John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Jason Harris. He is the CEO of award-winning creative agency Mekanism and the co-founder of the Creative Alliance. But he’s also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today called The Soulful Art of Persuasion: The 11 Habits That Will Make Anyone a Master Influencer. So Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason Harris: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
John Jantsch: When I first got sent this book, I was a little nervous because if I’m going to develop 11 new habits, how many habits am I going to have to break?
Jason Harris: Well, you know, some of those habits-
John Jantsch: I mean bad habits. I mean, of course.
Jason Harris: Of course bad habits, but some of those habits you’re already going to naturally be good at. So yeah, hopefully it’s not too taxing.
John Jantsch: So, let’s define… you and I were talking before we started the show, especially in the context of the way business is done today. What actually is a master influencer?
Jason Harris: So you know, I define master influencer… it’s a great question because you typically, sometimes when you hear the word influencer in the marketing advertising sector, you think of someone on YouTube or someone using social media to make a point or build an audience. But to me, we’re all influencers in our own way and every day we have these micro inflection points of persuasion, whether it’s at work and you’re getting someone to buy off on your idea or an interview where you’re landing a job. Or you’re trying to convince your significant other to take a vacation you want to take, or your kids to get ready for school, or your teacher to take your assignment late.
Jason Harris: Whatever it might be, in all walks of life we’re all sort of having these micro moments of persuasion all day long. And to me the idea is that any one of us can get better at influencing the people we’re trying to win over by these learned behaviors or habits. And so to me, an influencer, all of us are influencers in one way or another. All of us are persuading all day long and we can be better or worse depending on our viewpoint.
John Jantsch: So I like that you use habits because I think a lot of people think about influence and they quickly go to techniques and tricks and tips even. But let me ask you this, so while I like the idea of habits, I think some people might question what is soul got to do with it?
Jason Harris: So soul to me is the crux of the whole book, but to me it’s the foundation of how you move through influence and how you move through these habits because soul to me is the idea that you’re coming at it from a place of authenticity and from your true core and from your belief system, and you’re being a true persuader by building trust. And to me, soul is all about your character and what you stand for, and without that persuasion and these habits could come across as sales gimmicks. But if it’s coming from who you are as a core, that soulful piece is the piece that makes it different.
John Jantsch: So sometimes people learn better this way. What would you say the soulful art of persuasion is not?
Jason Harris: It is not? I don’t think it’s that… it’s not a book on how to close a quick deal or make a quick sale. It’s not an always be closing book. That’s what it’s not.
John Jantsch: All right, so let’s dig into a couple of them. You break the 11 habits into four practices or behaviors. I’m forgetting-
Jason Harris: I call them principles.
John Jantsch: Principles, right. So the first one, be original, which of course is not an original thought necessarily, right? I mean everybody kind of gets that. But I think what I love about the way you’ve broken it down is it’s one of those things that it’s such a puzzle. I mean, how do I be original? Okay. You be yourself. Well that’s not very original. Or that’s not very creative or that’s not very whatever I say it is. So how do you get this? And we love these words like authenticity and things today. I mean, how do we actually do this?
Jason Harris: Well, the founding concept behind being original is that you’re coming from a place of honesty and you’re giving people a real glimpse of yourself. Your unique personality, your idiosyncrasies. You wear those on your sleeves or sleeve, I should probably say. But it’s about understanding who you are, and if you don’t fundamentally know why you’re different than everyone else, and it’s that famous Oscar Wilde quote, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,” that’s at the core of it.
Jason Harris: And it all starts, the principle and the habits falling underneath that principle all start with you leaning into your true character and you shouldn’t have a work persona or a school persona, and then your real personality comes out when you’re with your three closest friends. The idea of being original is that you’re always coming from this authentic place and people understand who you are, what makes you tick.
Jason Harris: You lean into all of those characteristics on all of those things that make you different. So that’s at the heart of it. And there’s more ways that I talk about in the book of how you can do that, like storytelling. The persuasive power of storytelling is one of those, and that’s really all about understanding stories from your life that made you the person that you are. It’s about talking about role models that inspired you and why. It’s talking about… even pop culture movies and books that speak to you, and the reason why they speak to you. Those are all part of… makes up who you are as a person.
