Episode: 004: Be Compelling and Stand Out with Clients

Episode: 004: Be Compelling and Stand Out with Clients

Episode 004: Be Compelling and Stand Out with Clients

by Mark Goulston

You’ll want to grab a pen and thick pad of paper for this information-packed interview with Dr. Mark Goulston. He reveals several intriguing ways to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd. Mark is a prolific content producer. He’s the author of the best-selling books Just Listen and Talking to Crazy; the host of two podcasts, “My Wakeup Call” and “Stay Alive”; and a syndicated columnist.

You’ll discover:

  • How to be compelling instead of convincing with prospective clients
  • The 4-part formula Steve Jobs used in presentations to grab and keep the audience’s attention
  • What to say and ask to quickly establish trust when you’re with a potential client
  • How to use “1116” to eliminate any possible regrets after they buy from you

Watch the episode:


Connect with Mark


Read the Transcription

Hi, and welcome to another episode of Strong for Performance. I’m your host, Meredith Bell, and with me today is one of my favorite people, Dr. Mark Goulston. Welcome, Mark.

Always glad to be with you, Meredith. You know, you’re one of my favorite people too.

Oh, good. Well, so we have our own little fan club here and we’re letting everybody else in on it today. One of the things that I love about Mark is that he is such a prolific creator of content of ideas. He’s written two of my very favorite books. One is Just Listen and the other is Talking to Crazy. Mark is so effective because his training was as a psychiatrist. He worked with a lot of folks who had very serious problems, some of them suicidal thoughts, and he was extremely effective in learning how to be empathic, connect with them, and really make a difference.

He’s taken those skills to the corporate world and has helped teach leaders and other people inside organizations how to really connect and be more effective. Today, I’m very excited about our topic, because he’s going to be discussing something that I think many coaches and consultants struggle with when it comes to sales and marketing, and that’s this whole idea of how can you be compelling and also convincing without trying to be too pushy? Mark, I know you have a lot of expertise in that area, and so I’m looking forward to having you share that. In addition, Mark’s going to be telling us about Apple and Steve Jobs and how they’ve created their products to be compelling, and he’s going to share a very special formula with us on how to have that same impact with your own business. So, Mark, welcome. Let’s get started.

Let’s get started, yeah. Now, what I find with a lot of people is that they tend to be more convincing than compelling and when you try to convince people, you come off as pushy. You’re pressuring them. Compelling, you draw them towards you. So, the more that you can attract people towards you so that they want more of you, the more influential you’ll be, and in the long run the more persuasive you’ll be. What happens too often though is people will try to be convincing about not only what they do it, but this is how I do it and this is how it happens. And a lot of people sort of smile like this, but they often end up like deer in the headlights of a sales pitch that they’d like to get out of. Being compelling is the way you open people’s minds so that they want more of you. As you mentioned, for actually a year I toured playing Steve Jobs coming back from the dead. I had a turtleneck on, I had the glasses on, and I probably gave it about 15, 18 times, but then what happened is he became more historic. We have a reigning visionary, Elon Musk, and by the way he follows the same unconscious formula to make his products, his presentations more compelling than other people, and that’s why we want to hear more. We want to know what he’s doing and what he’s doing next.

The formula that I’ve observed that Steve Jobs and Elon Musk does when they introduce a product actually is the same reaction that Steve Jobs had when he first noticed the graphical user interface at Xerox PARC. Now, that’s the mouse. That was the first time he realized that you could interact with a computer in this playful way, using a mouse and a graphical user interface. We’re going to play a video of him doing that, but I’m going to give you the formula because I want you to notice how, as he’s retelling the story, that he follows the formula. The formula is simply this. It’s four steps. The first step is whoa, W-H-O-A. The second step is wow, W-O-W. The third step is hmmm, H-M-M-M. And the fourth step is yes. What those each mean is whoa is what you need to do to break into people’s minds, because people are overwhelmed. They’re preoccupied. You know you’ve created whoa when the person you’re speaking to or the audience says can you repeat that again? Or, if you’re speaking to an audience, someone will elbow the person next to them. What did he say? What did she say? So, you interrupt it. Really what whoa means is I can’t believe what I just saw or heard, or read if you’re putting out marketing materials.

