Why ‘Yes Success’ Is So Hard for Some People

Many professionals take (at best) a mindless approach to persuasion. What I mean is that, either consciously or subconsciously, they simply assume that just because they’ve heard people say “yes” to them — and they’ve given the same response to others — they understand the complexities of attaining agreement.

That supposition couldn’t be further from the truth. The act of persuasion remains a significant obstacle for a lot of people, and they might not even realize it.

Like failing to look in your blind spot to eye a fast-approaching semi-trailer truck behind you on a narrow two-lane highway, ignoring this obstacle can lead to disastrous results.

On the other had, some people absolutely abhor persuasion. They want nothing to do with it, think it smacks of “sales,” and conjures images of white shoes, plaid jackets and glad-handing used-car salesmen.

But successful people — professionals at the top of their game — understand that it is not only okay for them to use persuasion; it is incumbent upon them to do so. 

Having someone say “yes” to your ideas, offers and suggestions ranks among the greatest achievements in the business world. It represents validation, respect and acceptance among your peers and others. In author Daniel Pink’s survey of U.S. workers, “What Do You Do at Work?,” for his book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, he discovered that full-time, non-sales workers spent 24 out of every 60 minutes involved in persuasion efforts. To say effective persuasion is merely important is to engage in extreme understatement.

Achieving ‘Yes Success’

Persuasion requires intellectual lifting. Understanding your target, knowing how to increase the value of your offering (or, conversely, decrease the resistance of your target), choosing the right words, and determining the timing of your persuasive efforts all are prerequisites of effective persuasion

The fact that you are reading this right now means you’re willing to take steps to break out of the persuasion paradox.

Here’s something to ponder this week: If you could flip a switch and receive guaranteed “yes success,” who do you want to say yes to what?

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash.

For the Win (Mark’s Persuasion Priority Action Plan: The Conclusion)

We’re now ready for the final step in my seven-step persuasion priority action plan. I wrote about the previous six steps here and here.

At this point, you have thoroughly evaluated your risk and reward, as well as determined whether you’d like to move forward with you persuasion priority. Remember, your persuasion priority is this: Who is the one person you want to say yes to what?

You’ve also articulated your request, and identified not only your self-interest but the enlightened self-interest of others.

 You’ve crafted your case, crunched the numbers, created compelling language, crafted superb stories, and anticipated resistance and your response to that resistance.

You’ve identified key players in your request, considered their personalities and preferences, and mapped your persuasion terrain.

Now, you’re ready to launch a plan that will take you to your objective. At a high level, your action plan may look like this:

  1. Meet with financial analyst to see if numbers make sense. 
  2. Engage your target on the topic; ask for input.
  3. Brainstorm options with him and others. 
  4. Run the numbers and various scenarios. 
  5. Form and frame options to get result.
  6. Acknowledge potential challenges and ask for your target’s opinion.
  7. Formalize the decision and create perpetual yes.  

Create as many action steps as necessary, but don’t make things overly complicated. You probably don’t need 27 action steps, but two might be too few. You can then adjust accordingly as your persuasion campaign develops. 

You my consider giving the what, when, why and how approach a shot — just to ensure you think through your action steps accordingly. 

Your Course of Action

What: Approach financial analyst Corey Williamson and ask for ROI estimate input.

When: COB next Friday.

Why: We have a great relationship, so he’ll be honest with me when evaluating pros and cons. Presenting a solid financial case will show I’m serious. Plus, if this idea won’t provide great ROI for the company, I shouldn’t move forward. 

How: I know Corey is at his best in the morning. He’s also a text message guy who hates surprises and loves details. I’ll send a text, set up a morning meeting and bring him all the details for his perusal. 

Try scripting out your first five action steps in this format and see what develops. 

Can’t I Just Pitch It?

When I present the art of persuasion this manner, some people ask me, “Do I really need to do all this? Can’t I just go in pitch it?”

 Sure, you can. It all depends on how big your “ask” is and how important the result is to you and your organization. You certainly wouldn’t unleash this sort of horsepower when trying to persuade someone to go to a seafood restaurant for lunch. But if you’re vying for that coveted assignment, looking to add significant numbers to your staff or pitching your board of directors on a new strategic initiative, you better bring it.

The rule of thumb is that planning pays off in a 5:1 ratio: Every hour you spend planning pays off by saving you roughly five hours of misdirected effort.

What are you willing to do to hear yes?

