How to Adapt Donald Trump’s Persuasion Techniques to Add More Clients–Ethically

Donald Trump

Whatever you think about Donald Trump, it’s hard to deny his masterful use of persuasion and branding techniques to win over a specific segment of the electorate that propelled him to the White House.

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Here are six key strategies Trump used in his campaign and how you can adapt them to your business.

1. Create a new category for yourself

Most financial advisors are like the 16 Republican candidates who ran against Donald Trump. They lump themselves together in one traditional category: providing “personalized financial planning services.” It’s very hard to standout in that crowd and give investors a reason why they should choose you.

Trump ran his campaign as a Republican in name only. In reality, he created a new category that Professor Roger Martin of the University of Toronto called the “politically incorrect candidate.” For months, Trump naysayers kept thinking his latest outrageous tweet or comment would be his downfall. Again and again, Trump proved them wrong. Why? Professor Martin says it was because every ridiculous action by Donald Trump reinforced his credibility with the politically incorrect electorate, who eventually grew large enough to win him the election.

So what is a category you can own as a financial advisor? What unique knowledge and experience do you have that allows you to market yourself to a specific group of potential clients and grow your business?

2. Connect on an emotional level

Steve Sanduski
Steve Sanduski: By combining extreme clarity with emotional connectedness, advisors can create a new category and get prospects lining up at the door.

We are not always rational human beings. We make emotional decisions that defy logic. Donald Trump deftly exploited this by making emotional appeals to our desire for security (Build a wall! Ban Muslims!), our desire for job security (NAFTA is worst trade deal ever! Mexico is stealing our jobs!), and our desire to be heard (in his inaugural speech he said, “I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down.”).

Scott Adams, the “Dilbert” comic writer and astute observer of Trump’s persuasion mastery said, “Trump knows psychology. While his opponents are losing sleep trying to memorize the names of foreign leaders–in case someone asks–Trump knows that is a waste of time. No one ever voted for a president based on his or her ability to name heads of state. People vote based on emotion. Period.”

As an advisor, how are you connecting with your clients and prospects on an emotional level? Have you talked to them about their hopes and dreams, as well as their fears? Seeing your clients as a whole person can help build lasting professional relationships as well as effective, personalized financial plans.

3. Substitute hyperbole with confidence

According to the New York Times, “In innumerable interviews over the years, Donald Trump glibly inflated everything from the size of his speaking fees to the cost of his golf club memberships to the number of units he had sold in new Trump buildings.” Trump also inflated his net worth by claiming in a presidential campaign disclosure form that he was worth in excess of $10 billion (Forbes pegged his net worth at $3.7 billion.). Trump’s exaggerations fed an image of success to his base, none of whom cared about a few billion in net worth here or there.

Instead of hyperbole, think about projecting confidence. Clients and prospects are going to want to work with you if you sound confident about the advice you’re giving … So long as you have the competence to back it up.

4. Have your sound bites ready

“Make America Great Again.” “America First.” “Crooked Hillary.” “Lying Ted.” “We’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.” Donald Trump did a great job distilling his ideas into short, catchy sound-bites that his fans could easily remember. By contrast, can you think of one catchy phrase from Hillary Clinton?

As an advisor, you too should have 3-5 soundbites that distill your value down to a couple simple ideas. These sound bites should not only demonstrate your value to your clients, but make it easier for them to refer you to potential new clients.

5. Break down complex issues into binary choices

We’ve all heard Trump say that NAFTA was the worst trade deal ever. It led to U.S. companies moving factories to Mexico and taking jobs with them. Same thing with immigration. Trump says immigrants are stealing jobs and that we should prioritize “America First.” By breaking down complex ideas into a simple black or white binary choice, Trump relieves his supporters of having to think for themselves. They just go with the flow of the master persuader himself, Donald Trump.

As an advisor, you’re working with complicated personal and financial issues. Sometimes the best way to communicate with your clients is to break down complex topics to the one or two critical decision points that will help your clients make the best possible choices. When appropriate, that choice may be binary — We can do A, or we can do B — but try to simplify without making things too simple.

6.  Us vs. Them

Trump created several enemies, and he regularly rallies his supporters behind him — “us” — and against “them.” He recently said, “I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” Hillary Clinton and the “rigged system” are also frequent enemy targets. In a September 9, 2016 speech in Pensacola, FL, Trump said, “The people getting rich off of our rigged system have sent tens of millions of dollars to Hillary Clinton – much of it to her personal bank account – to keep you from having the future you deserve.” And of course, Trump constantly talked about the big enemy, “radical Islamic terrorism.” By creating an “us versus them” paradigm, Trump created a movement of people who follow him almost blindly.

As an advisor, you don’t necessarily need to create an enemy, but your clients, and your prospective clients, want to know what you stand for, and what you’re against. If you’re a fee-only advisor, maybe you want your clients to know you’re against wire houses that sell on a commission. Maybe you’re against actively managed investments and for index funds.

In summary: by combining extreme clarity with emotional connectedness, you can create a new category and get prospects lining up at the door to do HUUUUGE business with you.

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Steve Sanduski

Steve is the founder of Belay Advisor and a NYT bestselling author, podcast host, speaker, and financial advisor coach.

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