Wow is you take a second check on what you first saw, heard, or read. Wow, that’s astonishing. That’s amazing. That’s unbelievable. Is that what your product does? Is that what your service does? Is that what you do? That’s what wow creates. And then, once you’ve created that in your customer, client, investor, or talent you’re trying to attract, the next step is hmmm. Hmmm means this is too good not to use. This is too good to ignore. I don’t know how we’re going to use it, but we’re going to use it. And then, once your customer, client, talent, or investor has a picture of how they’re going to use it, they go yes. Sold. To demonstrate this, we’re now going to show a brief video of Steve Jobs recalling his visiting Xerox PARC and his first laying eyes on the graphical user interface.

Yeah, I’m going to cue that up.

“They showed me, really three things. But, I was so blinded by the first one that I didn’t even really see the other two. One of the things they showed me was object oriented programming. They showed me that, but I didn’t even see that. The other one they showed me was really a networked computer system. They had over 100 Alto computers all networked, using email, et cetera, et cetera. I didn’t even see that. I was so blinded by the first thing they showed me, which was the graphical user interface. I thought it was the best thing I had ever seen in my life. Now, remember, it was very flawed. What we saw was incomplete. They’d done a bunch of things wrong, but we didn’t know that at the time. Still though, the germ of the idea was there and they’d done it very well. Within 10 minutes, it was obvious to me that all computers would work like this.”

If you watched that or heard that, I think you can see how Steve Jobs recalled how when he first laid eyes on the graphical user interface. What did he say? It was the best thing I’d ever seen in my life. And then he thought about it. It was flawed, but boy, it basically worked. And then at the end he realizes, within 10 minutes I knew that all computers would work this way. The question for you if you’re listening in is, when you do a presentation, when you write materials, when you speak to anyone, are you triggering whoa, wow, hmmm, yes? Because in this low attention spanned world, if you’re not triggering whoa, wow, hmmm, yes, what you’re triggering is nah, never mind, no thanks, bye. So, what we’d like you to do is that whenever you’re making a presentation … Even, I’m hoping that our little video today triggers whoa, wow, hmmm, yes in you, and I’ll share a story about that.

I shared the formula with the CEO of Harvard Business Publishing, David Wan. Great guy. He oversees all their publications. As soon as I mentioned whoa, wow, hmmm, yes, he spontaneously took out a piece of paper and he wrote down the formula. A little while later, I was speaking with Art Kleiner, and he was the editor-in-chief of strategy and business. That’s kind of a competitor of HBR. And he did the same thing, took out a piece of paper. So, just the whoa, wow, hmmm, yes is a whoa, wow, hmmm, yes. So, that’s something you’d want to do. By the way, if you have a business and a marketing department, go to them and say does everything that our potential customer or client see here or read about us trigger whoa, wow, hmmm, yes? Because if it doesn’t, we need to change it.

It would be great if you could give a couple of examples where people have actually used this. In the case, say of Apple, how did Steve Jobs accomplish that? With Elon Musk, how do you see him accomplishing it? Since you said they both utilize this formula without really consciously being aware of those four steps that you just described.

Well, I think part of it is one of the things that Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have in common, as do a lot of visionaries, is they’re all a little bit ADD and they’re all easily distracted. It takes a lot for them to really focus into something. So, what they need is, when they see something, it needs to trigger adrenaline in them, an adrenaline rush, because adrenaline is a natural Adderall and it helps them to focus. So, when they see something, one of the things that Elon Musk and Steve Jobs had in common is that they were first class noticers. That’s another takeaway that you want to learn if you want to be impactful in the world and be compelling. Be a first class noticer. What Steve Jobs noticed is it was too difficult to use personal computers. You had to type in too much stuff. But when there was something that was visual, like a game, he noticed this now makes it fun. What Elon Musk has noticed in multiple industries is gasoline is too pricey. Why don’t we come up with an electric engine? And geez, while we’re at it, why don’t we fly to the moon? In fact, why don’t we take one of our cars and put it on one of our spaceships and let it fly off into the universe? So, they were first class noticers.

