Customer Reviews: The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas
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VINE VOICEon November 16, 2007
"The Art of Woo" hits on all cylinders, except perhaps its title. This book offers practical advice and a clear roadmap on how to persuade others, that is the selling of ideas. The book is entertaining, well written, and full of good stories, quotes, and historical personalities and business greats. I highly recommend this book for everyone because all of us has to sell our ideas: to our families, co-workers and clients. As Lee Iacocca said "you can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere."

What makes "The Art of Woo" so good is its emphasis on relationships and people skills. Woo is about "relationship-based persuasion, a strategic process for getting people's attention, pitching your ideas, and obtaining approval for your plans and projects." In our manically fast email impersonal technology driven world "woo is about people, not saving time."

The book includes self-tests, practical tips, and a clear strategy: 1) survey your situation 2) confront the five barriers 3) make your pitch, and 4) secure your commitments. The barriers include relationships, credibility, communication mismatches, belief systems, and interests and needs. The authors recommend other books and have documented their research.

Lastly, this book pulls together much of the famous material of other persuasion books, such as Robert Cialdini's "Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion," "Soft Selling," and "Blink". The book quotes Steven Covey, Marcus Buckingham, and dozens of business and historic leaders (Churchill, Franklin, Andy Grove, Sam Walton, etc.) If you only have time to read one book on persuasion this is an excellent choice.
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on November 18, 2007
Two things attracted me to this splendid little book. First, when I saw it in a bookstore, the clever title seemed to be a play on words - The Art of War - with a cover of one bird trying to persuade - woo - another. Second was a brief but enticing review in Time magazine.

I am delighted that these two factors lead me both to buy and read the book.

The authors are both on the Faculty of the Wharton Business School in Philadelphia, and by "Woo" they do indeed mean the art of the relationship, by which they mean the ability to win over colleagues and co-workers, clients and customers. We all have different motivations for doing the things that we do, and a half-century of research has shown that they cannot simply be reduced to pain and pleasure. Things are often a lot more complex than that. So the ability to influence has to be similarly multifaceted.

Many great leaders have had this remarkable ability to bring people on board by using emotionally intelligent persuasion in place of coercion. It is no surprise that the authors use Napoleon Bonaparte and Abraham Lincoln as two examples of people who were masters of the art of "woo," before also describing a number of famous people form the business world.

Since a viable interpersonal relationship requires more than one person, the book examines "woo" for people throughout an organization. So you can certainly sell yourself and your product, but it is best to do the selling after learning about your own strengths and weaknesses, so that you develop a style based on a dynamic self-awareness.

The authors use a model based on five styles, to describe different approaches to persuasion:
Driver (e.g. Andy Grove of Intel fame)
Commander (e.g. J.P. Morgan)
Promoter (e.g. Andrew Carnegie)
Chess player (e.g. John D. Rockefeller)
Advocate (e.g. Sam Walton)

As we would expect, the authors have deliberately taken extreme cases to illuminate their model, and most of us are composites of a number of styles.

The authors also step outside the business world and highlight people like the singer Bono, who has a legendary ability to find the right way to engage with the people who can support his social causes. This is an example of a high level of "woo" being used in a good cause. But the authors are not so naïve as to assume that "woo" is necessarily a good thing. Many psychopaths are masters of the art of woo, and there are several people currently serving time behind bars for their ability to persuade colleagues, subordinates and investors to jump over a cliff on their behalf. So the authors also emphasize the importance of wooing with integrity.

This is an excellent and well-written book that I recommend highly to anyone who ever needs to influence someone else to do something. And that probably means all of us!

Richard G. Petty, MD, author of Healing, Meaning and Purpose: The Magical Power of the Emerging Laws of Life
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Almost 2,500 years ago, one or more of Aristotle's students assembled notes they had taken during his lectures and compiled them in a single volume now known as "The Rhetoric." To the best of my knowledge, that is the earliest text on the general subject of persuasion. In essence, Aristotle suggests that there are four levels of discourse: exposition that explains with information, description that makes vivid with compelling details, narration that tells a story or explains a sequence, and finally, argumentation that convinces with logic and/or evidence.

In their book, G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa develop in a modern context many of Aristotle's ideas about principled as well as effective persuasion. The objective of Woo is to win others over to mutual advantage. That is, Woo "is relationship-based persuasion, a strategic process for getting people's attention, pitching your ideas, and obtaining approval for your plans and projects. It is, in short, one of the most important skills in the repertoire of any entrepreneur, employee, or professional manager whose work requires them to rely on influence and persuasion rather than coercion and force."

