On this episode Josh speaks with Akbar Sheikh about the Ethical Principles of Persuasion.

Akbar Sheikh is a #1 international best-selling author, speaker, master of the 7 Ethical Principles of Persuasion, has helped 7 funnels hit 7 figures, father, and philanthropist with a concentration on orphans and giving the gift of vision to blind children.  Prior, he was homeless, overweight, in a terrible relationship, and suffered from a crippling anxiety disorder.

He does what he does because he believes that entrepreneurs are inherently good people that want to make more revenue thus they can give to their families, communities, and favorite charities, hence making the world a better place.

Akbar is on a mission to use persuasion for good, helping people break through, the ethical way.

In today’s episode you’ll learn:

  • What is a funnel?
  • What are the five ethical principles of persuasion (EPoP)?
  • How does reciprocity work?
  • What are benefit corporations?
  • How to to build an impactful message?


Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                 Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast. Our guest today is Akbar Sheikh. He is the author of The Seven Ethical Principles of Persuasion. Instead of having a long introduction, which I always get wrong, we’ll keep it short. We’ll let Akbar talk about himself instead of me talking about him and bring him on.

Hey, Akbar. How are you today?

Akbar:              Pretty good. Pretty good. How are you? Thanks for having me.

Josh:                 My pleasure. Thanks for joining us.

What are the seven ethical principles of persuasion?

Akbar:              Well, the name of the book is 7 Figure Funnels. We discuss the ethical principles of persuasion. I’ve since then, narrowed it down to five.

Josh:                 Okay. Let’s go through the five and we’ll see if we have agreement or disagreement on them.

Akbar:              Okay. It sounds good. These are typically things that we have identified that the vast majority of 7 Figure Funnels have.

Josh:                 First of all, I’ve got to stop you, Akbar. I’m going to guarantee there’s a bunch of people listening to this podcast who have no idea what a funnel is. Let’s go back and start there. What is a funnel?

Akbar:              It’s interesting. A funnel is really, I think, one of the biggest genius marketing ideas out there. Meaning, it’s really just another name for a website, in all honesty, and if you really look at it. It’s just somebody found a unique way to sell how to build websites and they just kind of came up with this term. In reality, it’s nothing more than a series of websites aimed to sell something. In reality, a funnel is just your machine to sell something, i.e. a website.

Josh:                 Okay, so a funnel is an online thing. It’s not an offline thing?

Akbar:              No. A funnel is just a website. It’s really what it is.

Josh:                 Okay. Now, we know what a funnel is. What are the five principles that we need to know about?

Akbar:              Here are the five things we noitced. These entrepreneurs, obviously, who are selling things online, a lot of people struggling – 98% of online entrepreneurs are struggling. When we studied their websites, we noticed that there’s five things usually they’re doing a pretty terrible job at, that is, having themselves, or the product, or the service being a likeable, authoritative figure, having proper ethical scarcity. By the way, we call this EPoP which is Ethical Principles of Persuasion. So, likeable authority, scarcity, the right sort of messaging – I think that’s really one of the most important ones, social proof, and reciprocity. These five things is kind of what we concentrate on teaching people on how to really put it on steroids on their website so that they can get better conversions and be a lot more profitable.

Josh:                 Okay, let’s talk about reciprocity because that’s something I’ve not really heard a whole lot about when it comes to building sales processes. What do you mean by reciprocity and how would you do that online?

Akbar:              Reciprocity. Take a look at it, for example, you go to a grocery store. I don’t know.

Where are you located?

Josh:                 I’m in Vermont.

Akbar:              Oh, you’re in Vermont. Okay, cool. I grew up in Connecticut.

You go to like a supermarket, wherever. You go to whatever supermarket and you notice that a lot of times they give away free food. They give like a little piece of cheese or something. This happens to me all the time. You get a little free piece of cheese. You really like it. You end up buying a $10-block of some weird cheese. That, in essence, is reciprocity. Let’s talk about your significant other. You give them a flower. They want to give you back the garden.

I honestly think that it’s one of the most powerful emotions that people don’t tap into. As humans, I feel like we’re inherently good. Every time we get a little, we always want to give back a lot. Anytime somebody does a little, small, kind thing for us, we always want to give back in multitude. It’s the nature of the human being which I find a very beautiful and enchanting concept.

Reciprocity, how do you do that on a website? It’s simply about providing them value. I’ll give you an example. We had this student. They were selling some sort of Dead Sea salt facial cream. Now, they gave the value on the side. I did a little bit of research for them. Historically, Cleopatra is considered to be one of the most beautiful women in history. It turns out that she would travel across the land to go bathe in the Dead Sea for its medicinal benefits, for its beautifying benefits.