John Jantsch: I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to not be themselves because let’s face it, some people feel like, “I’m not that influential. I’m not that interesting. The real me is kind of boring, so I have to put on a mask and be the influential me.” So what do you say to that person that feels like, “Hey, no, I have to have this different game when I’m in front of the team and I’m trying to sell them.”
Jason Harris: I think that’s patently untrue. I think people, even if you find that your real personality might be a little bit boring. I think you would lean into the fact that you’re more of a stoic person by nature or you’re more straight forward, but sort of play that up, like lean in and push as hard as you can on the things that you’re trying to avoid. People today have a really, really good bullshit detector, and so if you’re putting on a mask and you’re trying to win over your team by acting in a way that you aren’t really, because people see you at work, they’re going to know who you are in your real life. I think that will go against soulful persuasion because you’re being an actor and unless you’re a really hell of a good actor, it’s not going to be coming from an authentic place and it’s going to have the opposite effect of inspiring people.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think we’ve all encountered somebody that we maybe just completely disagree with their point of view or how they approach things. But we can appreciate the fact that that’s who they are and they’re just being who they are. And I have a… I hope he’s not listening. I have a neighbor that just says the most straightforward stuff that you’re like, “Wow, did you really say that?” But then you’re like, he does… That’s him not being filtered. That’s him. And I can actually appreciate that in some ways, even if I don’t fully agree with what he’s saying.
Jason Harris: Yeah, that’s a good point. And if your neighbor’s trying to inspire a team, he should be up front about, “Hey I know I’m super straightforward and this is super base, but this is the way that I approach things and here’s why.” And I think it’s about showing your… it’s like opening the kimono and letting people really see the real you and that’s the most powerful thing you can do. People respect that.
John Jantsch: So there’ve been countless books on this idea of storytelling, and you touched on it already a little bit, but would you say that in your experience, people that have mastered this art of being an influential, can I have a couple core stories that they lean on that really say a lot about what they believe?
Jason Harris: Yeah, definitely. And those should be memorized and practiced and rehearsed and they should become… that’s part of the habitual nature, is it’s ingrained in you so you can call on them at any time. You make a good point, you don’t have to have a list of 30 stories that are right for any moment, but you have to have a handful that you can call on when the time’s right that let people know a little bit about you.
Jason Harris: And at work we have a lot of… built an ad agency here and we have a lot of stories through building the company that are folklore that we tell from time to time when there’s new people that join us that the story is a metaphor for the beliefs that we have and they get passed down. And those are really important in an organization or for your personal brand that you have those personal stories and those antidotes. Even if you don’t have a ton of those, you can still transport people through storytelling by telling familiar stories that are either books or films or mythology that speak to you and you can articulate why they speak to you and why those are important lessons. And sometimes even a familiar story can really help persuade people because they, “Oh, I know this one, I can relate to this one,” versus a story that only you know about.
John Jantsch: So you mentioned this earlier and you have a whole chapter on this idea of ‘never be closing’. There’s no question that that habit will make you more likable. Will it make you ultimately more effective if your job is to meet a quota?
Jason Harris: Yeah, well that… I get this question a lot because ‘never be closing’ to me is the idea of letting go of short term transactional thinking and focus on building meaningful relationships. And I think business is a marathon, not a sprint. And if your goal is to hit those quotas and get your bonus and go quarter to quarter, you might do that for some time and you might hit those goals and you might follow the Glengarry Glen Ross principles and you might close a lot of deals because you’re just trying to get them to sign and you’re trying to hit that number in the spreadsheet. But over time, losing out on a couple of those bonuses, maybe feeling like you’re falling behind will ultimately pay off in compound interest over time. Because this idea of never be closing means you’re doing what’s right for the client or customer and you’re building meaningful relationships, and a lot of it is spending that energy in relationship building even if you’re not sure that there’s an immediate sales to be had or immediate goal, but over time they will respect you more.
Jason Harris: You will keep those relationships going. They will become referrals for you and you will end up being way more successful following that path than playing the short game. I think playing the long game is ultimately where success comes from in business. So we’ve all been down and out and had to do that one sale or we were going to… our business was in trouble or we were going to go out of business, but I truly believe that not hitting those goals or failing a little bit or having to lay people off or not getting that promotion because you didn’t hit those numbers, but focusing on playing the long game with those relationships, it might not be that you’re going to hit those huge jumps in the short term. But in a marathon you’re going to win out.