What you want to be if you want to be successful is you want to notice some unmet need out in the world. Also what you want to notice is coming up with a solution that is different. People do not remember better than, they remember different than. If you’re better than, you’re merely a commodity because everybody says they’re better than. But if you’re a different than, then you grab people’s attention. One of the ways that I grab from my own experience in life when I’m talking about communication and being compelling is I always put in the introduction … When people introduce me, they say oh, he’s a former FBI and police hostage negotiator. That’s a differentiator. Often, it’s not a very whoa, wow, hmmm, yes topic to talk about listening or communication. But when people say he’s trained hostage negotiators, that suddenly makes me different. So, I use that as a differentiator, and I think what that triggers in people is whoa. He must know something if he knows how to get through the people in life and death situations. Those would be a couple examples.

One other one which I often bring up when I’m giving a presentation is, and I do it in this cutesy way, I say what do you think is the likelihood of a multi-billionaire quoting a psychological type in a article that other billionaires will read, and this billionaire doesn’t particularly believe in psychology and he’s really not that known for quoting other people. What do you think the chances of him doing that would be? Now, most people know it’s a setup. And then, I say do a search for Eli Broad, B-R-O-A-D and Mark Goulston, G-O-U-L-S-T-O-N. The very first search that comes up is a Forbes magazine article and it says Eli Broad picks the world’s seven most powerful philanthropists. And even there when you do the search, you’re going to go in and click on the article. There’s a quote there, and the quote is wealth is what you take from the world, worth is what you give back, Mark Goulston. And there’s a whoa, wow, hmmm, yes story behind that quote. I had met Eli at various functions, so he sort of knew who I was and I had given him some suggestions about some management issues. So, he was willing to take my call because he sort of remembered me, and he was kind of polite.

But, Eli is a force of nature. I mean, he is in a rush. I get him on the phone and I say hi, Eli. This is Mark Goulston. He says yeah, Mark, I remember you. I’m in a rush, I got to do things. What’s this about? I said are you ever going to write a book on philanthropy? He says Mark, I don’t know. I really got to go. I said seven seconds, Eli. Wealth is what you take from the world, worth is what you give back. And then, here’s the whoa. Say that again, Mark. And I told him wealth is what you take from the world, worth is what you give back. It’s a great title for a book. You know, I’m never going to be a philanthropist. I donate. But, use it. Keep it. It’s yours. You do a lot for the world. Don’t attribute it to me. He said well, Mark, I got to rush. Six months later, Forbes magazine calls me and says you know, we got a quote here from Eli Broad attributed to you and we just wanted to check it out.

So, clearly what happened is he went whoa. That was something worth writing down. And then the wow is when he said that’s pretty good, Mark. And he wrote it down somewhere. And then when he wrote this article, they probably said do you have any good quotes to start the article and he went hmmm, I think I got a quote here from someone. And then he gave it to them, and that was the yes. So, that’s an example of, again, of using whoa, wow, hmmm, yes. I hope these are helpful examples of what you want to do when you’re going out and you’re wanting to be compelling. Whoa, wow, hmmm, yes is a way to be more compelling.

I love all of those examples, and thinking about our audience and how they could apply those, the one where you pulled out that you had trained the FBI on negotiating with hostages and that really set you up as different from others, when I think about today, it’s pretty competitive with people who are executive coaches. I know larger companies are doing a lot to vet potential candidates. So, I think your idea applies really well to them. Similarly with consultants who work with business owners or do other things within organizations. What is it about them that really makes them different? And I love your distinction between better and different. If they go back and look at what’s my story, what are some of the elements of things that I’ve done that maybe I’ve taken for granted or haven’t given myself adequate credit for but would be compelling for someone to hear about?