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

A Blueprint for ‘Yes’ (Mark’s Persuasion Priority Action Plan: Part 2)

In order to succeed in your persuasion efforts, you need a persuasion priority action plan. The one I like to use involves seven steps, and I covered three of them in a previous post.

Here they are:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what.

Step 2: Determine why this is important for you, your target and your organization.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case

Step 4: Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

Step 5: Assess your primary target and other key influencers. 

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

Step 7: Create your step-by-step actions: When do you do what with whom, and why? 

In this post, I will cover the next three steps, saving the final one for next time.

Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

What savvy phrases can you use to describe your request or facets of your request?

• A compelling argument

• A sensitive situation

• A crucial decision

Questions work, too.

• Do we want to surrender to the competition?

Similarly, what figures of speech (metaphor, simile, analogy) can you create to describe your request or subsequent risks or rewards?

• “This guy is the Payton Manning of sales directors.”

• “That part of the country is a marketing black hole.”

• “The likelihood of the board approving that approach is less than that of Kim Kardashian wearing a turtleneck tomorrow.” 

Using storytelling best practices, what brief and relatable story you can develop to justify your request, address potential challenges or describe imminent rewards. Be sure to have a point, include a captivating open, establish a plot, insert an unexpected element and conclude with a learning point. 

Anticipate resistance and objection. How will you respond when someone says, “It costs too much”? Or, “We don’t need it”? Or “Now is not the right time”?

Step 5: Assess your primary target and other key players. 

You certainly don’t need to list every person who might be involved in your request, but it’s critical to include your primary target and key players. Write down their names and titles, your impression of their personalities, and your perception of their preferences for communication and information.   

For example:

• Steve Miller, VP Field Operations; expressive; text messages; just the facts 

• Jerry Matherstone, General Counsel, reserved; face-to-face; all the details

Using a table like the one below can help you sort through these details.

Jerry MatherstoneGeneral CounselReserved; little sense of humor Face to face (no email) Wants all the details
Steve MillerVP Field OperationsExpressive; likes to joke Text messagesJust the facts

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

If your persuasion priority involves more than a few people, represents significant dollars and is likely to take some time, you should map the persuasion territory. Here’s what I mean: When strategizing your persuasion approach answer the following five questions:

  1. Who are the key players?
  2. On a scale of -10 to 10 (10 being highest), what is each player’s influence in the organization?
  3. On a scale of -10 to 10  (10 being completely in support of your idea), to what extent is each player applying that influence? 
  4. How easily do you think each person might change his or her position (low, medium, high)?
  5. What significant relationships exist among key players?

Again, use a table like the one below to help you sort through the responses to these questions:

NameOrg. InfluenceFor or AgainstChangeableRelationships
Jerry Matherstone+8+7Medium+ Steve Miller
Steve Miller+5
-4High– Sally Mack

Use this information to map your persuasion territory.

Next time, I’ll focus on the final step of my persuasion priority action plan.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Are You Ready for Action? (Mark’s Persuasion Priority Action Plan: Part 1)

I write lot about persuasion; you know that already. So over the next few posts, I am going to share my seven-step persuasion priority action plan:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what.

Step 2: Determine why this is important for you, your target and your organization.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case

Step 4: Plan your language (adjectives, metaphors, examples, stories and humor).

Step5: Assess your primary target and other key influencers. 

Step 6: Map the persuasion territory.

Step 7: Create your step-by-step actions: When do you do what with whom, and why? 

Here we go:

Step 1: Clearly state who is the one person you want to do what?

Keep in mind the four persuasion priority criteria (meaningful, significant, realistic and others oriented), and be specific. 

Don’t say: “I want my senior vice president to add some people to my staff sometime.” 

Say this: “I would like my senior vice president to approve five key new hires for my department by the start of next quarter.” 

Who do you want to do what?

Step 2: Why is this important to you, your target and your organization? 

Strive to identify at least three reasons for each (you, your target and your organization).

These can include financial gain, skills acquired, networks built, market share increased, reputation improved and others.

Step 3: Build your quantitative and qualitative case. 


What might be the return on investment (expressed in dollars or a ratio)?

If we’re talking about a larger and longer term project, what might be the net present value and internal rate of return?

What other benefits of achieving this priority can be readily quantified?          


Will your initiative result in sustained high morale, and how might you know?

Will the initiative lead to more effective teamwork? What might be the evidence?

What other qualitative reasons and subsequent evidence can you add?

Next time I’ll focus on more steps in creating your persuasion priority action plan.

(Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash)

It’s OK To Say ‘No’ To Your Persuasion Priority

What if, after careful evaluation, you determine that your persuasion priority is not worth the effort?

