Editorial note – this is a post from Lisa, one of our 26 Characters.


What’s the best way to create engaging content in the financial services industry? Offer to give readers an edge that will help them generate more business.

In November 2017, I came across a book called Instant Influence by Dr. Michael Pantalon, executive coach and Senior Research Scientist at the Yale School of Medicine. According to Pantalon, the best way to convince someone to make a change is to ask them why they are considering making a change in the first place. You begin by asking a series of questions:

1. “Why might you want to make a change?”

2. “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning ‘not the least bit ready’ and 10 meaning ‘totally ready,’ how ready are you to make that change?”

3. “Why didn’t you pick a lower number?”

“The last question catches everyone off guard,” writes Pantalon. If the person you’re trying to influence has even a faint desire to do something, they will begin explaining their reasons. They move from defending their current behavior to articulating why, at some level, they want to behave differently. And that, Pantalon says, allows them to clarify their compelling personal reasons for making a change, which increases the chances that they actually will.

I thought Pantalon’s technique could be useful for my client, The Capital Group, who was trying to attract financial advisors to its blog, Capital Ideas. I approached my team at Capital Group with the idea to write an article outlining how advisors could use the Instant Influence technique to sell more 401(k) plans. The idea of an article that outlined a psychological technique was a bit of a departure from the typical financial market-related content of most Capital Ideas articles. Nonetheless, the team sensed my enthusiasm for the subject matter and they agreed to the article concept. My next challenge was to secure an interview with Dr. Pantalon, which I was able to do via email. Dr. Pantalon agreed to a phone interview, which I started by asking the following question:

“I read about your technique for Instant Influence. How would you describe the technique for someone who is unfamiliar with it?”

Pantalon described Instant Influence as, “a simple, motivational strategy that anyone can use that, at the heart of it, addresses why someone wants to change much more so than what, how and when. We spend too much time on the what, how and when but too little on the why.”

He said, “It’s just six steps in my book, but you can really boil it down to just the why question. Why do you have any motivation at all? And like a 2-year-old, you should keep going why, why, why until you hit some core, and hopefully emotional and powerful reason why someone might want to make a change.”

I went on to explain to Dr. Pantalon that the Capital Group is focused on helping people retire with dignity. They offer retirement plan programs to businesses through financial advisors. So, I was curious if Pantalon felt that the Instant Influence technique could be used by financial advisors to help plan sponsors – employers – to make improvements to their plans for the benefit of employees participating in the company-sponsored retirement plan.

Pantalon responded, “Yes I do. But I would say that people who are professional advisors, whether we’re talking about financial advisors, or a physician or anyone else who gives advice, it’s a little trickier. Not only do they have to do the approach, but they have to subtract from their approach, at least temporarily, the idea that they have the best advice for the person or for the plan.”

He continued, “We have the how, but we also sometimes think we have the reasons why. And I’ve had to hold back advisors of all sorts from telling people why they should do this and instead, just a little bit up front, ask your client, whether it’s a company or an individual, why would they possibly like to make this change. And don’t jump the gun after the first why. Ask them why thatreason is important to them, and so on, until you get to something that is compelling. And that’s the art of it. It’s hard for me to tell someone how to tell when something is compelling as possible, but you just tend to feel it when you hear it.”

I concluded the interview by asking, “What is the overall lesson or message that should be gained from your technique?”

Pantalon replied, “We’re all worried about motivation, no matter what our job is. Like Dan Pink says, ‘We’re all in sales now.’ We’re all concerned about motivation. But the concern gets in the way. So the main takeaway is that everybody already has enough motivation inside of them. Don’t try to give it to them. Don’t try to convince them. Try to get it out of them. It’s there.”

He added, “It’s important to be patient. If you go into these interactions patiently, you’ll be much more successful than if you think, “I’ve got to make something happen.” A lot of the time, advisors and salespeople feel that pressure, “I have to make it happen” and they come off too heavy handed. Believing the person has the motivation in there and you’ve got to help pull it out instead of pushing them, I think that’s the most important thing.”

I went on to write the article, “Ask These 3 Questions to Gain Instant Influence,” which was published on the Capital Ideas blog on November 30, 2017. On December 7, an email went out to nearly 5,500 financial advisors promoting the article. The email had a simple, one sentence hook: “See how the “Instant Influence” technique developed by Yale’s Dr. Michael Pantalon can help boost your practice with clients and prospects.” As a result, the click-thru and open rates of the email were highly successful — with a click-thru rate approximately 60% higher than links to other Capital Ideas articles. Perhaps due to a person’s ability to use the Instant Influence technique in almost any situation, the article was widely seen and shared.

This case study serves as a good example of how one firm packaged relevant content in a manner that was designed to help financial advisors adjust their communications style to increase sales. That’s one way to drive targeted audience members to your blog.