Well, sure. Something-

Those are the questions.

… Here’s something that I’ve developed into a training presentation. Just Listen is done very well. It became a top book on listening in the world and is in 23 languages. But, I’m continually learning and in the last six months I learned something that has really changed my life as both a coach, a consultant, husband, dad and I’m practicing because I don’t do it naturally. When I’m with people, and I’m actually going to do it with you, Meredith, is I notice when I’m with people that they’re always looking for and listening for something. So, I focus on what they might be looking for and listening for. And when I’m with people and I’m looking into their eyes, because I’m just curious about what they’re looking for and listening for, it’s really a fascinating way that we connect, eye to eye. If I were to apply that to you, and if you’re a coach or a consultant you could actually use this, and I’m going to give away the formula, you could say you know, Meredith, we’re talking here and you’re listening and I’m checking on what you might be listening for and I wanted to run it by you. So, let me see if I’ve got it right. Getting where someone’s coming from without them telling you where they’re coming from is very compelling because they feel gee, you can read my mind. I wonder what else you know about me.

What I would say is Meredith, I think what you’re looking for and listening for is that I give material that is relevant to your listeners and viewers. Not just relevant, but immediately usable. Something they can do right after they hear the interview, the podcast, that makes their lives better. I think you’re also looking and listening for something that they don’t have to be an expert psychologist type. You’re looking for something that’s free of jargon, that’s not complicated. That’s just incredibly simple, like whoa, wow, hmmm, yes. And you’re also looking and listening for whether you have confidence in what I’m saying and confidence in me. Now, what your listeners may or may not know, because we’ve had many interviews like this, is you have a lot of confidence in me that on each of our conversations that I seem to bring a value that is immediately usable. Is any of that accurate that I just said?

100% all of it.

See, you could actually say this. If you’re a consultant or a coach, instead of pulling back and thinking what you’re going to sell them, and if someone is asking you well, tell me what it is that you do, what you can say to them is well, let me see if I can earn the right to your attention. You say that to a potential client. As we’re talking, I’m imagining that you’re looking for and listening for something, and I’m imagining that what you’re looking for and listening for is something that relevant to you now. Maybe something to help you deal with a situation that you’re facing right now or maybe something that you can use beyond now, in the long run. Also, you’re looking for something that’s doable by you, where you don’t have to become some sort of expert or have my expertise, because you’d really like to get whatever this issue is resolved.

Am I accurate? Am I tracking with you? Is that part of what you’re looking for and listening for? They’re going to say yes, and then you can say can you fill me in on what some of those issues might be that you would really like a solution or help with that you haven’t found. And then they’re opening up to you. You can even say thank you for sharing that with me. Now, I’m imagining that what you’re looking and listening for is not just that I have a relevant solution, but that you can have confidence in me. That you have a feeling that what I’m sharing with you will actually solve the situation you’re trying to solve and that it will work out. Is that also true? Am I being relevant? Am I being someone that you can have confidence in? Are those true? By having this engaging conversation, can you see how they’re compelling them to actually want to find out more and how that is much different than a sales pitch?

Well, absolutely. I love what you just said, and I’m sure people are taking notes and are adapting that as a script to use in the future because the focus is really on them. The beauty of that for someone who’s a coach and consultant and is often uncomfortable in the sales role is they’re really just continuing the role they’ve already been comfortable in, the service they’re typically providing. Asking questions, checking to see if it’s accurate. But in this case, it’s related to this potential client and what’s important to them. I was just imagining a scenario in which that conversation would take place and thinking how it goes such a long way in building trust with that perspective client as they are seeing, again, how different this type of conversation is compared to what they usually are subjected to, with people trying to convince them why you ought to go with me, because my services are this, this, and this and instead just being present with them. Because, you know, Mark, what you’re describing here as an approach to take really requires somebody being fully present. You can’t just halfway be listening. You’ve got to really be tuned in to that person and what you’re sensing from them beyond the words they’re saying in order to really come out with the comments and checking out of things that you just described.