Shell and Moussa recommend a four-step process to achieve influence goals and then thoroughly explain how to complete each. More specifically,

First, survey the given situation by forging and polishing the idea, map the decision process by understanding the social networks within the organization, determining which persuasion style will be most effective, and summoning whatever passion and conviction may be necessary to achieve the desired objective. (Chapters 2 & 3) Next, confront the given barriers that may include negative relationships, poor credibility, communication mismatches, contrary belief systems, and conflicting interests. Shell and Moussa offer eminently practical advice on how to transform barriers into assets that can be leveraged. (Chapters 4-6) Then make the pitch by presenting solid evidence and arguments as well as using various devices to give the proposed ideas and/or course of action a personal touch. (Chapters 7 & 8) Finally, secure the commitments by dealing effectively with politics at both the individual level and throughout the organization. (Chapter 9)

Where to start? Shell and Moussa identify "the six main channels of persuasion that provide the conduits for most idea-selling messages" (each explained in detail, Pages 32-40) and suggest that their reader complete a self-diagnostic (provided in Appendix A) to determine which of the channels would be most appropriate. In Figure 2.1, Shell and Moussa provide a grid within which they suggest that there are five primary persuasion styles and a range of Volume" at which the message is delivered as well as orientation that is either focused on self or on others: the Driver (e.g. Andy Grove), the Commander (e.g. J.P. Morgan), the Promoter (Andrew Carnegie), the Chess Player (e.g. John D. Rockefeller), and the Advocate (e.g. Sam Walton). The challenge when preparing to persuade others is to formulate a presentation that is most appropriate to one's personal style (i.e. authentic because character and purpose "matter most") but also, and just as important, one that is appropriate to both the given objectives (e.g. explain and/or convince) and the given audience. Only then can the appropriate channel be selected.

For example, the essence of the interest-based persuasion channel "is inducement, not trading. Thus, you are engaged in interest-based persuasion whenever you pitch your idea as addressing the other party's underlying needs." As for rationality-based persuasion, Shell and Moussa define it as "trying to influence someone's attitudes, beliefs, or actions by offering reasons and/or evidence to justify a proposal on its merits." With regard to the relationship channel, they recommend it whenever similarity, liking, rapport, and reciprocity are used or when there is reliance on an existing network of contacts and friends to open doors as part of an idea-selling strategy.

In this remarkably lively and eloquent volume, Shell and Moussa provide their reader with a comprehensive, cohesive, and cost-effective process by which to use strategic persuasion to "sell" her or his ideas. (They use the term "road map" but I much prefer "process" because the "geography" of strategic persuasion will vary from one idea or one audience to the next whereas the information and counsel that G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa offer will be relevant to any "journey," wherever and whenever it may occur, whatever its ultimate destination may be.) They conclude with a list of "Ten Questions for Would-Be Wooers" that must be carefully considered, then answered with a high level of specificity. I remind those who read this review that self-audit diagnostic exercises are provided in the first two appendices. Each alone is well-worth the cost of this brilliant book.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Shell's Bargaining for Advantage as well as two books by Stephen Denning: The Leader's Guide to Storytelling and his more recent The Secret Language of Leadership. Also, Chip and Dan Heath's Made to Stick, Howard Gardner's Changing Minds and his more recent Five Minds for the Future, Robert B. Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and Dale Carnegie's extraordinarily durable classic, How to Win Friends & Influence People.
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This is a great book for learning the entire process of persuasion when combined with two books I recommend in addition. Elements are broken down, explained with many analogies added to make it real, and strategies are modeled. You can start with a goal and end up securing commitments of others to achieve a goal that enriches everybody involved. In the information world, we have the opportunity to be good influencers by taking personal responsibility.

I think The Art of Woo can be combined with Mastering the Complex Sale to form a foundation for anybody in sales or role that requires persuasion Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High!. In a sense, everything we do is supportive of our relationships, as these two books outline. Our jobs depend on making our work relationships productive, and that requires achievement toward common goals. The interesting thing to me is that you cannot buy relationships, even though advertising tells us so. Relationships require work and persistence.

Another important point I never see in books of this genre is that you and I don't actually need to convert anybody to our own ideas, attitudes and feelings. We only need to find common ground, a common goal, commit to it and then be happy in our work. That's why I'd recommend a third book, called How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World (free on the Internet).
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on October 12, 2013
I could see the above book received too many 5-star reviews. Actually, I did not find it so impressive...

