationships is ripe for Discipleship?

What do you think?

Is Disciple -Making really something we’re all called to do in this way? Is it really a PRE-conversion starting point?

Disciple Making (Sprirtual Version 1.1)

So by now some of you are wondering, why all this marketing talk with only one post having anything to do with the Great Commission? Well, let’s think for a minute about how Jesus chose His Disciples.

I really don’t think any of us would believe he picked 12 guys at random. Some of us might suggest he fell back on his power as fully God and used a predestined list but that would turn into a huge debate. Let’s look at an interesting little tidbit from Luke chapter 5 (from The Message):

 1-3Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

 4When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

 5-7Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.

 8-10Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon.

 10-11Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.

First lets view this from Simon’s perspective. It would be tough to convince me that Simon knew nothing about Jesus. Imagine you’ve just pulled the boats up on shore from a long nights work and some stray preacher steps into your boat and asks you to take him out a bit. The fact that Simon agrees tells me he had already experienced a Level 1 agreement.  Interestingly enough he’s minding his own business when the opportunity resents itself to move through Level 2 and 3. In fact a short term contract ensues when he agrees to let Jesus teach from the boat. What is really cool is that he runs through all three levels AGAIN while Jesus is teaching:

  • Level 1: He hears what Jesus is saying and realizes this guy is more that just a teacher
  • Level 2: He moves to action and asks Jesus to leave him alone after the miracle catch.
  • Level 3 : He agrees to follow Jesus.

Now let’s look at is from Jesus perspective. We don’t have as much specific evidence in the text, and the chronology is a little difficult to piece together from the four Gospel narratives, but we can make some educated guesses.

Prior to the episode detailed in Luke 5 Jesus appears to have met Andrew, Simon’s brother. Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist and when John had proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God Andrew knew he’d found the one he was seeking. John’s Gospel,  in chapter 1 vs 40-42, seems to indicate that Simon and Jesus had met prior to the events of Luke 5:

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.

   Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).

Have you ever met someone and immediately knew you’d be friends? I’m not talking about “love at first sight” but that moment of, “I like this person.” I’ve had that happened a number of times in life and rarely been wrong. I think that was happening when Jesus met Simon. And so it began…

  • Level 1: Jesus meets Simon and gives him a new name
  • Level 2: He takes a step and asks Simon if he can “borrow the boat”
  • Level 3: He asks Simon to follow Him

While all of that may or may not be of interest let me ask you this:

If the Great Commission is really about each of us finding people to “Disciple” who are your Disciples? 

If you’re wrestling with this one let me ask:

How would you choose who to Disciple if you agreed with that interpretation?

More on this topic later in the week.




Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 4

And so we come full circle in our exploration of the four levels of agreement. Level 4 agreement – Committed Rapport – is when we have made Disciples.

I have no doubt that on October 4 a scene much like the one depicted in this graphic will emerge at the Apple event where they are predicted to unveil the iPhone 5.  Apple’s Disciples will fill the room in eager anticipation of the new device.We all wish we had such devoted customers.

So let’s look back and remember how we get to this fourth level agreement:

Level 1 was that mental ‘click’ that caught your attention. Level 2 was the move from thought to action. Level 3 is where you entered into a contract based on expectations and promises and Level 4 is where you become the ‘more than satisfied’ customer we refer to as a Disciple.

So how do you move someone from Level 3 to Level 4? What is the secret sauce, the mystery of the ages, the magic bullet that creates these fanatical followers? It takes work. In order to become a Disciple-making organization you need to remember three keys:

1. You start with Customer Service

Customer service always starts with a set of expectations. Those that were created at Level 3. The expectations of those delivering the service may not be the same as the expectations of those receiving it. The closer the match the easier it is to deliver on the expectations. Do you see why the Level 3 agreement becomes so crucial? You need to set the right expectations early on.

