Posts

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.

 

What’s Your Goal?

I work with lots of people in different roles when it comes to teaching ethical influence. Over the years I’ve worked with senior leaders, middle managers, supervisors, claim reps, underwriters, field sales reps, insurance agents, business owners, financial reps and many others. I’m always amazed at how often people try to persuade without a clear goal in mind.

You may think a salesperson always has a clear goal; i.e., to make the sale. True enough, but that’s still a little vague in my book. Let me share an example to help you see what I mean.

During the Principles of Persuasion Workshop© we have an activity where participants work in teams to come up with a persuasive argument to get a high school student, Jimmy, back in school after he’s been expelled for foul language and insubordination. Participants generally do a good job at applying the principles of influence to persuade the school board to let Jimmy back in but very few clearly state when they want Jimmy back in school. That leaves the final decision up to the school board, which could opt for another week or two out of school.

Participants would do much better to say something like this at the conclusion, “It’s our sincere hope that you’ll let Jimmy back in school tomorrow.” Why is this so important? Because if the board says no there is a moment of power the teams can leverage.

Studies show when someone says “No” to you, if you make a concession and ask for a smaller request immediately your odds of hearing “Yes” are much better. This is an application of the principle of reciprocity because when we give a little, people often feel compelled to give a little in return.

Robert Cialdini had his research assistants run an experiment that shows how powerful this concept can be in real life.  These students randomly asked people around the Arizona State University campus if they would be willing to be a chaperone on a day trip to the zoo for a group of juvenile delinquents. As you might expect, very few people wanted to spend a day at the zoo with those kids so only 17% said they would be willing to help.

At a later date the research assistants roamed the campus and started with a bigger initial request. They randomly asked people if they would be willing to be a big brother or sister to some juvenile delinquents. They made sure people knew this was a weekly commitment of two hours and they were looking for people to sign up for two years. No one was willing to give up that much time. As soon as people said no the research assistants would ask, “If you can’t do that, would be willing to be a chaperone on a day trip to the zoo for a group of juvenile delinquents?” So basically they were asking for the exact some thing they’d asked for earlier but this time 50% said yes – triple the initial response rate!

Two things were at play during the second scenario. First, the contrast phenomenon came into play. By comparison, a day at the zoo is nothing compared to a two-year commitment so it’s much easier to say yes to the zoo after thinking about being a big brother/sister. The second thing was the principle of reciprocity was engaged by way of concessions. When the research assistants counter-offered immediately, many people felt compelled to do the same.

Let’s go back to the scenario with Jimmy. By clearly stating what the team wants – to have Jimmy back in school tomorrow – they will be more effective persuaders. They might hear a “Yes” to the initial request but if they don’t they can make a counter offer that’s very likely to be accepted. This is a far better approach than leaving the timing up to the board.

How does this work for you? Two ways.

  • Clearly state what you want. Think about the times when you’ve not clearly stated what you wanted and left if to someone else to decide the outcome. Perhaps you interviewed for a job but didn’t clearly state the salary or benefits you wanted. Or maybe you were trying to make a sale but didn’t make the first offer.
  • Don’t censure yourself. For example, you want a job and would like to earn $95,000 but inside you’re thinking they might say no so you ask for $85,000. If you hear no then you might end up at $80,000 or less. Ask for $95,000 because you might just get it but if not you can retreat to $90,000 and are more likely to get that than if you’d started at $90,000 or $85,000.

Next time you go into a situation where you’re trying to persuade someone don’t just focus on building your persuasive communication. Give lots of thought to what your ultimate goal is. What would you like to have happen if everything worked out as you wanted? But don’t stop there; clearly communicate your desired outcome. Be ready in case you hear “no,” which means having multiple fallback positions ready. This allows you to leverage the moment of power after “no.” Do these few things and you’re on your way to becoming a much more effective persuader.

