Agent of Influence
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Agent of Influence

How to Use Spy Skills to Persuade Anyone, Sell Anything, and Build a Successful Business

Jason Hanson

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eBook - ePub

Agent of Influence

How to Use Spy Skills to Persuade Anyone, Sell Anything, and Build a Successful Business

Jason Hanson

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About This Book

In the spirit of Jocko Willink's Extreme Ownership and Chris Voss' Never Split the Difference comes the most empowering salestool yet: a practicalguide on how to use proven spy techniques to bolster your business strategies.

Even if you've never seen a James Bond film or never met a real-life CIA agent, you should know that spies aregeniuses at surviving covertly. Their ability to communicate in code is practically written into their DNA. And while it's true that spies receive some of the best survival training in the world, there's another, more critical skill a spy must have to survive… business savvy.

In Agent of Influence, bestselling author Jason Hanson, a former CIA special agent and founder of Spy Escape School, reveals how anyone can use spy tactics for increased success, from learning how to strategically plan your day to mastering the steps you'll need to embrace challenges and set achievable, personal goals. He teaches you how to develop a winning sales personality and target the perfect business opportunity using the SADR cycle—"spotting, " "assessing, " "developing, " and "recruiting." With this invaluable and unique handbook, you will become a more productive, confidant professional or entrepreneur.

Discover how to use proven spy techniques to bolster your business strategies—from self-advocation to selling to interviewing—and ultimately make more money. In our evolving age of entrepreneurships, corporate careers, and self-run businesses, Jason's message will appeal to those looking for a competitive leg up, and who entrust the insider secrets of spy practice to take them there.

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Chapter 1
The Confidence Reflex
EXERCISE: Collection of information from anonymous source/or sources at one or more locations
LOCATION: Classified location, Bethesda, MD., Washington, D.C.
OBJECTIVE: Subject must navigate from classified location to Washington, D.C., Metro train station to find anonymous contact. Contact will provide subject with further information pertaining to operation. Subject must connect with additional unknown contact in Washington, D.C., to collect information concerning a potential act of terrorism directed at United States citizens.
I was in a deep sleep when I was woken up by a loud, forceful knock at the door of my room. A quick glance at my watch told me it was 3:10 a.m. Normally, someone pounding on the door at this hour would be alarming, but I was training as a CO (case officer) for the CIA and was taking the Long Course at the Farm. The Long Course is eighteen grueling months of training that includes everything from how to solicit valuable information from a terrorist to how to elude someone who is following you. Once I completed the course (that is, if I completed it), I would be an expert at tradecraft. I’d be qualified to manage other agents, spot potential agents, and recruit other agents on behalf of the United States government. (When I say “agents,” what I really mean is “spies.”)
It wasn’t uncommon to be woken up in the middle of the night for a training exercise; they liked to catch us off guard whenever possible. The CIA wants its operatives to be ready to act without warning at any time. Terrorists and other bad guys aren’t going to wait until we’ve had a good night’s sleep before they attack us, so we must always be prepared to jump into action.
I opened the door cautiously, anticipating that this could be a simulated kidnapping and that I could be grabbed forcefully and have a bag put over my head before being dragged away and kept captive for hours. Much to my relief, there was no one on the other side of the door. All I saw was a brown envelope lying on the floor. I opened it up and found a small piece of paper that read:
7450 Wisconsin, Bethesda, MD 20814, 07:12
This address sounded familiar. I grabbed my map of the D.C. area, and a quick look confirmed that it was Bethesda Station, a major hub for the Washington Metro. I wouldn’t know why until I got there, but someone (Who?) wanted me at Bethesda Station in just a few hours.
My immediate challenge was getting there. We’re taught to avoid relying on smartphones and GPS to navigate from place to place. Maps (or, even better, our own memories) are more reliable. I was currently at a classified location away from the destination, and part of this test was arriving there, on time, with very few resources. Failure was never an option, as it meant my immediate removal from the program.
I grabbed everything I could reasonably take—the cash I had on hand, a small flashlight, and a bottle of water—and ran out the door toward the highway to face my first challenge . . . and it was a big one. I had to find someone willing to drive a strange man, alone, to Bethesda in the middle of the night. But if I had learned anything at the Farm so far, it was that being convincing enough could get a person out of nearly any situation.
I saw a pair of headlights approaching from the distance. I waved, but the driver drove right by. I didn’t blame him, as I would have done the exact same thing. But approximately ten minutes later I saw another car approach. It was hard to see in the dark, and the car was moving fairly quickly. But as it got closer I noted the windows were down and loud music was playing. There was a good chance the car was full of college students. I started to get excited. This could be my ticket! The vehicle started to slow down on the shoulder of the road. I had to think quickly. Right away I noticed that the guy in the passenger seat was wearing a blue cap with a big letter G, and it gave me an idea. I just hoped it worked. “Thanks for stopping. I’m really stuck. Hey, do you guys go to Georgetown? Are you headed back? I’m Class of 2014. Poly-sci. I lived in Copley Hall.” The man in the passenger seat opened the window a bit more, a good sign. “No, actually we live in Kennedy.”