On the delivery end you can compare yourself to the competition and create higher expectations for what you will deliver. Your customer will be pleasantly surprised the first few times they experience this higher level of service.
After that you’ve set your own bar at a minimum that is higher than the competition but is still a minimum…for you. Now the customer set of expectations is higher when they enter your store. Now, what was once “higher than anyone else” has become “the minimum expected in this place” Because that is the minimum set of expectations, even though it is better than the competition, the best you can do is “not fail”.
Even if your standard is the best in the industry.

So how do you create opportunities for a “pleasant surprise” that lives beyond the first or second visit?

2. You have to Empower your People.

I was marshaling at a local golf course several years ago sending groups off in order from the first tee. I had a twosome who somehow got lost in the rotation. The club house had delayed in calling them down to me so by the time they did get called they were almost an hour behind their scheduled tee time. There were NOT happy. The late start meant they wouldn’t get the full round of 18 in that they had paid for because they had appointments later in the day. I could easily have blamed the club house, they HAD messed up. I could have apologized profusely,  which would have made no difference to them.

Instead I offered that we’d give them their money back for the full 18, get them out to play the 9 holes for which they had time, and give them a 2-for-1 on their next visit. They went from haters to fans in an instant! Was there a procedure for such a thing? No. Did I ask permission? No. Did I cost the golf course money? Not really in the long view. But I was empowered enough to make a decision that served the customer.

You have to empower the people who interact with the public to make service decisions instantly and you need to applaud them when they do. (Spoiler Alert: This means that every “mishap” is really a golden opportunity, but we’ll talk about THAT another day.)

3. You must Anticipate Need

Have you ever found yourself struggling to open a door with two armloads of stuff?  Ever had someone see you struggling and come up to help? Better yet ever had someone see you approaching the door, bounce past you before you got there, and opened it for you? That anticipation of need creates a different level of appreciation than just meeting the obvious need of someone struggling with a door. As I mentioned in Preparing for Disciples:

“Customer service that fosters Disciples does not seek to merely serve the customer needs in the moment. It seeks to anticipate what the customer’s needs will be tomorrow and stands prepared to meet them or even preempt them.”

Anticipating need is all about knowing your customer. Not just at a transactional level but at a motivational level as well.

These three keys, customer service, empowered people, and anticipated needs will help you move from Level 3 agreements to Level 4 agreements smoothly setting you on the road to Disciple making.

Expectations are crucial in moving from Level 3 to Level 4. What would you guess your customers expectations are when they deal with you?

Do you meet the minimum expectations or do you constantly seek to raise the bar?

Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 3

We’ve been looking at four levels of agreement that relationships move through as they evolve and grow. In a marketing sense it is possible to be somewhat prescriptive  about moving relationship, ie customers, through the levels but in personal relationships the process is slightly more organic.  The levels as we’ve defined them are as follows:

We looked at the notion that level one, Cognitive Resonance, is that mental click that happens when something catches your attention and your interest. Level 2, Completed Response, occurs when you move from a mental agreement to some form of physical action. Level 3, Contractual Responsibility, is where it all starts to get REALLY interesting. (Spoiler alert: Women understand this level intuitively, men may or may not…)

Let’s start with a simple marketing example: You see a commercial for a burger restaurant that claims to have the healthiest, most unique burger anywhere. It has won taste test after taste test AND it helps you lose weight. In fact if you don’t like it they’ll give you your money back. If you eat their burgers three times a week and change nothing else about your diet you’ll lose weight!! You happen to LOVE burgers AND you’re trying to lose weight. The commercial catches your attention – Level 1 agreement. The following day on your lunch break you go check it out – Level 2 agreement.  You purchase a burger – Level 3 agreement.

“Hold on a minute”, some of you are saying, “I signed no contract here.” You’re right. You signed nothing. But you’ve entered into a two part contract. The first part is taste. The second party is weight loss. Those claims that caught your attention at Level 1 are about to be put to the test. There is a promise: great taste, less filling, and a consequence of failing the promise: money back. A set of expectations. A promise to deliver with stated consequences. A simple contract.

