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The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following [Hardcover]

Kevin Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 17 2012

Each of us pitches ideas every day. Sometimes we sell our ideas to a small room full of skeptical colleagues. Sometimes we pitch to a boss, or a board of directors, a new organization, or for the contract of our dreams. Regardless, it all boils down to the act of stirring someone to join you—to agree to follow you. Yet we consistently underestimate how critical it is to recognize the needs, spoken and unspoken, of the decision maker. Decisions are made by people, and people have needs and agendas. Understanding these needs and agendas are critical to success in business. Kevin Allen's approach is not about persuading, but about creating a connection that assures a mutual win.

Through his years of successfully pitching ideas, veteran ad man Allen has seen a pattern emerge: pitches aimed directly at the needs of the decision maker are winners. By recognizing the unspoken need of the decision maker, and connecting the pitch to that need, the likelihood of winning the sell is virtually assured. In The Hidden Agenda, Allen describes in practical terms an entirely new way to compel people to follow you and embrace what you are selling. The Hidden Agenda lays out concrete steps to identify the "who" you are reaching, "what" elements you can connect with, and "how" to connect with your audience with the end goal of simultaneously winning the sell and establishing an ongoing collaborative relationship.

This entertaining book moves at a rapid clip and is full of lively anecdotes of hard-won advertising campaigns. From Mastercard's iconic "Priceless" campaign to Rudy Giuliani's mayoral campaign, Kevin Allen has seen first-hand how to effectively find, connect, and speak to the Hidden Agenda to win business unfailingly, every time.



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Review

Allen, the guy who pitched and closed multi-million-dollar Fortune 500 ad campaigns, says, "Behind every decision is an unspoken, visceral, emotional motivation. Tap that, and you win." He identifies three hidden agendas, which go beyond solving the problem at hand, and present opportunities to salespeople. Wants: This shows the decision makers that you not only understand their business, but also where it's going. Help them visualize the future and how your product/service plays a role. When prospects see that you can help them navigate, you win. Uncovering questions: "If you had to write a corporate dream, what would it be?" What frustrates you about the perceptions of your company in the marketplace?" Needs: The initial problem acknowledges that "something's missing." Decision-makers seek assurance that your solution will work. If it doesn't, it creates other problems -- their decision-making capability and credibility become questionable. In order to win, you have to show that you have their back -- you'll do what it takes to make it work. Uncovering questions: "What keeps you up at night?" "What might set your plans back?" Values: Every salesperson does homework on prospects. But many don't look at corporate mission statements and similar information to understand the context in which decisions are made. Still fewer look to understand the values of their prospect's customers. If the values of your firm don't intersect with those of the prospect and its customers, you lose. Uncovering questions: "How would you define the value system in your company? Your customers?" "What drives your business?" Like the ad campaign he created for MasterCard, Allen's advice on uncovering and addressing the hidden agenda is "Priceless." - Jim Pawlak, HartfordBusiness.com

About the Author

Kevin Allen is a masterful pitchman and perhaps best known for leading the team that created Mastercard’s iconic "Priceless" campaign. For 20 years, he served on the front lines of business development with advertising giants McCann-WorldGroup and the Interpublic Group, and at Lowe Worldwide, where as Vice Chairman he helped the company gain Ad Age's recognition as "Turnaround Agency of the Year" in 2009. Growing big global brands, including Citigroup, Nokia, Nestle, Deutsche Bank, Johnson & Johnson, and Unilever has been the focus of his career. Now at the helm of KevinAllenPartners, a company dedicated to growth services, training, and mentorship, his client list includes Omnicom, Swedbank, M&C Saatchi, Burberry, and Smythson. A frequent speaker at advertising and marketing conferences, Kevin is also a visiting lecturer at the European Business School of Regents College London and Columbia University Graduate School of Business. A graduate of Dowling College, he holds a Certificate in Economics from Queen Mary College, University of London, and an MBA from Adelphi University.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why to "get it": the hidden agenda July 5 2012
By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Initially, I misunderstood this book's title, incorrectly assuming that Kevin Allen - in the manner of someone who has planned a treasure hunt - would help his reader to locate something of substantial value. In a sense that is true. However, that "something" is essentially worthless unless and until (a) the person who uncovers it understands and appreciates it and (b) knows how to use it to best advantage. Case in point, vandals raiding the ancient library in Alexandria used copies of plays by Greek playwrights such as Aeschylus and Sophocles as fuel for their fires.