You never know when you’re going to need to make a quick connection with someone. Spies stay well informed so they can more easily develop rapport with a target. Staying up to date about local events and being aware of places of note—such as popular bars, restaurants, colleges, sports facilities, stores, places of worship, and even local parks—will make it much easier to connect with customers and potential contacts. To see the special business template that I use to stay well informed and on top of my A game, you can access it for free at

“I’ve been walking for over an hour,” I continued. “I hit a deer miles back, and my car is trashed and my cell is dead.”
The guy in the passenger seat said, “Do you want to use our cell to call for help?” He was no dummy, and it was crucial that I remain calm and think of a way to convince this guy to let me in his car . . . now. I didn’t want to scare him off.
“That would be awesome, but I really need to be in Bethesda this a.m. I’m driving up from Virginia Beach. I have an interview with a consulting firm, and I really want this job. I just can’t risk being late. I can pay for gas if I can ride with you.” I showed them the cash, which proved irresistible to a group of college kids. As one of the guys in the backseat opened the door and moved over, he explained they were also driving back from Virginia Beach.
“Oh really? It’s fun, isn’t it?” I asked. “My buddies and I hang out at this dive bar called Mel’s. It’s great, definitely hit it up the next time you drive down.” I thanked them, sat back, and made polite small talk for the next couple of hours. I was feeling confident I was going to make it. They dropped me off in D.C., just in time to navigate to Bethesda Station. Part two of my challenge was about to begin.
It was 7:08 a.m. in Bethesda Station. I’d made it, but I had just a few minutes to find my contact, who could be anyone. As it was nearly rush hour, the constant flow of commuters was making my job almost impossible. I had zero information about whom I was supposed to meet. My head, on a swivel it seemed, scanned and scanned and scanned.
I noticed a woman in a green dress reading a newspaper. She glanced at her watch a couple of times. Was it her? Or was it the young man listening to headphones on my left? I had to find my contact soon or I would forfeit the exercise.
A train pulled in. The doors opened, and a young businesswoman carrying a briefcase and a newspaper walked toward me. The moment she caught my eye was so fast I barely registered it, but my training had taught me to be open and aware of everyone around me, and I was as positive as I could be that she was giving me a signal. She placed her newspaper in the trash and walked toward the exit.
That was all I needed. I reached into the trash, casually retrieved her newspaper, and boarded the train. I sat down and opened the paper, hoping I hadn’t made a mistake and missed my connection. I was careful not to frantically flip through the paper, making it obvious I was searching for something. I’d been taught to always make sure I wasn’t being followed, and I didn’t want to make myself a target to another recruit or, worse, an instructor ready to admonish me for not blending in. I behaved as if I was scanning the paper for interesting articles—and there it was, written on the top of page three in blue ink, the following note:
The Willard InterContinental 08:15
Off to a hotel next. I took the Red Line to the Metro Center station and walked toward the location. I noticed a man wearing a blue baseball cap walking several paces behind me, so I crossed the street to see if he would follow me. He crossed too, a sure sign he was following me and that I’d have to watch out for him. I didn’t get this far to lose now.
I entered the busy lobby of the hotel, where businessmen and tourists were starting off their days and finishing off their breakfasts. Given the bustle inside, I put myself in a position where I could see as much activity in the lobby as possible. That’s when I saw him, the guy from the street. In my line of work, encounters like this are never chalked up to coincidence.