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John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think that’s a point worth repeating that everything you talk about in this book is really for somebody who’s playing the long game and not… you don’t develop habits of becoming a master influencer because you did some thing. It’s really a way to live your life, isn’t it?
Jason Harris: It’s an approach to life and it’s approach to relationships that and why. I love that you picked up on habits and how that’s different because these can be learned habits. We’re not all born telling great stories, just like we’re not all born being open about ourselves, or we’re not all born as generous people or some of the other principles, but you’re going to naturally have some of those already. But the other ones, the other habits you have to work on, and by working on them, like building any muscle over time, they become habitual and natural, and you don’t have to think about them anymore. But you have to work on them and they’re not going to… you’re not going to read this book and all of a sudden you’re Mr Persuader, Mr and Mrs Persuader. But if you look at the ones that you need to hone in on and you really make it a habit to practice those, they will become natural to you over time.
John Jantsch: And I think it’s a great point. I think a lot of people look at a book like this and think, “Okay, I have to do all these things.” And really, if you adopted one or two of these habits, actually at a level far greater than you do today, you’ve made progress, haven’t you?
Jason Harris: You’ve got. Yeah, you’ve made leaps and bounds of progress and that’s why this book to me is action oriented. It’s not a bunch of case studies about how people successfully persuaded someone else because that doesn’t help the reader. These are designed to really, they’re sort of illustrative examples and research and psychology examples. But at the end of the day there’s concrete ways that people can work on these skills. And it’s really, for me, by trial and error because I’m 20 something years into advertising and marketing career where I’ve failed plenty of times, and I’ve gone after short term games and I’ve let relationships drop to zero and I’ve done all these mistakes. And it’s only by seeing that from the lens of what’s worked that I was able to put this down.
John Jantsch: Well you started to wander into the next question I was going to ask you, is there a habit in the list of 11, and of course people can go to your website, they can go to Amazon and other places and see actually the 11 listed. But is there a habit that’s hardest for you?
Jason Harris: I would say for me the hardest habit was this idea of giving something away in every interaction, which is under the principle of generous, which is the general idea behind that one is that whenever you cross paths with someone you should always try to leave them a little better off than they were. And so whatever you give it should be about them. So it could be give your time, advice, it can be connecting them with someone else. It can even be stuff, it can be gifts. It could be when you pick up an interesting book that you read, you buy one for someone else. It can be sending them a text of something that you saw versus just posting on social media for everyone. It’s telling people that you’re thinking about them. Those are acts of generosity and for me I would not really always be thinking about other people in that way.
Jason Harris: I would be more self aware and focused on the task that I need to do. And if connecting someone with that person wasn’t paying off for me, I didn’t see the value in it. Or finding that half hour for someone to come in to my office or for me to take a phone call and give someone advice. I would say that I was too busy and that was really, really hard for me to change that mentality of being habitually generous and giving, giving something away because you don’t know, it’s not a clear connection of where that generosity pays off.
Jason Harris: You just have to put in to the universe and know that it does always pay off in some way. Whether it pays off by you feeling good about being a better person or it pays off by a business lead down the road. It does always pay off into something, and that was something I had to really learn because I wasn’t connecting it to what could possibly happen in the future. I was looking at it as, “Well, my time is valuable and this person can find someone else to get advice from or another connection. I don’t have time for it,” and so that was something I really had to work hard at, really hard at.
John Jantsch: Yeah, I had a guest on a previous show talk about this similar concept and when you’re trying to form these habits, he had what I thought was kind of a neat tip. So based on what you just talked about, this idea of every time you have a meeting, have this in mind or have something that you can give and he actually put them in his calendar. So when he had meetings with people scheduled, he’d actually look at his calendar ahead of time, say “Okay, what can I give here?” And then he would get it ahead of time. And I thought that is… once you adopt that habit, that is a very practical, tactical way to live it.
Jason Harris: Yeah, and it really… I’ll tell you a quick story. I have a thing in the book called the million dollar hoodie. And this is when it crystallized for me, I had met someone from Ben and Jerry’s at a conference and I was like, “Oh, this guy… I really like this guy,” and took his card. I sent him some Mekanism hoodies from my agency. He wore that hoodie all the time. It was very soft, comfortable. He liked it, whatever. It had our logo on it. 10 months later they were looking for a new agency and just because he was wearing that and someone had mentioned about the hoodie, he was like, “Oh yeah, I met this guy from this agency.” He put us into the pitch. We won the business and we’ve been working on it for six years and that’s when I thought, if a hoodie can generate a win and I wasn’t thinking about that at the time, habitually doing that.
