From working as a metal guitarist…
to coaching entrepreneurs to make billions of dollars in sales, and collaborating with Tony Robbins, Sir Richard Branson, Peter Diamandis, and other leaders…
His name is Eben Pagan, and here’s what Maria Forleo, an Inc. 500 entrepreneur, said about him:
“I consider Eben one of my earliest marketing mentors and I’ve learned so much from him. I’ll never forget how much he’s taught me about growing an online business and I’m forever grateful.”
From 2018 to 2020, I worked closely with Eben and his business partner Michael Simmons and was coached by him on multiple occasions. His guidance not only led to me spearheading a string of multi-six-figure launches, but it also shaped how I think about marketing and communication on a deeper level.
Here are the five underrated communication lessons I’ve learned by working with Eben:
1. Join the conversation they’re already having in their mind
Here’s the funny thing about persuasion: it only works when people believe in what you’re saying (or are at least inclined to do so). Just ask yourself: When was the last time you bought something that you were still skeptical about?
Yet, most people sell ideas that their clients aren’t ready to accept and even disagree with… and they wonder why they aren’t getting the sales and client transformation they want!
This is why customer interviews are so important. They help you discover two things:
- The exact words and phrases your prospect uses to describe the problem and solution
- The underlying beliefs your prospect has about buying
Armed with this insight, you can communicate in alignment with their language and beliefs. You should also continually check for alignment, because you aren’t your client—you don’t live their day-to-day reality. For that, a question that Eben asks is: “How would the customer see this?”
One-line summary: Sell your clients based on where they are at, rather than where you want them to be.
2. Turn off the broadcast mindset
We live in a crazy world.
What do I mean by that?
As long as you have a computer and internet, you have the opportunity to reach hundreds or even millions of people. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but the possibility is out there.
Now, here’s the problem with that though…
Because we’re more connected than ever, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “mass marketing”, where we blast off emails and messages without relating to our audience on a 1-on-1 level.
Instead, write as if you’re talking to the person. Here are a few tips that Eben taught me:
- Never write “you all”: it’s either “you” or “we”.
- Read emails out loud before sending them. That helps keep the writing conversational.
One-line summary: Don’t broadcast to your audience. Connect with them personally.
3. Talk as an upgraded version of them
Here’s a common mistake that I see people make in selling themselves: they overfocus on their successes and/or credentials. While it’s important to highlight your credibility, too much of it can alienate your audience. Sure, your clients might be impressed by your track record, but if they don’t emotionally relate to you, your communication won’t keep them engaged.
What Eben recommends instead is communicating as someone who’s just like them, but a lot more successful and actualized. Share how you were where they are right now, and how you overcame their challenge or problem.
You want them to think “Wow, they get me” and “They sound like me”—the feeling that you truly understand what they are going through and you’ve solved their exact problem. By demonstrating message-market fit, you help your clients choose you over less relevant competitors.
One-line summary: Tell a story of how you’re credible and relevant, specifically how you went through the journey your customer is on.
4. Understand their “success symbol”
When attention spans are of TikTok duration, how do you communicate to grab someone’s attention? Being concise is helpful, but it’s not the real solution.
Eben often talks about $100 words: words that get your client’s attention right away. And that’s not enough: you’ll want to narrow your vocabulary down further to just a few words, most importantly the number one icon that represents success in their world.
For example, in dating, it’s not getting rejected. In workouts, it’s having six-pack abs.
Why is that important? You want to attract your client on an emotional level so that you can cut through all the rationalizations they have. Emotion determines cognition in many ways, after all.
Ask your clients—or yourself—these questions:
- What’s the symbol of their biggest desire?
- Fill in the blanks: When they see ___, they will go “I want that now”
One-line summary: To instantly get your client’s attention, find out how they symbolize success when solving a specific problem.
5. 80% of communication is miscommunication
If there’s one lesson I value more than others, this is it…
Miscommunication often happens because people have different understandings of even the same word, and the slightest difference in understanding can lead to disagreement and conflict. Think about the word “love”—one person can think it’s all “hugs and kisses”, but another might define it as “appreciation”.
This is why it’s important to communicate in specific, concrete language. Your audience should be able to hear or read things once and understand what you just shared, without having to go back to you. And more importantly, they should feel the emotional pull of your communication (as you’ll recall from tip #4).
For example, “Start your dream coaching business” is vague—what does it really mean? Why should someone care? Contrast that against “Get your first $500/hour coaching client without being salesy”. Now that’s a clear message!
One-line summary: Abstract communication leads to more miscommunication—keep things concrete and specific.
Summing it all up
Just to recap, here are the five communication lessons that Eben taught me:
- Join the conversation they’re already having in their mind
- Turn off the broadcast mindset
- Talk as an upgraded version of them
- Understand their “success symbol”
- 80% of communication is miscommunication
What it all comes down to is this:
Communicate from a place of deep empathy and understanding rather than pursuing short-term and even manipulative communication hacks.
That can best be summed up in Eben’s own words, the sentence he shared with me when I met Eben in New York for the first time:
“The future of marketing is going to be super-integrity.”
Ian Chew is the founder of Deeper Conversations. Despite his social anxiety, he's had conversations with over 10,000 people, and he's been featured by top media outlets like CBC, Inc. Magazine, and TEDx. As a copywriter, he's worked with top coaches like Eben Pagan, Michael Simmons, and Amir Ahmad Nasr.