Absolutely. In fact, I’m going to give you another takeaway. I do masterminds with coaches and sales people and executives on how to be more impactful, so here’s another lost leader, as we say. Lost leaders are supposed to be compelling. And there’s no bait and switch. You don’t have to buy anything from me. Also in the conversation, once they’re engaging, there’s something that I sometimes use. I say I think one of the things that you’re also listening for is what I call 1116. They’re going to say what? Yeah, 1116. This is especially helpful if you’re doing B2B selling and you’re talking to a buyer who’s wanting to buy, not coaching services or product. They’re going to say what is 1116? Oh, it’s simple. What you’re listening for is if you do say yes to our working together that you won’t regret it one day, one week, or one month from now. Because you’ve said yes to things that you’ve regretted one day, one week, one month and you’re listening and hoping that this won’t turn into it.

What you’re also listening for, and you’re not even aware of it, is something that six months from now you say that was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. That was a whole month, hiring you, bringing you in to train. Buying your product, buying your services. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. If you add that, what’s going to happen, and another way that you know that you’ve triggered the whoa, wow, and the hmmm, is if you’re with them face to face, when you go about the 1116 and you explain it to them, they’re going to break eye contact with you. They’re going to look up like this and they’re going to think about that. Let’s see, 1116. Wow. I wasn’t even aware of that. When they look up to consider yeah, I’m really listening for whether I’ll regret it one day, one week, one month from now and whether six months from now I’ll say that’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time, when they look up to consider it and then they look at you, it’s a different conversation.

That’s magic.

It’s semi-magic. And that’s part of what we cover in the mastermind groups, and also in coaching and training and whatnot.

The other thing about it is it’s very genuine and nonmanipulative. You’re simply laying out … Because anyone that I can think of in that role of trying to sell their services, and is of course an ethical person, wouldn’t bring that up without being convinced that they can deliver on that promise that six months from now that person would be thrilled to have made that decision. So, that is a fabulous formula. Thank you.

What it also means is don’t sell or have a service that you don’t think is top notch.


See, if you get people to trust you, and when you do the 1116, people not only feel you’re relevant and they’re not only confident in you, they have trust in you. The point is if you’re selling something or you’re offering a service that’s mediocre, they’re going to come after you because you got them to lower their guard and trust you and you didn’t deliver. So, I wouldn’t use that last thing unless you have a service or a product that delivers on it. And if you don’t, find another service or product.

And the other thing is, depending on the length of the service or product you’re going to be providing, is following up to check with them between day one and the six month period to make sure. Get feedback along the way to get a sense of their level of delight with their decision so you’re not just kind of hoping six months from now they’ll say yeah, that was a great decision.

Absolutely. In fact, what you want to say is by the way, if we decide to work together, I’m going to check in with you. And you figure out at the very longest every month. Maybe if you’re coaching, once a month is probably enough. We’re going to have a coaching call and it’s going to be no charge to you because you’re going to be helping me get better. What I want to ask you is are we on track? Are we on track to what you’re wanting to accomplish? Am I keeping that promise? Because if you don’t accomplish and get the result you want and I didn’t keep my promise to you, it’s going to affect my credibility and my reputation, and I can’t allow that to happen.

Excellent. That’s great, Mark. I love all these tips that you’ve shared with us. The compelling versus convincing, the four steps that people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk use unconsciously, and then what you just shared with the 1116. Now, in kind of pulling it all together, are there any other insights or tips related to any of that that you feel would be valuable to our listeners? You’ve provided so much value already.