That’s an easy enough day to day example even if the great tasting weight loss burger does not yet exist. But what about personal relationships? Glad you asked…

A guy walks into a bar (cheesy I know but better than ‘once upon a time’) and notices an attractive woman he has noticed there a time or two. (Level 1) He’s learned what he can about her through distant observation, asked a few friends what they can tell him about her,(Level 2 – taking action. Although this is weak action until he talks to her directly.) and now has reached the decision to go up and ask her out. (We’re skipping the small talk for the sake of brevity) He asks her out. (Level 3) There is definitely a set of expectations, mostly unspoken, each of them believing something good will come from the date, a set of promises, time, date etc. and understood consequences, thus a simple contract.

Interestingly “the date” is a time bound contract. It ends when the date ends. But it does establish a new set of expectations based on an assessment of how good a time was had by each party. It may be that the contract is extended at the end of the date…setting up another one. It may be that the contract is left hanging…”I’ll call you.” But even THAT statement if a form of contract!

So now lets fast forward a few weeks or months. Here’s where we learn that women get this and guys don’t…or pretend they don’t….because after that span of time the girl wants to have, duh, duh-dun, duuunnnnn…the talk.

Women are inherently relational! They get this! They don’t want a series of short term intermittent contracts, they want definition. Questions like, “Where is this going?”, “Where are we in our relationship?”, “How are you feeling about us?” are really attempts to establish the terms of the contract! I know, I KNOW it sounds like I am cheapening it somehow but I’m not. They really do want to know the correct set of expectations and promises. Guys, many times, don’t want a set of expectations floating over their head so they’d rather have a “gentleman’s agreement” than a contract!

Believe me, entire book could be written on that paragraph alone. But lets shift gears slightly.

Think about the relationships in your life. The ones that matter. I’d be willing to bet that the most stable ones are the ones with clear contracts. Not on paper necessarily but there nonetheless. We ‘hear’ contracts breaking all the time don’t we? “I thought she was my friend but…”, “Him and me used to hang out all the time, I don’t know what happened…”, “They said they were coming…” Most of these contracts “break” because the expectations are rarely stated, they’re assumed. But remember that dating relationship? The young lady did not WANT to assume, she wanted to know.

Clearly stated expectations, understood promises and consequences, these are the basic elements of a Level 3 agreement that carries with it Contractual Responsibility.

So, in looking at your relationships…

Where have you clarified expectations and where have you assumed them?

Where have you made promises and where have you assumed them?

Where might a “clearer contract” have saved a relationship for you?



Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Creating Level 2

Last week we started to look at relationship building from the perspective of four levels of agreement.

Level 1, Cognitive Resonance, was that mental click that happens when something gets your attention. Level 2, Completed Response, is the move from thought to action. That thing you do in response to the mental click. So if our premise is that relationships build as you move through these four levels of agreement how do ensure that your “call to action” is something doable?

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone presents a 30 slide presentation FULL of information that is nothing more than just that, information? No application, no ask, no call to action.

Several years ago I was doing some communications consulting with a large technology company. They told us of a meeting that had been held by the Senior VP of sales in which he recounted which of their product lines they were going to focus specifically on in the coming fiscal year. Good information right? Problem was he didn’t provide any call to action and as a result:

  • The support group wanted to know when they were supposed to announce end of support for the lines that were not in focus for the coming year.
  • Development teams on the non-focus lines started updating resumes in fear they were going to be let go.
  • Marketing started working on messaging around migrating customers off of the non-focus product lines.
  • Multiple meetings were called to try to figure out the impact of dropping several of the product lines.

Finally the VP had to call yet another meeting to “announce” that they weren’t going to drop ANY product lines. They were just going to put specific focus in the coming year on the ones he had mentioned previously. Which, by the way, didn’t alleviate ALL the fears…it just extended the runway.

