The Art of Woo
When it comes to
winning people over
to new ideas, forget
the fancy slide shows
and in-depth reports.
Turns out a little
honey can earn you
BY G. RICHARD SHELL
AND MARIO MOUSSA
ILLUS TRATION BY CHRIS WHE TZEL
With the near-universal spread of Power-Point, modern executives and managers
face a daunting problem. How can they
get their audience’s attention, make
their pitch and close the sale, when the
medium they have been taught to rely on
has lost its punch?
The answer in our book, The Art of
Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell
Your Ideas (Portfolio/Penguin), may
seem revolutionary: Shut down your
computer and speak directly to the
people you are trying to persuade. Win
them over by “wooing” them with the
ancient art of persuasion.
Several years ago, U2 lead singer and
social entrepreneur Bono walked into
the office of one of the most conserva-
tive U.S. senators in American history,
Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Bono
was recruiting allies for his program to
forgive debts faced by African countries so
more resources could be directed at AIDS.
He faced an uphill battle with Helms, who
was skeptical not only of AIDS relief but
also of Bono. “I had never heard of him,”
Helms told a reporter. “But the ladies in
my office told me all about him.”
Bono’s standard plea for African debt
relief involved a detailed, data-rich pitch.
But as Bono launched into his statistics,
he saw that Helms’ eyes were glazing
over. The meeting was coming to a rapid
end. So Bono adjusted, switching to a
completely different channel of communication. Bono, himself a born-again
Christian and student of the Bible, had
heard that Helms was a religious man. So
he started speaking of Jesus’ concern for
the poor and the afflicted.
“I started talking about Scripture,”
Bono later recounted. “I talked about
AIDS as the leprosy of our age.” As Bono
warmed to his subject, he noted that over
REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE
When you think about your audience, ask two key questions:
1. How can I effectively show these people who I really am and what I stand for?
2. What aspects of myself and my life experience will help me connect with them?