Now, you’re telling me the product you’re selling is Dead Sea salt cream. You have one of the world’s most beautiful women traveling across the land, just to bathe in this, just to be beautiful. That’s not like your top headliner, put in bold and big letters. That’s reciprocity. It’s giving someone value where you’re literally, scientifically making their eyes dilate, their jaw open, their mouths salivate – positioning yourself as an authority, putting them in a state of mind where they’re getting some value and now they want to participate in whatever exchange you’re offering.

Josh:                 I get that for a product. What would you do for something that’s, say, in the service business realm?

Akbar:              Same exact thing. Give me any sort of service. You talk about selling Facebook ads, for example, you just give some awesome statistics.

Josh:                 Like a real service, like I’m selling bookkeeping services.

Akbar:              Yeah, same exact thing. Do you know that you can google the stats? I’m just making this up. Do you know that 95% of people who don’t have a bookkeeping service end up paying 20% more on taxes that they don’t need to?

Josh:                 Okay. In my world, that’s a good headline, definitely, getting my attention but how is that a quid pro quo?

Akbar:              It’s simply just giving value. It’s simply giving value positioning. Who talks about these sorts of things? Who talks about statistics, or value, or a cool story? Somebody you want to listen to, an authority figure. It positions you in a better place as somebody you want to buy from, as somebody you want to do business with.

Josh:                 What you’re really talking about is positioning more than, say, a quid pro quo?

Akbar:              Definitely, a part of it. Positioning is absolutely a good part of it.

Josh:                 Okay. After that, what else do you need to do to create an ethical persuasion?

Akbar:              It’s really those things what I love about internet marketing. We’ve helped eight businesses hit seven figures. What I love about it is that it’s not like computer from the ‘80s, when you open, it’s like, Oh, my God. What–?” There’s like a billion wires in here. There’s 300 miles of wires. It’s like, “What is this?”

A website is really a very beautiful thing because it’s simplicity is so beautiful. There really is, in essence, about five things that you really need to master in order for a website to convert which I kind of just mentioned. It’s really attacking these things one by one and making sure you have the right kind of social proof. You have the right kind of authority, the right kind of scarcity. I actually haven’t seen a funnel that crushes it or a website that does a really good job on all these things that’s not doing well. I’ve never seen it. That’s a very powerful and beautiful statement I just said, actually. That’s pretty cool as I reflect on that.

Josh:                 [laughs] Okay. When you help people, what’s the process that you go through with them?

Akbar:              One of the first things is really this. It’s getting their website right. If they’re at the point– I love to work with existing businesses. Frankly, it’s just easier, in all honesty.

Josh:                 Well, that makes sense to me. I mean, startups are a royal pain in the neck but–

Akbar:              Yeah. No, they are. I don’t– you know. Listen, all due respect to them, we all started as startups. It’s just frankly easier to work with existing business. I like to work with businesses that’ve kind of plateaued, or they’ve hit a ceiling, or they’re just not growing. It’s easy for us to come in there and help them scale at a very good rate because, more than likely, one of these five things is off. Of course, that’s the beginning. And then, we go into mindset, and team building, and strategy and all these things but it really all starts with EPoP (ethical principles of persuasion).

Josh:                 A typical business you would work with, where do they start off on the journey to get over a million dollars in sales?

Akbar:              It’s really all over. Typically, they’re doing under a million dollars.

Josh:                 Well, I understand that. You’re get them over a million dollars.

The reason I’m asking this question is that, okay, creating a lot of new business is one thing, servicing a lot of new business is a whole different ball of wax. As you’re helping people create all these extra sales, what happens to their operation along the way?

Akbar:              It’s an evolution of growth. More sales means more team members. It depends on the model they’re in. They’re in the service model, they’re selling a physical product – what do they need in the backend to support their growth? Do they need more customer service? Do they need more assistants? Do they need more coaches? It depends on the model they’re in.

This stuff doesn’t just work for businesses under a million dollars. I just created a very nice half-hour video for a company that’s currently doing $20 million. There was a lot that they could improve, actually. These are timeless principles that, frankly, any business – online or offline can really succeed with.

Is anything new out there? Not really. These are timeless principles that we’re just kind of teaching in a little bit of a different light.

Josh:                 Well, in some ways, yes. In some ways, I’m not sure. At any rate, my other experience is that with a $20-million company, it’s a lot easier to help them add $3 million in sales than it is to get a half-a-million dollars in sales on a $500,000-company.

Akbar:              Well, yeah. I agree with you completely. I should just run with bigger companies. You’re right, I think that’s the natural progression.