Contrast NO call to action with the sidewalk evangelist who approached a friend and I, when we were nine years old, leaving little league tryouts. This kid was probably in high school or college, all the same to me…I was nine, and he was really in to “sharing the gospel”. Having “grown up” in the church I was interested in what the guy had to say, not sure if my friend was, and listened politely. He came to the end of his schpiel, with a few leading questions along the way, and asked if we wanted to confess our sins and ask Jesus into our hearts. Hmmmm…call to action (for a nine year old): Admit that much of what you have done in your nine years is wrong, confess that to GOD, and give Him complete control of your life, right here, while we’re talking, on the sidewalk, after little league tryouts, without asking your parents. Yikes.

Let me share a couple characteristics to remember when sorting out your call to action, that thing you’re asking someone to do to move to a Level 2 relationship.

1. Make it Clear and Actionable – “I want you to consider supporting” is not a crystal clear action. “I want you to support” isn’t either, they’re both passive asks. Remember this is an action step. You want them to do something physically. “I want you to support this initiative by taking two actions…” Those two actions are your clear ask.

2. Make it Right Sized – The ask of the street evangelist to a nine year old is huge. How about asking the kid to attend a church service with his folks?  “Get up out of your chair and sign up for classes today.” Again, huge. There’s cost, schedule, class choice, a lot of decisions that go into that ask. “Come try a one day class for free.” Relatively easy. (By the way this is where offering freebies is a GREAT call to action: come try it.)

3. Make it Low Risk or at least Risk Appropriate. – Remember you’re early on in relationship here. Trust has to be earned. Think about the risk you’re asking someone to take. Give them an easy first step to build confidence in the relationship, then follow that with a next easy step.

The “risk free 30 day trial” is a great attempt at a clear, actionable, low risk call to action. Are you skeptical when you see that ask? Why or why not?

Can you think of a time when your call to action was either absent or too big? How Could you change that?

Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 2

Last week we started to look at relationship building from the perspective of four levels of agreement.

  • Level  1Cognitive Resonance
  • Level  2Completed Response
  • Level  3Contractual Responsibility
  • Level  4Committed Rapport

We explored Cognitive Resonance: that mental “click” that happens when something stands out and makes you take notice, and talked about how to create Cognitive Resonance for your potential customers, parishioners, or clients.

So what is this Level 2 – Completed Response all about?

Imagine that you’re walking through the kitchen in your home and the TV is playing quietly in the background. A commercial comes on, it’s for a local car dealership, the LAST thing you need to do is listen but the volume has suddenly reached that epic, please-don’t-use-your-outdoor-voice-in-the-house level like all commercials do. You grimace, shake your head, plant your face firmly in the fridge, and then you hear: “Everyone who comes in and test drives today receives a free trip to Paris, France!”

You stop what you’re doing and turn quickly to face the TV. You want to be sure you heard that right. The announcer continues ranting but manages to convince you that there is no apparent catch. All you have to do is go test drive a car and get a trip. Your interest is piqued! You’ve JUST entered into a Level 1 relationship with the dealer. Now what?

Now you have a choice to make. Will you believe it enough to go test drive a car? You rational brain kicks into overdrive analysis mode.  There has to be a catch. They couldn’t afford to do that even if they marked up every car significantly AND sold one for every two test drives. “Paris, France” must be a name they’ve given to their sales office or something. It cannot be.

At the same time your heart is fighting back. What if it IS true? What if their owner also owns an airline? How big of a hero would I be if I took my wife to Paris? I’ve got nothing else going on this afternoon, I should go do it!

At this point you’re on the verge of entering into a Level 2 agreement, the Completed Response.

While Level 1, Cognitive Resonance, is a passive, almost automatic reaction Level 2, Completed Response, is a cognitive active choice that involves some form of physical action.

You observe the girl across the room, hear her talk and are intrigued by her combination of looks and intelligence…”click”…Level 1 agreement. But unless you walk over and introduce yourself OR go do some “friend research” to learn more about here, both Completed Responses, the relationship never moves forward.

You hear the car commercial offering the trip…”click”…Level 1 agreement. You internally debate. But unless you go test drive a car OR talk to someone who has tested the offer, both Completed Responses, the relationship never moves forward.

