How to Respond When You Hear ‘Yes’

Just as there are clearly missteps you can make when you hear “yes,” there also are actions you can take that will help remove any trace of doubt that may linger with your target.

Five Moment-of-Yes Do’s

1. Immediately shake hands.

I know, it seems obvious. But you’d be shocked by how many people miss this important moment. For many cultures, dating back to ancient Greece, shaking hands has remained customary for everything from meeting and greeting to saying thank-you and offering congratulations. A handshake also signals the completion of an agreement. Even if I’ve worked with a person for years on a big agreement, I always shake hands to affirm the commitment. Although it may be executed differently in different countries, shaking hands is almost always the socially acceptable thing to do (though, in certain cultures, it’s a good idea to check ­— especially in male-to-female agreements).

2. Offer a reinforcing comment.

While shaking hands, it’s critical to also offer some sort of agreement-reinforcing comment: “This is going to be an exciting project.” “We will do great work together.” “Here’s to accomplishing important work.” Avoid statements such as “Well, here’s hoping it works!” or “Thank you for the opportunity; I hope I make you proud.” The objective here is to fill your target with confidence, not initiate buyer’s remorse or demonstrate that your pitching skills are stronger than your confidence.

3. Give a “next steps” overview.

Be absolutely clear on what will happen next: “Okay, so I’ll work with the legal department this afternoon to put the final details into an agreement. You’ll be deciding which budgets to use. And we’ll collaborate on the project’s announcement this afternoon. By this time tomorrow, we’ll be up and running.” In other words, determine who will handle the purchase order, who will draft the agreement and who is communicating what to others.

4. Make sure your target takes action.

In the example above, the target is given next-step responsibilities. That is intentional. Sometimes in the moment of “yes,” persuaders are so relieved to receive agreement that they take the focus on accountability off the target. Don’t create a “sit back and relax” experience for the target. You want him or her to take action: Make a phone call, provide a signature, send an email, review a document. Set something you and your target can agree on immediately, then schedule a follow-up session.

5. Go public.

Nobody wants to be considered a hypocrite. The majority of people want to perform consistently with their publicly stated ideas and positions. This can take many forms: letting just a few people around the lunch table know about the new agreement, a massive companywide memo or alerting the local and national media. Going public makes that “yes” official by naming those accountable and broadcasting the commitment.

Next time, we’ll cover how to create what I call “perpetual yes.”

Five No-Nos After You Hear ‘Yes’

We plan for objections and we plan for resistance, but we often don’t plan for success. This is a big mistake.

Why? Because it is in the moment of “yes” that you can reassure your target he or she has made a wise decision. And from there, you can begin to position yourself for even higher levels of persuasion success.

Five Moment-of-Yes Don’ts

When you hear “yes,” you’ve accomplished your objective. So don’t blow it by falling into one of the following five traps:

1. Don’t immediately reply with an incredulous “Really?!”

A response like that can erode any confidence you’ve already built in your target and make the person second-guess his decision. You don’t want to appear gob-smacked that someone actually believes in your pitch. What should you say? “Excellent.” “Fantastic.” “Smart move.”

2. Don’t keep trying to make your case.

Just stop.

3. Don’t review your target’s concerns.

In other words, don’t say something like this: “Okay, so as you know, with the new project timeline, we should be able to complete the market analysis before we get the new additions to the field team in place and before the new finance programs are approved. All of this is dependent on EPA approval of the new system.” Yikes! Now, all of a sudden, your point-by-point review has made your target nervous, which might make him renege on his commitment. Don’t feel obligated to act as if your target’s concerns are top of mind at this point. You’ve heard those concerns, the target still said “yes” and now both of you can move forward.

4. Don’t be unprepared.

You can’t anticipate every eventuality, but you can plan for some. If, for example, a purchase order needs to be signed, have it with you and ready to go. If you need to call someone to issue a verbal authorization, have the contact’s name and number programmed into your phone. And always have a decent pen with you — just in case you need to write something down. Lack of preparation in the moment of “yes” could lead your target to second-guess the decision he’s just made while also questioning your credibility.

5. Don’t bask in the glow of your success.

When I played baseball as a kid, I was pretty good with the bat. I still vividly remember hitting the ball solidly with my bat’s sweet spot and then standing with pride as that ball sailed into the outfield and over the fence. I did this frequently enough that my coach would announce, “It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t run.” After your target says “yes,” hit the bases. Simply say, “Excellent. We better get to it.” And then start running!

Next time: More ways to respond when you hear “yes.”

Use Fewer Words to Obtain More Results

During a recent visit to a Milwaukee-area post office, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of service options and point-of-sale items available, all offered in an effort to stimulate postal sales and revenue.