Jason Harris: And whenever we go to any business meeting now, we’re always bringing little gifts, whether it’s a notebook or a hoodie or sending people books afterwards or a follow up, something. It really makes a difference because you’re just being generous without expecting anything in return, and it makes people feel good. And that’s when it dawned on me, I always think of the million dollar hoodie as like this, that’s a great specific reason to give stuff away. Not that it always has to equate to money or business, but that’s sort of my story about it.
John Jantsch: Yeah, people who are listeners to my show know I say this all the time, I think that the universe has a great scorekeeping mechanism and if you give without the thought of getting, at some point it’s going to come back around. So, the fourth principle, and we’re about out of time, but I just want to throw this out there. Empathy. I feel like as a country, at least in the United States, we’re probably as divided right now as maybe we’ve ever been or been since the 1800s. And empathy really is a lot about understanding somebody else’s point of view. How, again, you may or may not agree with me on this point of, it feels like we’re very divided politically, socially. So how can empathy in some ways heal that divide?
Jason Harris: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I think we’ve never been more divided, more partisan as a country either. There was a study that came out recently again, in the 1960s there was 5% of families, like people that had sons or daughters, 5% would be upset if they married someone from a different political party. And then in 2016, the number was 65%. So just shows you in that short time frame how divided we’ve become from a political viewpoint standpoint, how partisan we are.
Jason Harris: And so to me, empathy is really all about developing a natural curiosity for others and listening and learning more and seeking out collaborations. Trying to join forces with people from diverse backgrounds and different areas of expertise. And it’s shifting the mindset of seeing people as more similar than different. And I always have this in the front of my head, which is that humans are 99.9% the same DNA. we’re made up of the same DNA. There’s 0.1% that makes us all different.
Jason Harris: And if you start with that framework, whenever you’re going into a conversation or a meeting or whatever, we all want the same things. We might have different viewpoints that are strong and we might not agree on on all the points, but from the basis of where we’re starting from, we are all after the same thing. And we are all that similar that you just have to try to develop that mindframe of, “Wow, we’re all the same. Let’s dive into those few key things that are different from us,” versus, “Oh man, we’re all so different. It’s impossible for us to get along.” I mean, that’s just a mental shift that I always like to practice.
John Jantsch: Well, and if you do in fact have all the answers, where’s your room to grow? Right. All right. So the last chapter I’ll let you leave us on. It’s my favorite, and I’ll let you just describe what you mean by that we have to become our own personal Jesus.
Jason Harris: So for me, personal Jesus is really all about this idea of where, to me, where soulful really resonates is when you marry skill with purpose. And skill is really about, all of us are only going to have two or three things that we’re really, really skilled at and really knowledgeable at. And we should always make sure that we hone those. And then every few years we should be trying to develop new skills and learning and growing. Not that they’re going to become, we’re going to master them, but it just keeps us fresh. And when you match the two or three things you’re really skilled at and you’re living skillfully, and you match that with purpose, that’s where you hit inspiration.
Jason Harris: And inspiration is really about mirroring things that you are good at with things that you could give back. And if you look at, you have two lists and you write down on one side the two or three things you’re really skilled at. Like in your case it could be marketing for small business podcasts, whatever it might be. And then you mirror things that you care about in the world that could be improved. I don’t know what those would be for you, but if you have a list of those three skillful things and those three purpose oriented things, and you look at those two lists long enough, you’re going to come up with an idea of how to blend your skills with purpose, to be inspirational to other people. And I think really if we’re all just about money and business and success, then we’ve lost the big picture. And that to me is a critical element of being soulful.
John Jantsch: Speaking with Jason Harris, the author of The Soulful Art of Persuasion. So Jason, where can people find out more about you and the book?
Jason Harris: You can check out thesoulfulart.com, that has every place you can buy. It has a little bit more about me and I have some sample reading materials on there that people can check out if they’re interested.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, I appreciate you stopping by. Did I mention I wear an extra large hoodie? I don’t think I mentioned that.
Jason Harris: You did now, it’s in the mail.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, Jason, hopefully we can catch up with you next time. I’m in New York, so thanks so much.
Jason Harris: Absolutely. Thank you John.