The authors examine persuasion on a quite broad context that includes subtle aspects of negotiation. Please note that Richard Shell wrote a seminal book on such subject before. Chapter 3 is worth reading where the authors emphasize the importance of mapping the several relationships among people that affect the purpose to influence them. Although this is a time-consuming and tricky task, it is surely of great importance. The book contains many examples that will make you familiar with the author's explanations and reasoning.
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on January 21, 2014
I will do my best to persuade you on reading this book on persuasion. The reviewers Russ Emrick (November 6, 2007), Richard G. Petty (November 18, 2007), Lisa Fahoury (May 10, 2010)--particularly the must have techniques on making your pitch memorable, Bronxbooknerd (February 5, 2010) and Book Lover "H" (June 13, 2009) have all done a great job summarizing this excellent book.

WOO stands for Winning Others Over and it does an effective job of doing such, in my opinion. I have written down 45+ ideas to incorporate into this review, as there are many to consider.

Here are a few. "Effective idea selling, therefore, requires you to position your idea as consistent with (better yet, furthering) your audience's important beliefs and values....the higher you go in a corporate hierarchy, the less position alone determines what ideas get adopted and the more relationship and persuasion skills determine what gets done."

On the importance of self-awareness: " an internal thermometer hat tells you whether you are happy, sad, insecure or confident. In a persuasion encounter, the more self-awareness you bring to the table, the more you can monitor your own feelings and measure the reactions your audience is feeding back to you. Persuaders with a lack of confidence, a bout of nerves, or a fear of failure often tend to focus almost exclusively on the content of the message. They are listening to what they are saying and thinking about what they will say next...By monitoring your audience and adjusting your pitch, you can keep everyone's attention and stay in the game."

On political battles over ideas: "...often battles are less about the merits of an idea and more about the effects your idea will have on the existing distribution of power, resources, and status. When this happens, political strategies become paramount...At the beginning of any idea campaign, it is especially helpful to form alliances with the people who have three key powers: the power to decide, the power to fund, and the power to implement..."

The authors make effective use of telling the stories of Lincoln, Churchill, Lindbergh, et al in their battles to persuade. Well done.
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on May 21, 2008
Actually, I was attracted to this new book by it's secondary title, 'Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas'.

I have always been fascinated by the subject of selling ideas to others.

According to the two authors, "woo" is defined as the ability to "win others" over to your ideas or initiatives without coercion, using relationship-based, emotionally intelligent persuasion.

In other words, how to sell your ideas to the entire organisation, one person at a time.

In the book, the authors also presents a simple, four-step approach to the idea-selling process.

The two authors also highlights the top three mistakes that people make in selling ideas.

In the end analysis, after the readingthe book, I reckon persuading &/or influencing others in an organization to accept & act on your ideas & initiatives is just a matter of strategy.

This is what the book is essentially all about.

There is also a useful self-assessment in the book to discover your persuasion style. This assessment will help determine if you are a 'Driver', 'Commander', 'Chess Player', 'Promoter' or 'Advocate'.

One's influencing skills are determined by defining which of these five persuasion styles is yours.

Then, you can overcome your weaknesses by turning them into strengths.

The two author draws quite heavily on major political leaders in history (Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Nelson Mandela), & past/present business thought leaders (Charles Lindbergh, Andrew Grove, Bono, Charles Kettering, J P Morgan, John Rockefella, Andrew Carnegie, Sam Walton) to illustrate key ideas in the book.

On the whole, this 300-page book has been quite an entertaining read. I must say that the probing questions within the four-step approach as well as the final questionnaire for wooers are certainly well worth the price of the book.

[I like to recommend two other excellent books to be read in this genre: 'Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story', by Jerry Weissman & 'Powerful Proposals: How to Give Your Business the Winning Edge', by David Pugh & Terry Bacon.]
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on November 24, 2012
Well written, well thought out book. Many excellent examples, including a couple anecdotes from the career of Steve Jobs.
The first, about creating Apple with Steve Wozniak. The second, a brief marketing meeting at the depths of Apple's problems in the last 1990's before the big turnaround.
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on October 7, 2014
This was very helpful in thinking how do we communicate to others in order to be heard. It laid out strategic thought about networking and how to form an argument. This book is great for people in any realm, but I think it's a necessity for managers or sales people.
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on July 24, 2011
People are always asking me about how they can improve their persuasive writing. To them I say, "Read this book, and apply its principles to your proposals, white papers, and editorials." The stories in this book are mostly interesting, and its guidelines are always on target.
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