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Winner-Take-All: Small Changes, Big Differences

If you’re a sports fan then you know the margin between victory and defeat can be extremely small. When it comes to victory it’s often the case that small changes, seemingly insignificant decisions in the moment, can make a big difference when it comes to winning or losing. Here are a few examples:

  • It’s not uncommon in football or basketball to see the game determined on the final play or shot after about 60 minutes of competition. That final 1% of the game determines the winner. Having the ball last becomes quite an advantage.
  • In golf the margin of victory can be even smaller. After four days of play, 72 holes, and some 280 total shots, the margin of victory may be a single stroke. That’s a difference one third of one percent. A single decision on one hole can make all the difference.
  • The margin gets even smaller with elite marathoners. The best runners take just over two hours to cover the 26.2 miles and the race may come down to less than ten seconds after all that running. The difference in a race like that might be one tenth of one percent! “Little” choices during the course of the race might be the difference between first and second place.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, wrote in his newsletter: “Situations in which small differences in performance lead to outsized rewards are known as Winner-Take-All Effects. They typically occur in situations that involve relative comparison, where your performance relative to those around you is the determining factor in your success.”

The winner-take-all effect applies to business as well as sports. Small changes in how you approach influence can lead to big differences when it comes to hearing yes. Yes might mean a sale, promotion, funding or the okay for a new project. Here are a handful of examples to show that those seemingly insignificant decisions can have a huge impact:

  1. Using the word “because”can increase your odds of hearing yes by as much as 50% according to one study.
  2. In his NYT best-selling book Presuasion, Robert Cialdini cites a study on the importance of asking the right pre-suasive question. Doing so changed people’s frame of mind and more than doubled the number who were willing to give their email address to a marketing firm.
  3. Making the right comparisoncan make all the difference. In one case, nearly four times more people were willing to drive across town to save $20 versus another group that could save the same $20.
  4. Talking about losing vs. gainingmakes quite a big difference too. According to Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, 2.0-2.5 time more people will say yes under loss framing scenarios as opposed to pointing out gains or savings.
  5. Asking instead of tellingcan gain a commitment and significantly increase the odds that someone will do what you want.

Each of the five ideas I’ve shared are small, costless changes to how you might communicate with someone. Despite being “little” adjustments, they can have an outsized impact on your ability to ethically influence people and get to yes. This is why it’s so important that you understand understand how to ethically influence people.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 50,000 people! His latest course, Persuasive Coaching, just went live. Have you watched them yet? If not, click on either course name to see what you’ve been missing.

Getting Help When You Need It Most

Getting help when you need it most can be the difference between success and failure, between being productive or unproductive. Over time it may make the difference between a good raise and a poor one, between being promoted or overlooked.

Let’s say it’s Monday the 4th and you need to get a report to your boss by next Monday, the 11th. Your philosophy is “If it’s got to be it’s up to me,” but in this case you need some info from a coworker in another department to get the job done. This is important because your report, after being reviewed by your boss, will be incorporated into the CEO’s quarterly board report. How are you going to get help when you need it most? How you make your request to your coworker might make all the difference.

With more than 30 years in the business world my bet is most people would fire off an email that’s straight to the point, “John, I need the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Friday.” Unfortunately, that approach is doomed to fail quite often. How can you start recreating your communication to ensure success?

Let’s start with this; instead of telling, try asking. The principle of consistency tells us people are far more likely to do something that’s in line with something they’ve previously said or done, so a key to success is to get the other person to commit to what you need. To do this simply ask for help rather than telling. Your message would change to, “John, would you be able to get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Friday?”

Your request has gone from a statement to a question. If John says yes, your odds of success just went up significantly. After all, people feel good about themselves when their words and deeds match so John will probably try a little harder to make sure he lives up to what he committed to.

But what if John is a busy guy and despite being very nice he feels he’s too swamped to help you? His knee jerk response might be, “I’d love to help but I’m just too busy right now.” — and your heart sinks. Good news; there might be a way around this potential problem! You’d be better off asking, “John, would you be able to get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Wednesday?”