I do like working with startups. I don’t know. I feel like– because the thing is like we’re a for-purpose company. We’re helping entrepreneurs make more so they can give more. I guess, it’s been satisfying helping smaller companies grow because that changes their lives. But a $20-million company, we help them do a couple extra million. That’s great but it’s not really making a big impact to them.

But yeah, I think, eventually, we will probably get to that point because we want more people to donate. Why we do what we do is we help entrepreneurs make more so they can give more to their families, communities, and favorite charities. Hence, making the world a better place. I think, naturally, we probably will start going the route that you’re talking about.

Josh:                 I call that a socially-led company. Are you familiar with the type of business organization called benefit corporations?

Akbar:              No. I don’t think so.

Josh:                 It’s something you might want to check out because a benefit corporation is a triple‑bottom line company. It’s actually a formal way to organize a business. It doesn’t change your tax structure at all but what it does do, it allows you not to only focus on profits. It allows you to focus on people, planet and profits which is what a triple-bottom line company traditionally handles. The people who certify that you’re able to be a B Corp is an organization called B Lab, a very interesting group of folks.

Akbar:              Interesting. I will look into that. That’s pretty interesting.

Josh:                 Yes.

You say make your funnel simple and have an impactful message. I would agree 100’% with that. What do you mean by simple?

Akbar:              Take a look at some of the most profitable marketing slogans ever. Nike, “Just Do It”. Milk, “Got Milk?” There’s a plethora of these.

Einstein said that the genius of things is really in simplicity – to take a complex topic and simplify it and melt it down to where a five year old can understand it or the masses can understand. There’s an elegance to simplifying your message.

Now, you’ll go to some or a lot of peoples’ websites and it’s like you’re reading someone’s diary. They want to tell you about their grandfather’s history and they want to tell– It’s flooded. It’s got 1800 testimonies. And that each testimony is three pages long. It’s basically like you’re reading a book, nobody wants to read a book when they go into your website.

The human brain is pretty screwed up in today’s day and age in the sense that, on average, we’re seeing over 4000 ads a day. Marketing out there has given all of us a certain degree of ADHD. Goldfish have an attention span of eight seconds while humans have an attention span of seven seconds. This is a fact. This is a study done by Microsoft.

We don’t have a lot of opportunity or time to waste on our website with a bunch of clutter and a bunch of nonsense. The genius is to de-clutter your website and give a concise, clear and powerful message.

Josh:                 When you run across somebody– and this is actually something I like to spend a couple of minutes on because I think it’s actually a really big deal. Almost everybody I run across make stuff a lot more complicated than it needs to be. You’re working with a client, they walk in with this really complicated over-done message, how do you first get them to realize that it’s overdone? And what would be the process you would go through to get them to simplify it?

Akbar:              As far as how to tell them that it’s too complicated, it’s as simple as just telling them because they’ve hired you for–

Josh:                 Yeah, but they’re not going to believe you. You’re going to have to have proof to them for them to believe it.

Akbar:              No. In my experience, my clients hire me because they believe in me. And then, when I tell them they understand because that’s what they hired me for, number 1.

Number 2, is how do we do that? Well, here’s an interesting exercise. If your mom asks you, “What do you do?” What are you going to say? For example, if my mom asked me what do I do. I say, “Oh, we help businesses make more so they can give more.” It really hit me one day. I was like, “That’s actually a really good exercise.” It’s like “if you were to explain to your mom what do you do”, that’d be like the simplest, most concise thing to do.

One of the things in copy – one of the most powerful essence in copy is read the headline or whatever, whatever words you can take away without impacting the message or the power of the message, take them away. That would be one of the first things I would recommend people to do. Anything that’s not necessary or anything that doesn’t take away from your message – your core message, take it away. That’ll help de-clutter you quite considerably.

Josh:                 You would take away modifiers, adjectives and adverbs?

Akbar:              I’d have to think about that for a minute. Look, you can, literally, most of the time, take away 70% to 90% of people’s copy.

Josh:                 Yeah, that’s pretty much true, I would think. We tend to be very wordy in our life.

When you have an impactful message and now we know how to simplify and we have an impactful message– I’m listening here and I’m saying, “Okay, I want to build an impactful message”, what do I need to be doing?

Akbar:              A lot of times, people might know who they’re serving. They might know how they’re serving them. But a lot of the times, a question that they don’t ask themselves is why are they serving.

Josh:                 Why they’re serving them or why people buy from them?

Akbar:              Well, it goes in hand in hand if you think about it. The reason they should be buying from them is because of the reason that they’re selling to them in the first place. In other words, why are you doing this? Like I told you, our mission is to help entrepreneurs make more so they can give more. People resonate with that.