But the attempts by behind-the-counter employees to persuade customers to purchase those services or items usually bordered on the feeble, if they’re talked about them at all. “Would you like your package to be sent overnight, Priority, First Class or regular mail?” they usually asked half-heartedly, sparking discussions about the differences in services and costs.

And so it went.

“Would you like delivery confirmation?”

“Do you need any stamps today?”

“Are you interested in renting a post office box?”

This all takes time, and most people want to get in and out of the post office as quickly as possible. Not to mention, when you are 15th in line, you’ve heard those phrases so many times that you stop caring.

If the U.S. Postal Service wants more business, its transactions should be more efficient! What’s my solution? Why, two-for questions, of course: “First Class?” “Delivery confirmation?” “Need stamps?”

Whether you are in a B2C or B2B selling environment, the sales-persuasion possibilities using the two-for method are almost limitless.

B2C face-to-face exchanges might include: “Day off?” “Come far?” “Nice outside?” “Half day?” “Lunch break?”

B2B exchanges could be one of these: “Big project?” “Good meeting?” “Tough sell?” “Long day?” “Good call?”

The only boundary is your creativity (and perhaps good taste).

Enhance Persuasion by Exploring the Situation

In previous posts, I revealed the formula for persuasion success and explored ways in which to engage your persuasion target.

As a reminder, here is the formula: Yes = E2F3.

1. Engage your target.
2. Explore the situation.
3. Frame the options.
4. Finesse the rough spots.
5. Finalize the decision.

In this post, I’ll discuss how to explore the situation:

Exploring the situation means delving into the content of the issue, as opposed to navigating the approach.

• What does the issue mean to your target — personally and professionally? By personally, I mean issues such as ego, legacy, gratification, self-worth and off-the-job priorities. By professionally, I’m referring to promotion, remuneration, status, leadership, recognition and perquisites.

• What does the persuasion topic mean to the organization? Is it transformational or minor? Can it mean recovery or market dominance? Will it be widely known and applied, or localized? What are the time implications? Are we talking about a closing window of opportunity? Is there the need to be opportunistic and innovative?

• Examine budget parameters. Can this issue be accommodated within the existing budget and, if so, from one source? Or does it require several (and commensurate consensus)? Is the investment unprecedented, or is there precedent for it? Will other issues be delayed or sacrificed because of the investment?

• Explore risk. Some people have a higher tolerance for risk than others. Will the desired result, in your target’s eyes, justify the identified risk? Can you separate the probability of the risk from its seriousness, so your target can make separate judgments? (Great seriousness can be offset by very low probability, and high probabilities ameliorated by low seriousness.)

• What is the target’s appetite for the change? Is his interest the same as it’s been in the past, or is it enhanced or reduced? Can you suggest preventing actions for any foreseen risks? Have you considered contingent actions for dealing with problems that do arise?

• Does your target — having explored the issue with your guidance — offer solutions, new ideas and insights? Is he clearly excited and willing to take part or even lead? Or does he seem wary and hesitant to commit until others have done so?

If you engage and explore properly, these are all important early indicators. The way in which you ask these questions is critical. Remember that persuasion is an art; it’s a conversation. Don’t interrogate, and don’t try to wing it.

Don’t take sides too early by stating your opinion, either. Leave room for you to appear as a curious but well-informed onlooker. Don’t be a zealot seeking to convert; rather, ask follow-up questions for clarity and understanding. Give your target the opportunity to think and respond. And after he or she does respond, count to four and see if your target adds something else. Don’t rush to fill the silence.

Amazing things can happen in between the conversation.

How Do You Engage Your Persuasion Target?

Last time, I shared the formula for persuasion success, which is Yes = E2F3.

1. Engage your target.
2. Explore the situation.
3. Frame the options.
4. Finesse the rough spots.
5. Finalize the decision.

In the next several posts, I will explore each element of that formula. Let’s begin…

Engage Your Target

Find the time that your target will be most approachable and receptive. You’ve heard about how some people shouldn’t be bothered until after they’ve had that first cup of coffee, or how the boss is far less ornery after downing a big lunch.

Just as important as when you approach your targets is how you approach the target. Persuasion relies on relationships, so a face-to-face encounter is always better than a phone call, while an email shouldn’t even be a consideration when it comes to persuasion. Consider those methods three-, two-, and one-dimensional, respectively. Which method of engagement would you most like to encounter when you’re being persuaded?

When you’re engaging, either go with a formal meeting (“Can we meet at 8:15 in my office?”) or what some people call “systematic informality,” which is accidentally on purpose bumping into them (“Hey, I’m glad I bumped into you. I have an idea I’d love to discuss.”)