Why is asking with a small buffer a better tactic? The rule of reciprocity alerts us to the reality that people feel obligated to give back to those who give first. If John says no to Wednesday then you’d want to come back immediately with something like this, “I understand completely, it’s never been busier around here. Could you possibly get the numbers by Friday?” Studies show when you make a second request, offering a concession immediately after someone says no, the other person is very likely to concede a little in response. This means you might get a yes to your second request.

There’s one more strategy you can employ; using the word “because.” You’ll recall from previous blog posts, when you use the word “because” and give a reason it’s almost like an automatic trigger for people to comply. Here’s how a master at persuasion would approach this situation:

“John, would you be able to get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Wednesday because I need them for the board report?”

Using “because” gives you the best chance of getting the help you need and mentioning the board report adds weight to your request. This request is in a question format which engages consistency, upping the odds that John will follow through when he does agree to help. But, should he say no, you have an opportunity to engage reciprocity by making a concession when you fall back to Friday.

Could John still say no to Friday? Sure. But think about the person who regularly asks for help as I’ve laid out vs. someone else who just tells people what to do with no strategic thought about timing or reason. Who do you think will be successful more often? The savvy communicator and that savvy translates into getting more work accomplished on time and very likely under budget. Someone who uses this approach is probably in line for a raise or promotion because work is about achieving results. Now you can be that person because you know the keys to getting help when you need it most.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLEand Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 135,000 times! Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

 

Because, Because, Bec-oz…An Easy Way to Get to “Yes”

In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy, her dog Toto and her three friends (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion) were off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz. Why were they going to see him? Because, because, because of the wonderful things he does!

The word “because” persuades you and can help you become more persuasive. Believe it or not, your mom and/or dad conditioned you to comply with other people’s requests every time they used the word “because.” It may have gone like this:

Mom or Dad – “Take out the trash.”

You – “Why?”

Mom or Dad – “Because I said so!”

You – Hurried and took out the trash.

And thus began your conditioning after hearing “because.” You learned to “fall in line” because of “because” but it can also help you get to the front of the line.

In Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive (Cialdini, Goldstein, Martin) a study is mention about the power of “because” in persuasion. Ellen Langer, a behavioral scientist, conducted the study in which people standing in line at a copier machine were approached by a stranger who asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Nearly two out of three people (60%) graciously let the person to go in front of them. Later the person conducting the experiment approached the copier line and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” Hearing the person was in a rush, nearly everyone, 94%, allowed the person to get in front of them.

Of course, if someone is in a rush we might be more generous but the real question is this; was it due to being “in a rush” or could it have been something else that caused those people to comply with the request? To answer the question, one more variation was tried. This time the person would ask, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” You might assume people would deny the bogus request because everyone was in line to make copies. Despite the reason being irrelevant, 93% of the people let the person go to the front! There was virtually no difference in response between a valid and bogus reason when “because” was used.

Social psychologists theorize we don’t pay attention to the reason given because we’re so conditioned by the word “because” that we hardly pay attention to the reason that comes next. Again, think about the response you heard from your parents when you questioned them about why you had to do something. Every time I ask a group that question I hear, “Because I said so!”

How can this understanding help you? Two ways come right to mind. First, it can help you protect yourself. Don’t mindlessly comply with a request without giving thought to the reason you’re being asked to do something. If you don’t you may just find yourself doing something you wished you hadn’t done.

The second way you can use “because” is to be more persuasive. When my daughter Abigail was younger she used to ask me what I did at work. I’d share things I thought she’d find interesting and things I felt would really help her someday. During one conversation I told her about the copier study. I encouraged her, “Abigail, whenever you ask someone to do something, always say ‘because’ and give them a reason. If you do that more people will say ‘Yes’ to you.”

Here’s the really cool thing. Long after that conversation, Abigail and I were watching American Idol and the latest American Idol CD was about to hit stores. Ryan Seacrest was promoting the CD outside a music store where there was a long line of people. Smart producers were using the principle of consensus to get you to believe everyone wanted to buy the new CD. As Seacrest was talking about the CD he’d try to make his way into the line but each time people denied him. Eventually he was at the back of the line with a disappointed look on his face. Out of nowhere Abigail blurted out, “He should have said ‘because.’” I looked surprised and said, “What?” She went on, “Dad, don’t you remember the copier story?”