I selected the title of this review from a longer passage in the Introduction: "Get it? Get what? The `what' is the [begin italics] hidden agenda [end italics], the emotional motivator behind all the statistics, the business jargon, and the other things that surround any key business issue. It is in fact how people make decisions, with their hearts."

Allen is a veteran advertising executive and an accomplished "pitch man" but clearly agrees with John Hill, co-founder of Hill & Knowlton, that the best pitch is one that offers "truth well told." He shares everything he has learned about how to prepare and then present such a pitch for the readers whom he characterizes as "you dreamers, strivers, fighters, doers, and itchy-feet people `growth aspirants." Allen is convinced that, for them, their ability to pitch "is the very spearpoint and lifeblood of achieving these ambitions.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  43 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Completely Surprising and Fascinating Read July 3 2012
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As many books as there are out there about how to improve your business skills, how to polish your salesmanship, how to become the top of the totem pole in growing your career, few (if any) are as warmly readable as is Kevin Allen's book THE HIDDEN AGENDA. Though unsure of how he manages to do it, this reader picked up the book on arrival to simply glance through it and get the gist of the message, and the next thing noticed was that the book had been completely read! This is definitely kudos to Allen's writing skill - he knows how to keep the reader's attention by his very bright, warmly humorous, energy inducing technique of spilling (that is `sharing') his ideas on the page in a manner that makes the reader feel as though reading a novel. It is a personal approach with enough of his life and successes shared to bolster his postulates and convince the at times wary reader that what he is suggesting works!

The basic lesson here is how to ferret out the personality of the person or persons to whom you are presenting an idea or pitch to gain their commitment to not only buying into your presentation but also to create the `hidden agenda' of the `audience' into willfully and eagerly following you and your presentation. I like the following summary as it is likely more clear than a first response upon finishing a book: `Pitches are made in business every day -- to win the account, convince a colleague or sell a vision to the Board of Directors, but people ignore the most basic component of making the sale -- decisions are made by people, and people have unspoken needs and agendas. Kevin Allen has recognized that by identifying these needs, and connecting the pitch directly to it, you win. In this compelling book, Kevin Allen demonstrates how- not to persuade- but to compel people to follow you. The Hidden Agenda provides audiences with his winning strategy and concrete steps to identify "who" they are talking to, "what" elements they can connect with, and "how" to meaningfully engage their audience to more consistently and predictably "win". Or phrase in another way, `Kevin Allen is a highly skilled growth professional and is uniquely positioned to teach companies - and individuals - how to "win".

This book, then, is not only a serious guide as to how to improve your sales techniques and how to win over people to your ideas; this book is one of the most entertaining books about business around - one that can almost be considered a novel, it is that easy to read, to digest to get the point, and to enjoy every minute of the time spent with HIDDEN AGENDA.
Grady Harp, July 12
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why to "get it": the hidden agenda July 5 2012
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Initially, I misunderstood this book's title, incorrectly assuming that Kevin Allen - in the manner of someone who has planned a treasure hunt - would help his reader to locate something of substantial value. In a sense that is true. However, that "something" is essentially worthless unless and until (a) the person who uncovers it understands and appreciates it and (b) knows how to use it to best advantage. Case in point, vandals raiding the ancient library in Alexandria used copies of plays by Greek playwrights such as Aeschylus and Sophocles as fuel for their fires.

I selected the title of this review from a longer passage in the Introduction: "Get it? Get what? The `what' is the [begin italics] hidden agenda [end italics], the emotional motivator behind all the statistics, the business jargon, and the other things that surround any key business issue. It is in fact how people make decisions, with their hearts."

