Want to Get a "Yes" to Your Request?
by: Sam Horn
DO YOU HAVE something you want to propose?
Having a valid case isn’t enough. To get a yes, you must first summon the courage to ask for what you want, need or deserve, and then present your ideas with timing, sensitivity and skill so your listener is motivated to give you the go ahead.
Shelley, an athletic friend who works as a law clerk in a Washington D.C. law firm, spent every noon hour jogging on the paths bordering the Smithsonian. She loved getting outside for the exercise, but didn’t enjoy having to change back into her professional clothes without the benefit of a shower. She approached the partners and proposed that a women’s locker room be installed, similar to the one provided for male employees. They turned her down flat, citing the expense, lack of space, and so on. Shelley called me and said, “Help?!”
THE FIRST THING I did was compliment her on not relinquishing her dream. Then, I recommended she use these Five Principles of Persuasion to make it come true.
1. Walk in with positive expectations. Have you ever approached someone with a suggestion while inside you were thinking, “This is a waste of time. They’ll never approve this.” If you don’t believe your idea stands a chance, how can they? Talk yourself into a state of optimism (“I know this is worthwhile”) so you can go in with the courage of your convictions. As Winston Churchill said, “Before convincing others, we ourselves must be convinced.”
2. Anticipate and voice their objections. Determine why they might turn you down, and then state their arguments first. If you don't preface your points with their objections, they won’t even be listening to you; they’ll be waiting for their turn to talk so they can tell you why your recommendation won’t work. If you predict they’ll protest with, “We don’t have the money for this in our budget,” then guess what the first words out of your mouth better be? “You may be thinking we don’t have the funds available, and if I can have your attention for the next ten minutes, I can show how this will save us this amount of money in the first three weeks of operation.”
3. Number and document each point. The easiest and quickest way to lend legitimacy to points is to number them. Enumerating evidence makes material sound like facts rather than opinion so it carries more weight. Furthermore, listeners can understand and remember what’s being said more easily because of the clear structure. As a professional speaker for more than 20 years, I’ve learned the most powerful way to get a message across is to follow this pattern: make a point, give an example; make a point, give an example. Audiences relate to and remember examples, which give real-life “proof” of the benefits of what you’re proposing.
4. Meet their needs and speak their language. Avoid using the word I, as in “I think a locker room will be welcomed by our employees.” People won’t do things for your reasons; they’ll do them for their own. Ask yourself what’s most important to the person you’re trying to persuade. Money, safety, reputation, status, power? Figure out how your proposal will benefit him or her and then address those advantages.
5. Motivate them to “try on” your ideas. Ralph Waldo Emerson realized, “To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching.” The same is true of persuasion. If you pressure people with logic and try to point out the wisdom of your arguments, they may turn you down simply because they don’t like reasoning forced down their throats. The goal is to Socratically engage them with questions and vivid stories so they get out of the passive, resistive mode and see what you’re saying. As soon as they picture what’s being proposed and mentally answer your questions, they stop crossing their mental arms and start imagining your idea as if it were a done deal.
Now, as Paul Harvey would say . . . “for the rest of the story.”
Shelley succeeded in getting the lockers approved the second time around because she did her homework. She contacted a national fitness association and obtained data regarding the financial advantage of encouraging employees to exercise during their lunch hour. She located other corporations who were glad to talk about the health and workmen’s compensation benefits they’d reaped from installing changing/shower facilities for all staff members. Shelley neutralized the partners’ objections about lack of space by demonstrating the advantage of converting a little-used conference room.
When Shelley called to share her good news, she added a variation of Yogi Berra’s often-quoted line with this quip, “Looks like it’s not over ‘til the FIT lady sings.”
BRAVO! Next time you want something, invest the time to follow these Five Principles of Persuasion, and you can increase the likelihood of getting a green light to your proposal or project.
POP pitch expert and influential speaker, Sam Horn is president of Sam Horn Consulting-Keynotes-Creative (since 1981) Author of "Tongue Fu!" "POP" "ConZentrate," "What's Holding You Back?" "Take The Bully By The Horns," and "Tongue Fu At School!." Sam also is a corporate keynote speaker and presenter at major conferences on how individuals and organizations can communicate more cooperatively. She is also a 12-time Emcee of world-renowned Maui Writers Conference, where she works with authors to get their books out of their heads and into readers' hands.
Visit Sam Horn’s site http://www.SamHorn.com to learn more about what she dynamically does.
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