I was stunned but glad because that’s a life skill that will serve her well. It will serve you well too, if you look for ways to use your new understanding of “because.”

Takeaway: Next time you ask someone to do something, take one more breath, use the word “because” and give them a legitimate reason. You’ll be pleasantly surprised because science says you’ll have more people saying yes to you.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Make Requests Like a Persuasion Expert

Persuasion is all about moving people to
action. Aristotle defined it as “the art of getting someone to do something
they would not ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” The bottom line when it comes
to persuasion is getting someone to do something. How we communicate can make
all the difference between a “Yes” or “No” response.
Most of the time people are directive, telling
instead of asking, when they want something. For example:
Clean your room.
Fax me the authorization form.
Get me the sales numbers.
Each request is direct and to the point. The
communication may be clear but unfortunately people don’t like to be told what
to do. And none of the statements above requires a response, which means the recipient
of the message might hear what’s being said but think to himself or herself,
“No” without ever having to say it.
Each of us makes requests of people daily, and
the science of influence tells us with certainty there are better ways to structure
our communication if we want to hear “Yes” more often. If you want to make a
request like a persuasion expert follow this simple formula:
R = W + T + B + R + D
Request = What + Timeframe
+ Because + Reason + Downside
Here’s an example using the formula: Would you
get me the authorization form by this afternoon because without it I can’t
proceed any further on your claim, which will delay your payment by several
more days?
A number of persuasive techniques are used in
the example above so let’s dissect each part.
“Would you” – Adding these two words turns the
statement into a question and engages the principle of consistency. A question like this
demands a response and once someone says “Yes,” the likelihood they’ll do what
you want has gone up significantly.
“by this afternoon” – These three words ensure
you’ll get what you want within a timeframe that’s acceptable to you instead of
being left to chance. If someone says they can’t get it within the allotted
time you can engage reciprocity. Immediately upon
hearing no, if you put out a new timeframe (i.e., How about by tomorrow afternoon?)
your odds of hearing “Yes” have just gone up because most people are willing to
meet us part way after we’ve first conceded a little bit.
“because” – One study showed a 50% increase in
“yes” responses when a request was tagged with “because” and a reason was given.
This even worked when the reason was bogus! We’re conditioned from childhood to
almost mindlessly do what we’re told when “because” is used. Do you remember
your parents ever saying, “Because I said so!” in response to your asking
why you had to do something? We’ve all been there and maybe you’ve used that
phrase yourself.
“I can’t proceed any
further on your claim, which will delay your payment” – This invokes the principle of scarcity. People are much more
motivated by the thought of losing something as opposed to gaining the same
thing. In this instance the person knows they won’t be paid until they’ve done
what’s being asked. This is much more effective than saying, “As soon as I get
it I’ll proceed on the claim and you’ll get paid.”
Once more compare the
two requests for the same thing:
Fax me the
authorization form.
vs.
Would you get me the
authorization form by this afternoon because without it I can’t proceed any
further on your claim, which will delay your payment?
Next time you need something from someone or
you need them to do something remember to structure your request by asking
instead of telling. Let them know what you want and when you need it by. Tag
your request with “because” and a legitimate reason. Finally, let them know
what happens if they don’t do what’s asked…the downside. Follow this simple
approach and you’re sure to hear “Yes” more often.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer

 

influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The 7 Best of the Best

This week’s post is a little different. Rather than going with a new post on Dale Carnegie advice I’m going with “The 7 Best of the Best” for a couple of reasons. First, I have a lot of new readers and I’d like to expose them to some prior posts folks seemed to really enjoy.

Second, with the Thanksgiving holiday I didn’t want to work too hard because it was time to enjoy friends and family. I hope you took time to relax and give thanks too. So here goes, in no particular order, seven interesting influence posts. I hope you find them humorous, entertaining and most important, informative.

Reverse Psychology and the Vacation Bathing Suit
Okay, maybe I wasn’t completely ethical when I tricked Jane into buying the bathing suit I liked for vacation but I think you’ll agree, it’s a funny story.