Maybe it’s not financially feasible. Or it won’t necessarily enhance your professional skills or expand your networks. Perhaps it will stress you out or overwork you.

Regardless of the reason, don’t be too disappointed. You’ve just saved yourself precious time, energy and effort — and perhaps minimized any potentially career-damaging risks. Contrary to Robert Plant’s timeless lyric in Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” all that glitters certainly isn’t gold.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and set another priority. 

This is why analysis is so important when it comes to engaging in persuasion. It allows us to see things in black and white, forcing us to think clearly and make the tough decisions.

If, on the other hand, you’ve carefully considered your persuasion priority and are convinced you’re headed in the right direction, you will now have the energy and proper mental mindset to help you succeed.

The Difference Between Happiness and Satisfaction

How will the pursuit of your persuasion priority impact your happiness and satisfaction?

First, it’s important to realize that happiness and satisfaction are two separate and distinct notions. In short, happiness is based on conditions; satisfaction is based on reflection. 

Happiness is the short-term elevation of mood, typically influenced by conditions. Is what you’re doing at the moment fun, are the people you’re interacting with enjoyable to be around and is the work environment convivial? Or do time pressures exist with micro-managing bosses nagging you in a work environment that feels awkward or even toxic? 

Satisfaction is the longer-term, overall feeling of contentedness. Have you achieved significant accomplishments, overcome stiff challenges or reached your potential in a certain area? When you reflect on your life, how fulfilled are you? Do you look at your life and career with pride, or do you regret opportunities lost and potential not realized?

Three Key Questions

If you are seeking to be a persuasive professional, you simply need to ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What will the pursuit of my persuasion priority contribute to my happiness?
  2. How many more happy moments will I experience in the average day as a result of this endeavor?
  3.  When I look back several years from now, will the pursuit of this persuasion priority contribute to my overall professional and personal satisfaction? 

Keep in mind that delayed gratification and eschewing fleeting moments of happiness for longer-term satisfaction can yield much more significant results.  

Effective Persuasion Requires Effort, But Don’t Overwork Yourself

In previous posts, I’ve written about the importance of taking into consideration how much your persuasion priority is worth to you.

Now, here is another question to ask yourself: Will my efforts unreasonably and negatively impact my labor intensity? Will it require me to work more hours, juggle more tasks and take on more burdens? Is there a more effective way of achieving my persuasion priority?

One of the reasons more people aren’t more effective with their persuasion attempts is because they require too much additional effort. This concept is nothing new; too much work leads to the abandonment of ideals and priorities. The reduction of labor intensity often is considered a fundamental component of self-improvement. If you want to continue to develop and grow, it’s essential to reduce your labor intensity such that you can free your capacity for new experiences, new people and new information. The fastest way to understand this concept is to explore input and output.

Conducting a training workshop counts as input; changes in employee behavior and the overall business are the result (or the output). Conducting a focus group is the input; the accurate understanding and takeaway of the session is the output. The fastest way to reduce your labor intensity is to focus on the result, not the input. 

If your persuasion priority is to oversee a new product to market, and you want to gauge your retail channel’s likely demand, focus groups are one way to do so. If you’re able to attain a statistically sound assessment with only five focus groups, don’t plan eight. Endeavor to exert just enough effort to achieve the desired result.

Persuasion always requires effort, but you need to ensure the effort is commensurate with the payoff.  Assess the labor intensity of all your persuasion attempts.

How Are Your Stress Levels Today? You’ll Need Some Stress to Survive

Any time you reach for something new, better and different, stress will be involved. The key is determining what kind of stress you might experience with your persuasion priority.

Bad Stress

The first is distress, the sort most of us already know and experience — probably quite frequently. This is when your body responds physically and negatively to your mental state. Typically, heart rates elevate, muscles tense, teeth clench and the body releases the damaging chemical cortisol into the bloodstream. Although I’m not a doctor (and I don’t play one on TV), too much of that is never a good thing.

Good Stress

The other kind of stress is eustress — the “good” kind of stress. When you’re mentally challenged to follow a speaker’s logic, complete a challenging math problem, learn a tough piece of music or rise to the occasion and meet a pressing deadline, new neural pathways help your brain become more fit.

You also can experience eustress when you challenge yourself physically by lifting a heavier weight, running at a faster pace or increasing the incline on the treadmill. You’re forcing your body to increase your physical and cardiovascular capacity for work, which releases the positive chemical dopamine and makes you feel good about exerting energy. 

