Persuasion Success: How to Avoid Surprises

Somewhere between a no, a neutral and a positive response lurk mysterious X factors, which seemingly come from out of nowhere to derail your persuasion efforts. These can include technological glitches, competitive actions and intrusions by a trusted advisor. Here’s how to help avoid that unknown gray area:

Never accept a simple “yes.”

Work, instead, toward a profound agreement. I call this the Columbo method. Actor Peter Falk played a disheveled TV detective named Lt. Columbo, who was known for extracting the info he needed from sources by saying, “One more thing before I go …”

Ask what else you need to know.

Try one of these: “Is there anything we haven’t discussed that will prevent us from moving forward?” “Will you be having conversations with others who might not have the insight from our exchanges?” “In the past, has anything surfaced at the last minute to change your mind about decisions like this?”

Formalize the decision.

You want your target to go on record with his decision. Of course, in many cases, this means a signed contract. In others, it might mean issuing a purchase order. At the very least, you want your target to send an email or in conversations tell others. This formalizes your agreement, and can make it stick. Once people go on record, they will do just about anything to stick with their commitment.

Don’t you feel better now?