The Hidden Agenda

Summary Written by Bruce Brodeen
"It all boils down to the act of stirring someone to join you – to agree to follow you. Yet we consistently underestimate how critical it is to recognize the needs, spoken and unspoken, of the decision maker."

- The Hidden Agenda, inside cover

The Big Idea

What Lies at the Heart of Every Pitch and is Universal in its Application

"The Hidden Agenda is the unspoken, emotional motivation that resides in the heart of your audience. This emotional core is the true motivator behind every decision."- The Hidden Agenda, page 19

Lately, it has become fashionable to utilize the teachings of ‘persuasion science’ to connect, compel and motivate movement in the sales process. “The Hidden Agenda”, while not rejecting the studies that support the importance of persuasion, gently pushes those findings aside to advance the idea that to establish a collaborative relationship with another we must create an emotional, human connection … and get to the heart of the matter.

By spending time to understand your prospects’ emotional motivations and digging deep into discerning the unstated motivations of the person, we can set the stage for a powerful and successful outcome that benefits all parties in the process.

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.

Insight #1

Uncovering the Hidden Agenda

"Uncovering the hidden agenda requires you to get close to your prospect and to listen carefully to read the emotional subject at hand. It means asking questions that open the window to your audience’s emotional motivation."- The Hidden Agenda, page 58

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.”

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Insight #2

The Win Strategy – Leveraging Who You Are

"Winning occurs when a shared bond is created with your audience through connecting your leverage-able assets – your real ambition, your credo, or your core – to your audience’s hidden agenda."- The Hidden Agenda, page 149

Let’s talk about the resources of who you are – what you bring to the party that can be leveraged to enhance the connection and quicken the success of finding the hidden agenda. There are three core elements that can help uncover the hidden agenda when talking about your personal assets. They are your core, your credo, and your real ambition.

Your Core: It is your essence, your special abilities that are used to connect to the needs of your prospect. It is a deep understanding of all of your life experiences and how those add value in a way that people will listen to and then follow you.

Your Credo: Credo means ‘I believe’ and connects “to the values, because it is a belief system you and your audience share.” The credo represents a code of ethics, behavior and belief. Crystallize your belief system and you will forge a bond that will galvanize your prospect to align with you. The actions that a person or company takes are a reflection of their credo.

The Real Ambition: “The human desire to create something good where nothing existed before.” It is not a hope for, it is a will be that will be pursued relentlessly. Real ambition has a clear intent, it moves to achieve the impossible and it requires action along with the belief. It will make you feel nervous and excited, at the same time. It is the engine of your pitch.

Though the book was written for the professional ‘pitch man’ and has a bias towards corporation concerns, it is easily read and applied to a small business and entrepreneurial orientation. The message for the person pitching is not ‘buy me’ but ‘join me’.

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.

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Kevin Allen

Kevin Allen is an expert in business development and leading companies to achieve their ambitions. He spent two decades on the front lines of business development at the top of advertising giants McCann-WorldGroup, the Interpublic Group and Lowe Worldwide and is recognized as one of the advertising industry’s most accomplished growth professionals. A much loved and respected new business guru, one of his close colleagues coined him the Billion Dollar Man!

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