Allen is a veteran advertising executive and an accomplished "pitch man" but clearly agrees with John Hill, co-founder of Hill & Knowlton, that the best pitch is one that offers "truth well told." He shares everything he has learned about how to prepare and then present such a pitch for the readers whom he characterizes as "you dreamers, strivers, fighters, doers, and itchy-feet people `growth aspirants." Allen is convinced that, for them, their ability to pitch "is the very spearpoint and lifeblood of achieving these ambitions."

The reader is provided with an abundance of information, insights, and counsel to help achieve strategic objectives such as these:

o Locating the "hidden agenda"
o Identifying the "conceptual target"
o Connecting with the hidden agenda
o Defining one's "core"
o Selecting and articulating one's "credo"
o Defining the characteristics of "real" ambition
o Formulating one's "win" strategy
o Mastering the power of storytelling

Allen is a results-driven pragmatist, determined to understand what works, what doesn't, and why so that he can then share with others what he has learned. Whether or not people realize it, they are making pitches every day and usually draw upon most (if not all) of these resources of rhetoric: exposition to explain with information, description to make vivid with compelling details, narration to tell a story or explain a sequence, and finally, argumentation to convince with logic and/or evidence. If you want others to "get it" when you communicate with them, then you need to locate "it" and decide how best to present it. Kevin Allen offers practical advice whose value is incalculable.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the selections in Kevin Allen's "Further Reading" section. Also, these: Robert B. Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice (4th Edition), Carmine Gallo's The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, and The Story Factor (2nd Revised Edition) by Annette Simmons and Doug Lipman.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ken Allen de-mystifies the art of "getting it" Sept. 4 2012
By Paul Heagen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Years ago I was coaching a major DC contracting business development team on a $400M+ bid they were developing. I asked the head of BD what he thought the customer really wanted. He slid the RFP toward me. No, I said, I mean really wants. He pointed to the evaluation criteria. I told him what the customer wanted was not on any of those papers, it was in their heart. It was probably somewhere in the buckets of "Don't embarrass me, make me a hero, get me in front of Congress with a success, get this elephant off my back, etc."

I have long believed in the hidden agenda -- it is rarely expressed in any formal way; you have to dig deep to truly hear it. When you show that you "get it" (and can "get it right") you win the business more often than not. Kevin had done a fabulous job charting this emotional, furtive journey to the heart of a client, essentially decoding the process in a practical way. This is a high-impact book for anyone in business development, but is has equal value for anyone aspiring to build relationships and enduring client engagements on something more than a transactional level.

While this book is rock solid in method, it is a joy to read. Kevin has a bright and personable writing style and peppers his pages with vivid stories and refreshing humility. He invites you into his success and offers genuine encouragement that--if you take the time to do so--you can reach hearts as well as minds.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you love marketing you must read this book May 9 2012
By TK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Full disclosure: I'm a marketing fanatic, which is why I am constantly amazed by the degree to which so many companies, small and large, just don't get the essentials of marketing in today's complex market place. The Hidden Agenda tells a story about marketing that we all need to better understand, namely how to truly understand the motivators and drivers of your customers. The challenge goes well beyond just listening better, because, as Allen points out, markets don't always know these driver. Hell, if they did marketing would be easy, Sony would have created the iPod and Nokia would still be the #1 provider of cell and smart phones. Allen lays out a straightforward way to get to these hidden agenda and, in the process, grow your company and your market. An incredibly enjoyable and practical read - highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars emotional x-ray vision July 9 2012
By w - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just got my hard-cover copy in the mail: a fabulous piece of work!
Kevin Allen's emotional x-ray vision shines through on every single page.

It is very rare that such a strategic and structured approach to brand management is used in the first place and almost impossible to find a method like this shared in a book with a larger audience.

Most wisdoms are widely applicable, the only limitation I could find is that the book is sometimes tailored to advertising agencies selling to their B2B relationships before reaching the B2C market. This is still extremely valuable for the ad business world however to a lesser extend to B2C brand enthusiasts.

Highly recommended.
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