A lot of times people say, “Oh, listen, we signed up for your coaching because we believe in that. We believe in giving back. We believe in ethics. We believe in doing marketing the ethical way.” That’s kind of our why. A lot of people don’t have that well-defined. I think that’s one of the first things people should do.

Josh:                 Yeah. By the way, you have a very, very good company mission statement.

Akbar:              Oh, thank you, appreciate that.

Josh:                 Yeah. Here’s my definition of a great mission statement is, it’s less than 10 words long and can be answered with a yes or a no. Meaning, you’re doing it or you’re not doing it.

Akbar:              Yeah. I should steal that. I should write that down and put it as a Facebook post.

Josh:                 [laughs] I’ve only written probably two dozen blogposts on that same topic. It’s one of those things I talk about on a consistent, regular basis. I kind of believe there’s five things you need to do to create a sustainable business and number one on my list is be values-led.

Akbar:              Absolutely.

Josh:                 We have a whole process to help people get to their values, and clarify their values, and then make that into a mission statement which, I think, is a really important thing to do.

I like this. Don’t focus on your competition, just connect with your own audience. That’s something that, too many times–

Oh, I knew what I wanted to ask you. You know, this is my favorite question to ask all online people. One of my businesses is a wealth management business. If you know anything about wealth management business is, you cannot use testimonials. If you can’t use testimonials, how do you build social proof?

Akbar:              I don’t know the legalities of that because we typically don’t work with people in the finance sector because we don’t specialize in that, but to answer your question a little bit more generally. For example, all right. Well, I’ll ask you the question. Are you allowed to say something to the effect of “With over a hundred satisfied customers.” Are you able to say something like that?

Josh:                 No.

Akbar:              Okay. You’re probably able to say how long you’ve been in business for?

Josh:                 You’re able to say how long you’ve been in business for.

Akbar:              That might help some companies. That might not help a lot of the newer ones. I think you’re probably allowed to put Better Business Bureau. If you have a good BBB rating, you’re probably allowed to show that.

Josh:                 You probably could show that that may be gray also. This is really sort of the stupid thing in the world is that you can’t use testimonials if you’re in the wealth management business.

Akbar:              Well, listen, you have to kind of strengthen your other aspects of your website if you can’t use social proof. It’s kind of like if a person is blind, their other senses get heightened. They can hear better. All the things like that. You’re going to have to kind of improve your other ingredients in your funnel. There are different kind of subtle things you can do such as, can you say “4 out of 5 clients recommended us” – something like that?

Josh:                 No. Absolutely not.

Akbar:              If you do a really good job at all the other things and it’s industry norm not to have testimonies, that means your competition doesn’t have testimonies. You should be fine.

Josh:                 Okay, cool.

Akbar, we are unfortunately just about out of time. I’m going to bet there are going to be some people who want to find you. If they wanted to, how would they go about doing that?

Akbar:              I think the easiest thing to do is we’ve created hundreds of videos. We’ve just created, I feel, our best video ever on how to get a 7-figure blueprint, to make 7 figures online. That’s just on my website which is my name.com, which is A-K-B-A-R-S-H-E-I-K-H.com, akbarsheikh.com. You just go there and then check out that video. Of course, you’re free to follow me on Facebook. We get a lot of cool content there. You just follow my personal page or what have you. I think that’s pretty good. We’re on Instagram, YouTube, and all that jazz but really however you feel comfortable.

Josh:                 I assume that you’re accepting new clients. If somebody wants to find out, how they could work with you?

Akbar:              Yeah. Look, we’re particular with who we work with. Number one, you have to have an ethical product or service that’s aimed to make the world a better place. And you have to have a good why and show that you’re capable of running a good business. We could potentially work together.

Josh:                 Okay. Cool.

I also have an offer for you. I wrote my first book this year. It’s called Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. It is a novel. You can get it at Amazon, in Kindle or written version, or a physical version, if you want. You’d be better off going to my website which is www.sustainablethebook.com. Click on the big orange button that says “Buy me” and you’ll get the book. You’ll get a free 20-minute coaching call with me where I will guarantee you’ll get at least one piece of take home value. I wrote a 37-page ebook on how to implement all the stuff I talk about in the book Sustainable.

This is Josh Patrick. You’ve been with Akbar Sheikh. Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at jpatrick@askjoshpatrick.com.

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.

Topics: marketing funnel, sales funnel, sustainable business podcast, Sustainable Business, funnel, benefit corporations, impactful message, simplifying content, 7 figure funnel, ethical principles of persuasion, akbar sheikh, reciprocity

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