Well, I think the key is really know what your service or product is the best solution to. Also, try to drill down and see what makes your product or service different. Because as I said, if you merely say you’re better than, because everyone says they’re better than, you’re just going to be a commodity and they’re going to squeeze you on price. But, if you come up with something that does make a different, it’s going to be real. You can’t just sort of say it. I mean, I didn’t make it up that I trained FBI and police hostage negotiators. Something else, which I use as a differentiator, but … Well, you can just hear it. Meredith, as you know, one of my personal missions is to prevent suicide and I’m part of a documentary called Staying Alive, which people can see if they go to youtube.com/stayalivevideo. It’s won a couple of awards. I interview Kevin Hines, who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. But, part of what makes different is I was a boots on the ground suicide prevention expert and in 25 years none of my patients killed themselves. That’s kind of a differentiator also. So, find out what makes you different, and then you won’t be treated like a commodity.

Excellent. Yes. And I think that ties back to people positioning themselves, whether it’s on social media, in their marketing materials. Be up front about what it is that causes somebody to stop and go whoa. Because that’s the first step. And I think that what you just describe is excellent. By the way, I want to put a plug in for your other podcast that you’ve got now called My Wakeup Call, where you interview a variety of people, from Larry King to other celebrities, and each one of those interviews in and of itself is quite compelling. I haven’t been able to listen to all of them because you’re so prolific, but every single one that I have has been an excellent investment of my time because of your skills in drawing out people’s experiences and getting them to talk about their own, not weaknesses so much as vulnerable moments, when they’ve been faced with tough situations and they have been able to prevail and what impact that’s had on the rest of their lives. So, I want to encourage people to look up My Wakeup Call podcast with Dr. Mark Goulston. And I’m always looking forward to your next project, because there are always plenty of them coming. You also have a new podcast now for suicide prevention, right? By the same name?

Yeah. It’s called Stay Alive. You can find it if you go to the Mental Health News Radio Network. Mental Health News Radio Network. There are over 50 podcasts and they’re all related to mental health and wellness. In Stay Alive, I speak with people who have been touched by suicide. Either someone in their family has died by suicide or they’ve made attempts, and how they’ve gotten through it and how they’ve lived with it. Because, you know, at the end of Schindler’s List there was a famous quote in a favorite famous scene in which Schindler says I could’ve saved so many more and the character played by Ben Kingsley says to Schindler, he gives a quote, I think from the Bible, whoever saves one life saves the world. That’s part of my central journey, and for you listeners, if you can make connections where we can show the movie Stay Alive and do Q&As in high schools, colleges, town hall meetings, that’s probably what I find most compelling in my life.

How can people reach you and connect with you, Mark, so that they can actually do that?

I have a website called markgoulston.com. I basically talk, if you go there, I talk about that I’m an elephant hunter because what I focus on is the elephant in the room, which is so that as soon as you reveal it, it’s obvious. But nobody sees it. The elephant in the room about being compelling, first is convincing, is compelling is going to open people’s minds and convincing, if you do it too early, is going to cause them to close up their minds. So, you can reach me at markgoulston.com. Something else you can do for me, I have a pretty big Twitter following, 560,000, and I have a permanently pinned tweet for people who’ve been touched by suicide. It has 2.4 million impressions and over 1,500 comments. People just list all the people they know who’ve died by suicide, and I think it’s saving lives because people feel less alone. They just go visit that. It’s pretty tough and it’s heart wrenching, but I think it’s life saving because, you know, suicide rates are sky high. It’s an epidemic. And I’m going to do whatever I can to make it better.

Wow. I appreciate your commitment to that very important work. And your Twitter handle, is it DrMarkGoulston?

It’s just @MarkGoulston.


M-A-R-K G-O-U-L-S-T-O-N.


Thank you for listening in. Meredith and I always hope that you find things that you can use today that are doable by you. And who knows? Maybe we created whoa, wow, hmmm, yes. You never know.

That is an excellent point. Thank you so much, Mark. I appreciate your being with me today, and I look forward to talking with you again soon.

Always, Meredith. Always. Thank you.