We have a saying in the intelligence world about encountering strangers that’s worth repeating here: One time is an accident, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action. Successful businesspeople are often the target of crimes (like kidnapping), especially if they are public figures. Get in the habit of observing individuals around you to protect your safety.

Clearly, the guy had followed me, and I needed to do something about it. When I got close enough to approach him, he smiled and reached out his hand for a handshake. It turned out not to be a handshake but a brush pass (that’s when two spies who are passing each other covertly exchange an item). Okay, I thought, if he wasn’t following me to do me harm, then he must be part of the exercise. Even though he was a total stranger, I made convincing small talk with him for a couple of minutes. To any onlooker, this would appear to be a conversation between two acquaintances who had run into each other and were catching up. He patted me on the back and walked into the restaurant over to the left. Once he’d gone, I took a look at what he’d dropped in my hand: a key to a room. That explained why he’d quietly told me he “had a meeting at 9:03” before he left. It was a room number, it had to be. How much more complicated could this exercise get?
I headed to the elevator, nervous about what was next. Exhaustion from being up all night started to set in, but I couldn’t let it distract me. I made my way to the room and cautiously opened the door. Just a few seconds after I had entered, the phone rang. I answered it, imagining the impossibilities expected of me. Am I going to have to fly across the country or scale down the side of the building? A voice asked me to give some credentials—proof that I was who I claimed to be. Once my identity had been verified to his satisfaction, I was told to walk to the front of the hotel, where a car would be waiting for me. I headed down to the lobby and walked outside. A black car pulled up and rolled down the window. I was determined to stay focused, but I was nervous about what was next. I wasn’t sure how much I could take. A hand gestured for me to move closer. I cautiously approached the vehicle. A serious man in a gray suit who looked slightly familiar said, “Get in the back, you made it through this one. Good job.”
I breathed a massive sigh of relief, knowing that the exercise was over. I was now prepared to handle whatever they threw at me next.
It Starts with Mental Stamina
Tyler’s story might sound like something out of a movie—a fun and exciting (and admittedly stressful) exercise that some future intelligence officers might undergo during their training, but it’s actually more than that. A former instructor at the Farm, whom I’ll call Bernard to protect his identity, explains it best: “The exercises trainees undergo at the Farm require incredible mental stamina. The physical training is intense, but it’s the ability to handle the mental aspect of the exercises that makes someone a great intelligence officer. If you can handle that, you can do just about anything.”
As someone who has undergone intense training before becoming an intelligence officer, I can tell you the people who make it through to the other side are not always the people you’d expect. They aren’t necessarily the strongest, fastest, fittest, or even the most brilliant. I remember a particular instance when I was in training and our instructors were trying to physically destroy us. We were doing multiple sets of push-ups, sit-ups, and burpees. It wasn’t unusual for us to be pushed until we felt like we were going to throw up or die (dying would’ve been quicker and less dirty!). One day I looked over, and the toughest guy in the group, the one with the most bravado, was crying. He had totally lost it. I’m not necessarily proud of my reaction—and please remember that I was sleep deprived and physically wrecked—but I started laughing. I got in trouble for it, but I just couldn’t believe the toughest guy was crying his eyes out. But I was about to learn one of the most important lessons of my training and my career. Just a few feet away was a small but fierce young woman who kept to herself and had always slipped under the radar. As we progressed forward through the program, I’d come to learn she was a real dark horse who turned out to be superb at conquering whatever was thrown her way. At that moment, the determination on her face was palpable. She was also calm and focused, and she made what we were doing look easy. I immediately stopped laughing. I needed to keep my head straight, ju...

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