Influencers from Around the World – How Executives Can Learn Influence

This month’s
Influencers from Around the World guest post comes by way of my good friend
Sean Patrick. Through the power of the internet, he sent it to me all the way
from Ireland in just milliseconds. Sean started a his own sales training
company, Sales Training Evaluation, and spends time in various parts of Europe training salespeople and
executives. Sean was in the U.S. several years ago to attend the Principles of
Persuasion workshop and there’s a good chance he’ll be here again in late
summer or early fall. If you don’t get to meet him while he’s here you can always
“meet” him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
How
Executives Can Learn Influence
How can executives acquire meaningful persuasion
skills so they can influence outside their power brokerage?  As people like myself know all too well,
skill transfer is one of the toughest tasks that can be placed upon a learning
and development executive.  Natural
persuaders just like successful sales people who adhere to no formal sales
process, struggle to share insights into their behaviors.  They will tell you that they “just do it.”  It just flows.  Words can’t describe the cognitive processes,
emotions and beliefs that form specific actions to take place at specific
intervals during the influence process. So imagine you’re the boss of a very
large department and you need to come up with a plan to motivate more
production out of your staff.  In today’s
corporate world, working environments are highly collaborative as well as
individualistic, where multi stakeholder partnerships exist. It’s these
environments in which the skills of influence rule over old school
manipulation.
According to Dr. Robert Cialdini, today’s
executives who lack the superior communication skills of the “naturals” can
turn to science in place of sourcing the very same skills that win deals, gain
compliance and get employees to willfully change.  Executives can gain consensus and win
concessions by mastering simple basic principles that can be easily learned and
applied in a relatively short period of time.
Here are a few simple ways where influence can be
applied in everyday corporate environments:
1. Liking Informal conversations during the
workday create an ideal opportunity to discover common areas of interest,
whether it’s a sports team, hobby, or watching “Mad Men.” The important thing
is to establish the commonality early because it creates a sense of goodwill
and trustworthiness in every subsequent encounter. It’s much easier to build
support for projects when the people you’re trying to persuade are already
bonded with you.  Managers, who praise
members of their staff where relationships have been impaired, begin to
radically turn around those relationships through the simple act of
recognition.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina
writing in the Journal of Experimental
Social Psychology,
found that men acted more favorably for an individual
who flattered them even if the compliments were untrue. And in their book Interpersonal Attraction
(Addison-Wesley, 1978), Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Hatfield Walster presented
experimental data showing that positive remarks about another person’s traits,
attitude, or performance reliably generates liking in return, as well as
willing compliance.
2. Reciprocity Line managers who share staff and
resources with their peers who are fast approaching deadlines are more likely
to receive favors and help when they need it in the future. Odds will improve
even more if you say, when your colleague thanks you for the assistance,
something like, “Sure, glad to help. I know how important it is for me to count
on your help when I need it.” 
Gift giving is one of the cruder applications of
the rule of reciprocity. In its more sophisticated uses, it promises a genuine
first-mover advantage on any manager who is trying to foster positive attitudes
and productive personal relationships in the office
3. Social Proof According to one of Dr. Cialdini’s
research pieces, a group of researchers went door-to-door in Columbia, S.C.,
soliciting donations for a charity campaign and displaying a list of neighborhood
residents who had already donated to the cause. The researchers found that the
longer the donor list was, the more likely those solicited would be to donate
as well.  The people being solicited
became the subject to the power of peer pressure once they saw the names of all
their neighbors on the list.
4. Consistency People need not only to like you but
also to feel committed to what you want them to do. Good turns are one reliable
way to make people feel obligated to you. Another is to win a public commitment
from them.  Israeli researchers writing
in 1983 in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin recounted how they
asked half the residents of a large apartment complex to sign a petition
favoring the establishment of a recreation center for the handicapped. The
cause was good and the request was small, so almost everyone who was asked
agreed to sign. Two weeks later, on National Collection Day for the
Handicapped, all residents of the complex were approached at home and asked to
give to the cause. A little more than half of those who were not asked to sign
the petition made a contribution. But an astounding 92% of those who did sign
donated money. The residents of the apartment complex felt obligated to live up
to their commitments because those commitments were active, public, and
voluntary.
5. Authority The principle of authority asks us to
believe in the advice dispensed by experts. Since there’s good reason to take
heed to expert advice, executives should take pains to ensure that they
establish their own expertise before they attempt to exert influence.
Surprisingly often, people mistakenly assume that others recognize and
appreciate their experience. The task for managers who want to establish their
claims to expertise is somewhat more difficult. They can’t simply nail their
diplomas to the wall and wait for everyone to notice. A little subtlety is
called for.
Through liking and similarity, they can also
provide an opportunity to establish expertise. Perhaps telling an anecdote
about successfully solving a problem similar to the one that’s on the agenda at
the next meeting or maybe a recreational dinner is the time to describe years
spent mastering a complex discipline, as part of the ordinary give-and-take of
conversation.
6. Scarcity Study after study shows that items and
opportunities are seen to be more valuable as they become less available.
That’s a tremendously useful piece of information for managers.  Managers can learn from retailers how to
frame their offers not in terms of what people stand to gain but in terms of
what they stand to lose if they don’t act on the information.  According to a 1994 study in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision
Processes
, potential losses figure far more heavily in managers’ decision-making
rather than potential gains. In framing their offers, salespeople and
executives should also remember that exclusive information is more persuasive
than widely available data.
The persuasive power of exclusivity can be
harnessed by any manager who comes into possession of information that’s not
widely available and that supports an idea or initiative he or she is aligned
to.  The next time that kind of
information crosses your path, gather your key stakeholders.  The information itself may seem dull, but
exclusivity will give it a special appeal. Push it out to those who need to
buy-in and inform them saying, “You just got this report today. It won’t be
distributed until next week, but I want to give you an early look at what it
shows.” Then notice the rise in interest.
Over to you
If you manage people in your job, how can you take
these examples of persuasion and use to gain compliance?
I’d love to hear about how you’ve pushed yourself
to use these principles of persuasion. 
I’d also love to hear about your wins and what you learned through the
experience.
Sean
Sources:
Influence:
Science and Practice (Allyn & Bacon, 2001)
Influence At Work www.influenceatwork.com         
HBR Business
Essentials: Power, Influence and Persuasion (HBR Press, 2005)
Social Psychology,
3rd ed. (Oxford University Press, 1985)