The first aspect of engagement involves building rapport or confirming it. The most ideal situation is you already know your target well and don’t need to do much in terms of establishing a relationship. If you don’t know your target all that well, begin a conversation about a common topic and then eventually transition to the persuasion topic. How do you do that? Mention a project you’re working on, offer help, ask for advice or cite a common experience. Maybe you both previously worked for a competitor, for example, but at different times.

In any case, transition to your persuasion topic. In music, when a song changes to a different key, it’s called modulation. Often that shift is subtle (from C to C#, for example) and almost imperceptible to the average listener, but it slightly changes the mood of the piece.

That’s exactly what you’re doing when you change the energy in the room, ever so slightly. You want to build on the rapport you’ve established and shift the conversation. Here are some tips and language suggestions for a smooth transition:

  • Ask questions: “What do you think of [the situation you have in mind]?” “Do you have any experience in [the topic}?” You may find out that your target is already closer to your position than you anticipated.
  • Refer to a publication in which the topic at hand was recently mentioned.
  • Ask if your target will be at a specific meeting or event related to that topic.

The engagement aspect is intended to begin a dialogue. I don’t advise taking a stance at this point; rather, simply explore the other person’s attitudes. One of the persuasions “sins” that people commit is assuming that they absolutely know where the other party stands on a certain position. But people are often wrong, because of the influence of such factors as geography, constituency, personal experience and beliefs.

Another key engagement element is understanding the target’s level of knowledge. Has he or she been approached by others regarding the persuasion topic? Read up on it? Have personal experience in dealing with it? Or are you dealing with a blank slate?

This is why rapport building is so essential; it increases trust and frees others to be honest, while revealing additional information about them. Engaging with another person and not being told the truth is worse than not engaging at all. The more time you take to build rapport, the faster you can gain enough engagement to explore the issue. More on that next time…

Do You Speak Your Industry’s Language?

In the Harley-Davidson world, we talk a lot about the Harley-Davidson culture. Whenever I’m working with dealers or anyone involved in the H-D business, I mention the importance of perpetuating that culture, and I always receive prideful acknowledgement and agreement.

Then I ask, “What is that culture?”

Blank stares.

Eventually people start shouting out, “Freedom!” “Adventure!” “Being bold!”

Then, silence.

“Yeah, I don’t know what it is either,” I always say. “But we better figure it out.”

Of course, Harley-Davidson has figured out what the culture is and does a great job of perpetuating it. A “culture” can be considered the expression of a particular community. What people do, the way they dress and the way they speak all play a role. When I use the patois (definitely not a motorcyclist’s term) of the biker culture and teach it to others not yet engaged in that culture, it enables them to instantly feel a part of it.

Subversive Prestige

Some linguists refer to this approach as “subversive prestige,” the notion typically used to describe the fairly common phenomenon of middle-class suburban kids who adopt the language of urban street gangs. It makes them feel “cool” or “tough” or “hip” — as if it elevates them somehow.

How can you incorporate this idea of subversive prestige into your persuasion process?

Well, every industry I’ve encountered has its own jargon. And when you use that vocabulary, correctly, you communicate that you are in the know, and that you have knowledge of how that company or how that industry works.

Insurance people speak of captives, floaters, and churn. Computer professionals talk of authentication, solutions, route directories. You get the idea.

Insider’s Prestige

Rather than call this subversive prestige, I refer to it as insider’s prestige — a demonstration that you know a bit of how things work on the inside. This is one way that you can use language to accelerate your persuasion success, and hear “yes” more often.

Logic makes you think. Emotions make you act. This type of insider’s prestige language is emotional.


Six Types of Humor to Enhance Persuasion

Humor takes many forms. In fact, most people never stop to analyze the type of humor they are using; they just try to be funny. For the purposes of persuasion, it is imperative to break down the six key types of humor that will make being funny worth your while: anecdotal, self-deprecating, epigrammatic, irony, satire and deadpan.

1. Anecdotal

These are strictly personal stories and incidents that don’t require validation, empirical study or statistics. People love stories, and anecdotes are timely, relevant and compelling stories. Here’s a quick example:

A Harley-Davidson salesperson was using his personal iPhone to show a prospective customer the new motorcycle’s communication system. While demonstrating the various features, which included a text-to-speech component, the salesperson received a text message from his wife, which the sophisticated new system immediately started to translate — complete with intimate details of her plans for their upcoming date night!

After scrambling to mute his phone, the salesperson sheepishly apologized to the customer, who enthusiastically inquired if this was standard on all models.

Lesson: You never know who is listening.

