When I accepted the invitation to write about Kevin Allen’s new book, The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following, I thought I knew what the book would be about. Instead, I got a terrific surprise and an eye-opening experience.
Ulterior motives. Inauthentic behavior. Secret maneuvers. Hidden agendas for many of us have often been considered the tactics of career climbers impatient to get ahead. Finally, there’s a new and tested perspective that will better serve us.
Kevin Allen, business development expert, shows us that hidden agendas are actually gateways to discovery and revelation. When clarified, they can propel us to the best kind of success.
Uncovering the hidden agendas of clients, coworkers, and our companies means tapping into your inner Sherlock. Fortunately, dear Watson is now as near as your bookshelf.
Embracing the pitch
In his book, The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following, Allen gives us an insider’s look at ad campaigns around the globe that he pitched, specifically MasterCard’s Priceless campaign, and how he was able to tap into each client’s hidden agenda.
Allen’s career history is extraordinary and extensive but a couple things stand out.
I grew up in the tough hallways of the toughest ad agency in the competitive field of advertising, McCann Erickson.
Whereas I first thought it a business weakness that I was sensitive and intuitive, it actually became a potent business asset, one that will only increase in importance as time progresses.
It was Allen’s soft side that was his differentiator. Once he realized that and learned how to capitalize on it for the companies and clients he worked for, his career was off and running.
He learned early on that pitching is about connecting with others at an emotional level:
…behind every decision to buy–whether the item is a service or a product, an argument or an idea–is the unspoken emotional motivation. This is the hidden agenda.
Every day you personally have an opportunity to make a pitch for:
- the job vacancy or promotion you seek
- your idea to improve the way work is done
- new business–new products or services
- favorable treatment by regulators, community leaders, or donors
- media coverage, on-line support, or endorsements
To pitch successfully, you need to understand your target’s hidden agenda.
Connecting is step one. Creating a following is what follows.
No matter what you have to sell or propose, you need to frame a pitch that goes to the emotional heart of every hidden agenda.
Allen explains further:
People don’t follow you because they’ve been hoodwinked; they follow you because they believe in you. They employ you, promote you, buy from you, or hire you because you understand their values, their wants, and their needs.
He drives home this point:
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.
Allen explains three driving forces that underpin every hidden agenda, along with sample questions he asks to identify them like:
- Wants–What frustrates you about the perceptions connected with your company/brand?
- Needs–What keeps you up a night?
- Values–What is your company’s noble calling?
His book takes you through the process for uncovering the hidden agenda and framing the pitch. His easily readable examples and illustrations are compelling, motivating, and straight-forward. Allen gives us the inside scoop and makes it feel incredibly comfortable. Yes, we all can do this if we’re willing to dig deep.
Big points for soft skills
Allen gives full-throated voice to the value of intuitiveness, sensitivity, and humanity in the workplace, even in large, hard-driving advertising companies battling fierce competition.
Success in winning business and creating a following means coming across as your own genuine self and allowing others to see you as you are, all in the name of making a human connection.
He’s so right about that. We all need to remember to be true to ourselves and positive about our capabilities, never apologizing for what we do well. If we tap into our own hidden agendas, we’ll likely find our careers moving in just the right direction.