I picked up the phone and the familiar voice on the other line said: "Hi Craig, want to make me very happy? Want to be my favorite person in the whole wide world? Say yes to my next question. Will you chair our spring conference?"
My colleague made all the wrong moves when she called to ask me to accept a major leadership role. Simply put, that's not how to make the ask.
Many times in your life you will make requests of others: to join a group, committee or team, to perform a task or to assist with a project. This month's question: How do you make the ask? Often the key to getting to "Yes" involves how you make your request.
Whether you are:
- building a board of directors
- forming a committee
- enrolling others in your team or workgroup
- seeking volunteers for a project
Follow these ten tips to hear those magic words: "YES, I'd be glad to!"
Making the "Ask"
1. Phrase your request in terms of the benefits to the listener. Speak to "what's in it for them." Why will they benefit from saying yes to your request? (She wanted me to make her happy. It's not about her, it's about me.)
2. Be positive. Don't focus on why someone shouldn't say yes or the negative aspects of their accepting your request. Focus on the positives. Will the experience be fun? High profile? Build new skills? Lead to a promotion? Add to one's resume? Give all involved a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction? Will it make the world a better place? Focus on positives.
3. Show respect and appreciation for your prospect. When you recognize their skills, past track record, personality or other qualities they in turn feel special. It's flattering and affirming to be asked to participate.
4. Give accurate and clear expectations of what the position or role requires. It's tempting to tell people what they want to hear, or only emphasize what is easy or fun, or undersell the time commitment required. DON'T! Give a fair explanation of your request. You don't want them agreeing under false pretenses.
5. Make sure to listen to the issues or concerns of the listener. What are they worried about? How will they base their decision? Strive to understand their needs, their fears and their constraints.
6. Give your prospect an appropriate amount of time to make an informed decision. Don't pressure, manipulate or overwhelm your prospect in hopes of their saying yes. This often backfires later as they recant or demonstrate less than complete commitment.
7. Strive for win-wins. Use flexibility and creativity to find mutually acceptable outcomes. There are numerous ways you two can find to make your proposition work for both parties.
8. Accept their answer whether they agree to your request or not.
9. Should your initial request be rejected, consider a counter-offer or secondary offer. Having a fallback offer allows your prospect to join your team in whatever capacity they are able to.
10. Thank them either way for their time and willingness to consider your offer. By treating them with respect and care they are more likely to say yes in the future.
Remember, their assent is just the beginning. Now that they've put their faith in you as a leader it is incumbent upon you to communicate your appreciation, convey your support and provide valuable recognition along the way.
Credible leaders are credible communicators. They not only make the ask so they get favorable responses, they also utilize their listening and team building skills along the way to strengthen their bonds with others.
Accentuate your powers of persuasion with a better understanding of how to appeal to colleagues, partners, co-workers, volunteers and interns when popping your questions. Zig Ziglar was right: "You can have anything in the world you want if you'll just help enough other people get what they want."
The getting is good, it's all in how you make "the ask!"