In traditional sales this is typically referred to as the “call to action”. This is the “what I want them to do” after they hear the pitch. It is important to remember that the Completed Response involves physical action. It moves the relationship from thought to action. Too often we present ideas, try to sell products, attempt to build relationships with little or no thought to this call to action. We present information to folks and HOPE they’ll make the right choice or give them an ultimatum: buy today. There is art in creating the right call to action. There is elegance is providing an easy path to a Level 2 agreement.  We’ll look at the “how to” next time.

Think about the last time you tried to recruit someone, to sell something, or even to convince someone of a new idea.

Did you present the information in a way that would inspire a Level 1 “click”?

And did you follow that up with an easily achievable and understandable call to action that made for a seamless transition from thought to Completed Response?

Relationship Building: The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 1

Last time we looked at how relationships grow through four levels of agreement. We identified the first level agreement as Cognitive Resonance, that instant where your attention is captured enough to create a connection, a first level agreement. We described Cognitive Resonance as:

It’s the brain buzz, the ‘click’, the “hey, that looks interesting”. It’s that thing that happens when the server walks by with someone else’s food and you start madly scrambling for the menu to see if you can figure out what that was because “THAT looked goooood.”

It’s that moment in a conversation with someone you’ve just met where you start to pay closer attention because you were suddenly struck with the thought, “Hey, I think there could be more to this person.”

It’s that third recommendation of a restaurant that makes you think, “Yeah, we should check that place out.”

Make sense? Good. So here’s the question of the day…

If you can identify what the moment of Cognitive Resonance feels like how do you inspire it in others?

Whether you’re trying to woo potential customers, build a congregation, or simply make friends knowing how to create that moment of Cognitive Resonance is key to getting out of the gate on the right foot. I believe there are two key operating principles you MUST  employ when you’re looking to create a moment of Cognitive Resonance for people.

Principle 1: It isn’t about you, it’s about them.

The picture at the top of this post is the first magazine ad I was ever tasked with creating. It was a half page ad in a magazine that was going to be distributed to all attendees at a large industry conference being put on by a large software company.  I looked at the ads that all of our competitors had done the previous year and they all sounded the same. “We’re the best.” “We’re the biggest.” “We have more.” ” We, We, We”  That’s why my ad emphasizes the word YOU. I wanted to start with the prospect in mind. In fact, we go so far as to tell them what they want. Pretty bold move.

This was an ad that I really thought would be more or less a throw away. We got it free as a sponsor of the event. But you would have been amazed at how many people came by our booth and mentioned it in one way or another. The change in approach that put the focus back on the customer prospect, rather than on trying to scream how good WE were louder than our competitors, actually caused people to pause. It created a moment of Cognitive Resonance.

Now I’ll admit, taking that approach you have to know pretty well what the prospect really wants. But that is exactly where marketing lives today. Traditional marketing was about screaming more loudly than the competition how good your stuff is and because it is so good, Mrs. Customer, you know you want it.

Relational marketing, or tribal marketing, or social marketing…whatever label we’re going to land on here shortly…is about understanding the customer and speaking to their need. And if you do THAT well you’ll create a moment of Cognitive Resonance.

Doing that WELL leads to principle number two.

Principle 2: Understand the customer and start where they are.

Customers, potential church attenders, soon to be friends all have needs both recognized and unrecognized. The better you can identify those needs the better you can meet them with a product, service, or relationship.

For years I sold software. People selling software always assume the customer wants to buy software. What started to bug me was that we sometimes lost the sale, to “no decision”. WHAT?!?! They bought NOTHING? The reason was that while software sales people were assuming that the customer need was for software, the customer felt they needed to solve a business problem. They HOPED software might solve it but the NEED was a solution to a business problem. In general then the bulk of the software sales people I was running across were starting in the wrong place!