Tips for use:

  • Make anecdotes short.
  • Make them real.
  • Make a point.

2. Self-deprecating

This type of humor usually involves an anecdote in which you make fun of yourself. It proves you don’t take yourself too seriously and are no more superior simply because you are in the persuasive power position. Alan Weiss often says, “I’m always surprised by how stupid I was two weeks ago.” Oscar Wilde liked to say, “I’m so clever sometimes I don’t understand a word I’ve written.” (Compare those comments to sarcasm, such as author James Thurber’s line, “If you ever got good, you’d be mediocre.”)

Tips for use:

  • If you’re known as the hard-charging guy in the office, self-deprecation would generate some laughs; it would stand in stark contrast to the traditional impression people have of you.
  • A distinguishing physical feature, such as being tall or bald, can be used to humorous effect and make you instantly more approachable and agreeable (especially when you make a mistake): “My head gets cold a lot during the winter, and that sometimes leads to brain freezes.”
  • Use a known personality trait. If, for example, you’re considered an aggressive salesperson in your organization, take advantage of that: “I’m not one to go after new business, but I think this guy is a piping-hot prospect.”

As with all humor, the more spontaneous your self-deprecation, the better. And when in doubt, it’s always more appropriate to poke fun at yourself than it is to use humor at someone else’s expense.

3. Epigrammatic

An epigram is a brief, memorable, insightful statement.

“I’m not young enough to know everything.”

— Oscar Wilde

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity!”

— Albert Einstein

“Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.”

— Will Rogers

Tips for use:

  • Keep a few epigrammatic statements in your persuasive pocket and pull one of them out when the situation calls for an icebreaker, relief from an awkward moment or simply a lightening of the mood.
  • Use existing epigrammatic statements as a model to develop some of your own: “Some companies run out of ideas before they run out of your money.”

4. Irony

Irony represents an incongruity between what is expected and what occurs — such as an escalator leading to a fitness center, a typo on a billboard promoting literacy or an ad railing against teenage drinking alongside a beer ad.

Tips for use:

  • Draw parallels: “That kind of awkward situation would be like the local firehouse burning down.
  • In presentations, use photographs to show the oxymoronic humor of your statement through juxtaposition: A photo of healthcare professionals congregating outside for a cigarette smoking break.

5. Satire

This is humor that spotlights the shortcomings of a society, a company, government or people. Satire is a rough form of humor (so use it sparingly), and it can take multiple forms:

  • Sarcasm: “You mean to tell me that the web consultants haven’t finished the wireframes yet? I’m shocked.”
  • Parody: When giving a presentation, include a PowerPoint slide detailing the evils of PowerPoint presentations.
  • Hyperbole, an exaggeration that can be used to make a boring story more exciting: “This graph illustrates that sometimes our users flock to our content marketing like we’re Starbucks giving out free lattes.”

Tip for use:

  • As when using other types of humor, make sure you know your audience well. If even one person misinterprets your wisecracks for poor attitude or insubordination, you might need to engage in damage control. Don’t use satire to swat flies.

6. Deadpan

Also known as dry humor, deadpan humor consists of a funny statement subtly delivered in a casual or insincere tone. Steven Wright was the master of this, and some of his lines are applicable in persuasion situations: “When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane” and “Change is inevitable … except from vending machines.”

Tips for use:

  • When in a meeting discussing how to woo a new international client, borrow a line from early 19th-century writer Dorothy Parker and say: “I’ve heard he can speak five different languages and knows how to say ‘yes’ in all of them.”
  • When Leonard from The Big Bang Theory said “Guess what?” to Sheldon, the brainiac replied thusly: “You went out into the hallway, stumbled into an inter-dimensional portal, which brought you 5,000 years into the future, where you took advantage of the advanced technology to build a time machine, and now you’re back to bring us all with you to the year 7010, where we will be transported to work at the thinkatorium by telepathically controlled dolphins.” Saying something like that should liven up the office environment for a minute or two. Just make sure that your deadpan humor won’t go over the heads of your targets. Otherwise you’ll risk losing credibility. Not everyone watches The Big Bang Theory.

Six Ways to Strengthen Your Pitch

Not every persuasion attempt you make will be successful. But here are six ways to strengthen your chances by adding muscle to your pitch:

1. Drop your “er.”

Watch out for the language tic that uses the comparative “er” when referring to new products, services or ideas – as in “better,” “nicer” or “sleeker” than another product or service you sell, or an “easier,” “stronger” or “sexier” idea than someone else’s.