My Best Parenting Advice
Want your child to be better behaved or smarter? Here’s a great tip to make one, or both, of those happen.

Why Influence is about PEOPLE
Learn about Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical.

Fanzese or Frazetta: Do Names Really Matter?
Did Dennis become a dentist because of his name? Did Mary move to Marysville because of the association with her name? Science says it’s very likely.

What Chevy Chase Didn’t Do Before Vacation
Don’t make the mistake Chevy Chase did before vacation and lose business as a result. Find out what you need to do before you leave the office next time. Timely advice with Christmas just around the corner.

“Because I Said So” Mom or Dad
One simple word can make you significantly more persuasive and help you get what you want. Read on and find out…because I said so.

Golf Advice from Corey Pavin
It didn’t matter that I said it first, Jane only paid attention when Corey Pavin said it! Sometimes it’s not what’s said but who says it that really matters.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, thank you to all of you who follow Influence PEOPLE each week. I’m amazed that people in nearly 70 countries have read what I write each week! I enjoy writing this blog and it makes my day when I hear you enjoy reading so if you have comment, click on the comment link below and let me know what you think.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

“Because I said so!” Mom (or Dad)

You may not be aware of how your mom and dad conditioned you to simply comply with other people’s requests but I’m here to tell you they did. Unknowingly, all mom and dad did was use a single word, the same word their parents probably used on them, and you were set up to be more compliant. What word am I talking about? “Because!”

While “because” makes you “fall in line,” it can actually help you get to the front of the line. A behavioral scientist named Ellen Langer conducted a study in which people standing in line at a copier machine were approached by a stranger who asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Nearly two out of three people (60%) generously allowed the person to go in front of them. Later the person conducting the experiment approached the copier line and asked unsuspecting people, “May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” Hearing she was in a rush, nearly everyone, 94%, told the experimenter she could get in front of them.

Of course if someone is in a rush we might be more generous but the question is this – was it due to being “in a rush” or could it have been something else that caused those people to say “Yes”? Back at it one more time the experimenter asked, “May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” You’d think people might have denied that request saying, or at least thinking, “We’re all in line to make copies so wait your turn like everybody else!” After all, her was reason irrelevant…and still, 93% of the people let her go ahead! There was virtually no difference in response between a valid and bogus reason when “because” was used.

The social psychologists think we don’t pay attention the reason given because we are so conditioned by the word “because” that we hardly pay attention what comes next. Again, think about your parents when you questioned them about why you had to do something. I’ll bet quite often you heard (and might say to your kids), “Because I said so!”

So how does this understanding impact you? Two ways come to mind. First, it can help you protect yourself. Don’t mindlessly comply with a request without giving thought to the reason you’re being asked to do something. If you don’t you may just find yourself doing something you wished you would not have done.

The second way you can use “because” is to be more persuasive. When my daughter Abigail was younger she used to ask me (she’s a teenager now and doesn’t seem to ask as much any more) what I did at work. I’d share things I thought she’d find interesting and things I felt would really help her some day. Once during a conversation I shared the copier study and told her, “Abigail, whenever you ask someone to do something, always say ‘because’ and give them a reason. If you do that more people will say ‘Yes’ to you.”

Here’s the really cool thing. Some time ago, long after that conversation, Abigail and I were w
atching American Idol and the latest American Idol CD was about to hit stores. Ryan Seacrest was promoting the CD outside a music store where there was a long line. Smart producers were using consensus to get you to believe everyone wanted to buy the new Idol CD. As Ryan would talk about the CD he would try to make his way into the line but each time people motioned him farther back. Eventually he was at the very end of the line with a disappointed look on his face. Out of nowhere Abigail blurts out, “He should have said ‘because.’” I looked surprised and replied, “What?” She said, “Dad, don’t you remember the copier story?”

Wow! I have no clue why some stories stick with kids and other stories don’t but I was sure glad that one stuck because it’s a life skill that will serve her well. It will serve you well too, if you look for ways to use your new understanding of “because.” You know how I know, because the science tells me so…and you can believe that reason!

To let me know what you thought of this week’s posting click on the comments link below and share your thoughts.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”