We began creating presentations that said nothing about software. I had several CEO’s for whom I worked nearly go through the roof with me on that. Our presentations started talking about the business problem, in detail. Without fail we’d have a major prospect, or analyst, or board member stop us only a third of the way into our presentation and say, “You get this better than anyone else we’ve talked to. Now how do we solve it?”

By starting where the customer was, with their felt need, we were able to move very quickly to a moment of Cognitive resonance that set us apart from the competition. We also started selling more software.

Looking at your set of potential customers, or attendees, or friendships how can you start making the conversation more about them than about you?

With those folks you have in mind is there a difference between what they think they might need and what YOU think they might need? How can you start where they are and bridge the gap?



Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement

Imagine for a moment that you’re trying to figure out how to build and grow a customer base. Or, if that’s not your thing, imagine you’re trying to figure out who you ought to mentor. Or, if you need something more basic, imagine you’re trying to sort out who to date. In any of these instances what you’re really trying to do is build relationships. Some of us are good at it, some of us stink at it, but all of us need to do it really to be successful in life.

Look again at those three scenarios. Beyond just building relationships what’s REALLY going on there is a desire to build ever deepening relationship and THAT takes work. It’s work that move people closer to each other, work that builds bonds.  In fact I want to suggest that people enter into deeper relationship based on increased levels of agreement.

Think about that statement for a second. You probably can’t name a single person with whom you have any depth of relationship AND with whom you completely disagree. It just doesn’t happen. (Except perhaps with some random members of your spouse’s extended family but that is a unique category.) There is always a “something” that draws us towards some people and away from others, towards one product and away from others, towards one service provider over another and that “something” is the level of agreement.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you and your close friends agree on everything, nor does it mean you like all the same things, nor does it hint at some sort of bizarre, cliquish, neo-cloned relational similitude. What it means is that the relationship itself is moving through four levels of agreement.

We’ll look at each of these in the days ahead but in overview the four levels are as follows:

  • Level  1Cognitive Resonance
  • Level  2Completed Response
  • Level  3Contractual Responsibility
  • Level  4Committed Rapport

So what in the world is Cognitive Resonance?

It’s the brain buzz, the ‘click’, the “hey, that looks interesting”. It’s that thing that happens when the server walks by with someone else’s food and you start madly scrambling for the menu to see if you can figure out what that was because “THAT looked goooood.”

It’s that moment in a conversation with someone you’ve just met where you start to pay closer attention because you were suddenly struck with the thought, “Hey, I think there could be more to this person.”

It’s that third recommendation of a restaurant that makes you think, “Yeah, we should check that place out.”

Years upon years ago I was working with a bunch of crazy Junior-high kids in San Diego and, as happened every summer, we took a bunch of them to camp. The first night of camp the guy who was serving as the “men’s dean” for the week introduced the women’s dean as the “cutest girl in camp”. Being a guy in my mid-twenties I obviously took a more than a passing interest in THAT pronouncement and thus invested a more than casual glance. While I had to objectively agree with his assessment I was, at the time, engaged to be married only a few months hence, and thus I took no other action. No, really, I promise, I didn’t do anything.  Until the next morning.

When the “cutest girl in camp” got up on stage to do her morning announcements and devotional with the kids I experienced a SIGNIFICANT moment of cognitive resonance.  (No, I did not think in those terms.)  What I did think was:

“Wow, she’s pretty sharp… and funny… and pretty good at what she does, and…man, I’m thinking that what I’m seeing here may answer a couple questions I’ve been asking… and…”

See where that’s going? Yeah, that’s where it went. We got married a year later and have been married for 21 years.  To be fair, and transparent, our relationship moved through all four levels of agreement over the course of that year but it all started with the moment of cognitive resonance.
Who are the people in your life today, probably in the category of acquaintances at the moment, with who you’ve had that twinkling of an ah-ha moment, that moment of cognitive resonance?

If you’re looking to build a customer base what are you doing to provide those moments of cognitive resonance for your prospects?

Have you had a personal experience where you can clearly identify the moment that cognitive resonance first took place?