2. Work your way though unreasonable demands.

Sometimes (although, thankfully, not as often as most salespeople fear), buyers’ positions will become intractable: “If you don’t give me a 50 percent price reduction, I’m going to your competitor!” One of my favorite phrases to use in these situations is “unreasonable demands” – as in, “I’m sorry, but you are really making unreasonable demands.” Most people don’t want to have their motives or actions characterized in that manner, so when you have to, do so.

3. Ask for help.

When you’re looking for clarification, don’t be afraid to ask. For example, when you’re trying to isolate an objection, say something like, “Help me understand why you feel that way.” It’s a great step toward easily transitioning to the next part of the persuasion process.

4. Be careful about how you acknowledge the point.

I chuckle when a salesperson responds to an objection with an honest “Actually, you make a good point” – as if the customer was able to somehow come up with something smart and relevant to say. Avoid it, and acknowledge the point without faux flattery.

5. Don’t settle for little solutions.

No one wants a “little” solution. They want a powerful solution, a unique solution, a significant solution. Don’t belittle your own contribution.

6. Don’t accept “no” for an answer.

When someone delivers a flat-out “no,” ask very politely if, were you to tell him something he has yet to consider, he would be willing to change his mind. If the answer is “yes,” that “no” just got upgraded to a “maybe.” And then …

Write Stuff, Persuade More

Thanks to technology, there are numerous ways for you to use the written word to persuade people and build credibility – from posting on your LinkedIn page to writing a commercially published book.

I know one motorcycle dealer who, on his own initiative, keeps a running list of all his customers and prospects, and regularly sends them a meaningful “how-to” paragraph every month. Another client is a local small-business owner who publishes books on home repair maintenance to feed his primary business, which is home inspection. Talk about credibility boosts!

Why should you engage in these activities, too? First, when people see your name in print, it positions you as an authority on the subject. People often defer to the advice and guidance of experts. Second, you can reach many people with a meaningful yet non-promotional message, enabling your readers to become more familiar with you to the point they feel they know you.

You can take a variety of approaches with your writing strategies:

  • An article for an industry trade publication
  • A piece for your local newspaper’s op-ed section
  • A guest blog post on a relevant website
  • Social-media networks, via your own pages and those of your business

Keep in mind — and this is crucial — that you’re not writing promotional copy. If you sell tires, you don’t want to proclaim, “You won’t believe the price we can get you on new tires!” Rather, these should be informative pieces that help readers do, think or feel differently about something: “Three reasons why spring is the best time of year to inspect your tires.” That way, you’re persuading readers to check their tires; if they need new ones, who do you think they’re going to call?

Include your name, with a current photo and contact information, and watch people seek you out for more information. Do this with some regularity, and you’ll become a known entity.

Additionally, use social media platforms to burnish your image and reputation by posting a comment about something you heard in a keynote presentation at a cool seminar. This will start a conversation. Or simply post a question in one of the forums you frequent, such as, “What was the best marketing idea you saw this year?”

On the other hand, photographs of you passed out after Friday night’s revelry might not be the best thing to post on your Facebook page if you’re actually trying to boost your credibility. And that profane rant about Donald Trump? Stop.

Risk and Persuasion: What You Need to Know

While you may not be familiar with the term “chiasmus” [kahy-az-muhs], chances are you’ve encountered it. One of the most famous came from John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Chiasmus is a verbal pattern in which the second half of a phrase is balanced against the first, with key elements being reversed. Other renowned chiasmi? “I am stuck on Band Aid® brand ’cause Band Aid’s stuck on me!” and “Live to ride / Ride to live.”

Think about these types of reversals to make your points:

  • Do you want your money in the bank or the bank in your money?
  • It’s one thing to have the insurance and not need it, but quite another to need insurance and not have it.
  • Do we want to face the competition now or have the competition in our face later?

Even “The Golden Rule” is based on a chiasmus: Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

One powerful persuasion tool is to heighten the sense of risk with your target, then leverage something known as anticipated regret and provide your recommendation about how to proceed.

My favorite way of raising risk is with a chiasmus: “It’s one thing to have the insurance and not need it. It’s a completely different situation to need it and not have it.” That’s an interesting notion.

Attach that with something called “anticipated regret,” and now you’re getting somewhere. This is when you ask your target to consider the angst he would feel if he didn’t follow your advice and made a bad decision as a result. Researchers have proven that people are much more inclined to take your advice if they first considered what might happen if they didn’t: “How badly would you feel if, after we had this conversation, you found yourself in a situation where you were exposed.”

Then take your flashlight and lead that person through the darkness by offering an expert recommendation: “So here’s what I’m going to suggest: Get the insurance. Then if you need it, you’re covered.”

This week, try using a chaismus to get your way. Share your experience in the comments section below.