Need Something Done?

Suppose it’s Monday the 22nd and you need to get a report to your boss by next Monday, the 29th. Life’s never easy and in your case, in order to get the report done, you need some stats from a coworker in another department. This is big because your report, after being reviewed by the boss, will be incorporated into the CEO’s quarterly board report. How are you going to make your request to that coworker to ensure the best chance of getting what you need in time to fulfill your obligation?

After nearly 25 years in the working world my observation is that most people will shoot an email off to the coworker that’s basic and to the point, “Harold, I need the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Friday.” That’s completely legitimate but doomed to fail quite often. So how do we start recreating the message to ensure success?

First of all, don’t tell, ask. 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 them to commit. It would be easy enough to get the coworker to commit by asking him for help rather than telling him. So our message changes to, “Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Friday?” Your request has gone from a statement to a question. If
Harold says “Yes” your odds of success just went up significantly. After all, people feel good about themselves when their words and deeds match so Harold will probably try a little harder to make sure he lives up to what he committed to.

But wait, Harold’s a busy guy and despite being a nice guy, he feels he’s too busy to help out. A knee jerk response might be, “Alice, I’d love to help but I’m just too busy right now” — and your heart sinks. Not so fast, there might be a way around this potential problem! A better request would have been, “Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Wednesday?”

Why is asking with a small buffer a better tactic? The rule of reciprocity tells us people feel obligated to give to us when we give first. If Harold says no to Wednesday then you’d want to come back immediately with something like this, “I understand completely Harold, 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, they’re very likely to concede too which means you might just hear “yes” to that second request.

We’re not done just yet because there’s one more strategy you could employ, the word “because.” You’ll recall from my post several weeks ago, Because I said so!, when you use the word “because” it’s almost like an automatic trigger and people tend to comply with requests when we give them a reason. So here’s how the master persuader approaches this request:

“Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by
Wednesday because I need them for the board report?”

This approach uses “because,” which gives the best chance of hearing “Yes!” It’s also in a question format which engages consistency, upping the odds that Harold will follow through. And, should Harold say no, you have an opportunity to engage reciprocity by making a concession and falling back to Friday.

Could Harold still say no to Friday? Sure. But think about the person who regularly makes requests as I’ve just laid out vs. John Doe who always tells people what he needs with no forethought to timing or reason. Who do you think will be successful more often? Certainly the savvy communicator. That translates into more work accomplished on time and probably under budget. That’s most likely the person who’s in line for a raise or promotion because work is about results. Now you can have results because you know the keys to making successful requests.

Brian
Helping you Learn to Hear “Yes!”