You Need Stress

You can’t live a life without any stress. Distress is inevitable, and reasonable levels of eustress should be encouraged. My mentor Alan Weiss, who penned the foreword of my book, Persuasion Equation, is a naval battle expert who often quotes Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to sail into harm’s way.”

If you want to hear “yes” more often, you’ll have to sail into harm’s way.   

Load yourself with the right kind of stress to help you continue to grow. If you pursue your chosen persuasion priority, will you be putting yourself in a position of growth — or something else?

(Photo courtesy of Gratisography.)

Does Your Persuasion Priority Expand Your Networks?

Few things are as important to a working professional as a network of contacts. But if there is one area of weakness in most people’s persuasion arsenal, it exists in their professional network. We know it’s important to create and cultivate relationships, but we don’t necessarily put in the energy and effort. 

Your persuasion priority may require you to establish new relationships or refresh existing ones. During the course of your efforts, you also may need and want to seek out subject matter experts, mentors, historians, prognosticators and contrarians. 

Networking Examples

If your persuasion priority is to bring a new product to market, making the case for it requires an analysis of product liability risks — an area that might be outside your expertise. You’ll need to find a subject matter expert, and you’ll need to make a solid first impression while establishing a positive relationship and expanding your professional network.

Additionally, you may want to seek out someone to teach you a new skill or provide guidance. Whether you refer to that individual as a teacher, a mentor or a coach — and there are distinctions between those terms — doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re reaching out.

Say you’re creating a point-of-purchase marketing support initiative and you need help determining the best way to communicate with your retailers. Find someone who has done the same thing before and ask for guidance. You’ll not only get new information, but establish a new relationship, too. 

Perhaps you’ll need a historian, someone who possesses the history critical to your persuasion priority. Maybe you’re pitching a new idea to an existing client, but you’ve never worked with this client directly. You’ll need someone who knows existing relationships, past experiences involving the client and your organization, and where minefields might be lurking. To get started, reach out to a colleague. 

In other situations, you may seek out what are sometimes referred to as prognosticators. They are usually found in market research areas and can evaluate current indicators and make educated predictions about what’s going to develop in the coming years and quarters. Perhaps the product line is maturing and therefore will be subject to competitors, or the client base is aging and there will be natural attrition, or the markets will align and there will be an opportunity for new offerings.

Finally, if you’re confident and adventurous, you can seek out contrarians. Those people have the ability to powerfully argue the opposite and tell you why your ideas aren’t as good as you think. You’re free to disagree, of course. But in the end, you’ll have another opinion — and maybe even some new ideas you hadn’t previously considered — to strengthen your approach.

Relationships can be as powerful as splitting the atom in terms of creating your credibility and influence. So think about your persuasion priority in terms of a clean slate, an opportunity to reinvigorate your networking efforts.

Will Your Persuasion Priority Enhance Your Professional Skills?

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of determining if your persuasion priority is really a priority.

Remember that your persuasion priority must be specific, significant and meaningful to you and your organization, and realistic enough to be attainable. It also must be set with others in mind, because if you can help them get what they want, you’ll ultimately get what you want.

If you pursue your persuasion priority, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Will it improve your communication skills — such as writing a compelling email, facilitating a brainstorming session or making an executive presentation?
  2. Does achieving your persuasion priority add to your actual or abstract organizational abilities?
  3. Might it help you build relationships, hone your problem-solving talents or sharpen your decision-making abilities?
  4. Will it help you attain mental toughness to compartmentalize a challenge and put it off for later while you work on other more time-sensitive issues?
  5. Will it increase your negotiation skills?
  6. Does it require you to consider more carefully your proficiency at work-life balance?

All of these potential improvements can be considered more qualitative than quantitative financial gains

Breaking Down Your Skills

Keep in mind that the fastest way to achieve competency in a skill is to break that skill down into its various components. 

Far too many people think far too broadly when it comes to analyzing a skill. Take the ability to make an executive presentation, which some might categorize sweepingly as  “presentation skills.” That’s a mistake. 

Making a presentation involves researching your topic and your audience’s perspectives on the topic, as well as blending third-party expertise with your own insights. Then you need to develop your content: the opening, a middle section, examples, anticipation of questions, response preparation and even a recovery plan for gaffes or an unexpected comment. Then comes the creation of an effective closer that leaves your audience thinking, knowing or doing something different. Each of these components in and of themselves could be considered a skill set.

These skill sets might come easier to some people than others, but just because you struggle to achieve competency doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue a given skill — or a given persuasion priority.