How to ask… and get what you want

How to ask… and get what you want

Have you ever noticed how there are companies, and people, who just have a knack for getting everyone to say yes to whatever they’re asking? Well, good news, it’s not an innate gift, it’s actually, whether the person doing the asking knows it or not, simply the science of persuasion being put into effect.

Yes, you read that right, just by understanding the mechanism of persuasion, you too can get clients to say “Yes, please!” instead of “No, thank you.”

All 6 of Dr Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion are outlined in his book entitled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” and are neatly summarized here, but let’s take a look at how you can directly apply some of his principles to how you ask your clients to buy into what you’re offering.

Before the science, three basic tenets

Before we get to the science of persuasion, let’s start with some basics. Learning how to ask for something is useless until you know exactly what you’re going to ask for. That might seem rudimentary, but you’d be amazed at how often people miss out on making a sale because their ask is inexistent or so wishy-washy or unclear that the client genuinely doesn’t know what they’re supposed to do.

So, first things first, you have to know what you want.

What’s the goal of your ask? What do you want people to say yes to? What are your long term and short term objectives?

Figuring out this piece of the puzzle will make guiding your client there that much easier.

Second, you actually have to ask.

We’ll get to the how of this in a second, but we still have to cover the fact that you actually do need to ask if you want people to say yes. It almost goes without saying that if you never ask, the answer is always going to be no, but, all too often, people feel that asking for anything is an imposition, so they don’t. It’s a crucial rookie mistake.

You’re offering a unique SaaS service that is designed to help someone reach their goals. Don’t ever feel bad about asking them to give it a try. Not asking is actually doing them a disservice.

Third, you have to ask well.

It’s simple, when you ask for something well, you get what you want more quickly. So let’s take a look at how to do just that, shall we?

The science

Start with something huge, then ask for what you really want.

One of Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion is called Reciprocation. It basically outlines the way someone feels indebted to someone else after they’ve received a gift. You give someone a freebie, and they’ll feel like they owe you something back, helping them feel more comfortable with buying something from you.

Reciprocation also occurs when you ask for something and the person says no. They then feel like, having turned you down, they owe you a positive interaction, and often feel the need to say yes to the second thing you ask for.

How do you work that to your advantage? You ask for something massive, like say, that the potential client purchase your entire suite of services at an outrageous price. Almost inevitably they’ll say no, and then will feel obligated to you to say yes when you offer something a little more reasonable.

This works outside of work too. Shira uses this to her advantage when she travels and she knows her luggage might be a hair heavier than the allowed limit. She starts her interaction with the gate agent by offering them a mint or a piece of gum. By law, they have to say no, just in case someone might be trying to poison them. Then, when the subject of the luggage weight comes up, the gate agent waves it off, feeling the need to rectify the imbalance by offering a positive exchange.

Start with something tiny, and build up to what you really want.

The alternative technique is the polar opposite of the first. Instead of starting with something absurdly massive, you start with something so small, the person can’t possibly object.  This plays into the Commitment and Consistency principle. People don’t like to back out of deals and they’re significantly more likely to go through with something after they’ve agreed to it.

So you start small, get their buy-in, and then you slowly increase the ask.

At first, it’s a free trial. Who could possibly say no to that? Then you entice them with a slightly better version of the service, for just a little bit more money. And then you introduce another element to what your SaaS can do that they really should consider. Before long, you’re so far away from the free trial that you can’t even see its shadow, and they’re so far into having agreed to work with you that they can no longer back out.

This concept works even better if it’s tied into a third of Cialdini’s principles, the Principle of Scarcity. Humans can’t resist a good deal, especially if they know the deal is about to expire. So, if one of your minor price increments is an “only if you sign up today” option, you increase the likelihood of receiving that positive response you’re asking for.

Remember the last time you bought a cell phone or tried to sign up for cable? Odds are high you were exposed to all of these elements. Odds are just as high that you fell for each and every one of them. Now it’s your turn to put them to work for you and your SaaS company. And next time you need to renew your cable contract, you can smile knowingly as the sales person walks you through your options and you stand firm.

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