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Straight to Yes!


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How to ask for and get what you want in business and in life
Based on sound psychological principles, this book offers tons of winning ways to make requests that get you to yes! Ruthlessly practical in style and full of immediately accessible, straightforward techniques you can try as soon as you've read about them. You can dip in and out of the book in 25 seconds before important Asks to refer to the single page you need for the step-by-step technique, or you can spend more time reading fascinating insights behind the art of Asking.

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Straight to Yes!

  1. 1. FREE eCHA PTERTry the Straight to Yes! Freedom ShoppingChallenge -see page 10 for details 1
  2. 2. Make yourself a yes magnetYou’ve finally plucked up the courage to ask for something. The afternoon off.A pay rise. Then comes that crucial moment where you wait with baited breath forthe response. It’s tense, but it doesn’t have to be. You just need to master the artof ‘the ask’.Taking a direct, light-hearted, wholly practical approach, Haider Imam zoomsstraight in on that moment of truth providing a set of proven tools and techniquesfor getting to ‘yes,’ every time. He instils readers with the confidence to ask bigger,more often and even ask for the impossible – and to get it.• Based on sound psychological principles, Straight To Yes! offers tonnes of winning ways to make requests that get you to ‘yes’• Wholly practical in style and content, the book features accessible, straightforward techniques readers can put into action immediately• Designed for quick-reference while on the move, it affords instant access to specific, step-by-step, single-page techniques as needed Buy today from your favourite bookshop Available in print 2 and e-book format
  3. 3. Please feel free to post this sampler on your blog or website, or email it to anyone you think could profit from it! Thank you.Extracted from Straight to Yes! published in 2013 by Capstone Publishing Ltd (a Wiley Company), The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ. UK. Phone +44(0)1243 779777 Copyright © 2013 Haider Imam All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 or under the terms of a licence issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 4LP, UK, without the permission in writing of the Publisher. Requests to the Publisher should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, England, or emailed to 3
  4. 4. CHAPTER 4Same and Different“If it’s familiar, it hasn’t eaten you yet,” is a quote I love from Drake Bennett of Bloomberg Businessweek.While we’re sharing, one of my favourite Hollywood stories is when Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett,writers of the film Alien, pitched it to Hollywood studios simply as “Jaws in Space.”We’re programmed to like what’s familiar to us purely because it’s not a risk to us. Back in the 1960s, RobertZajonc’s experiments uncovered what we now call the Mere Exposure Effect – meaning that the numberof times we are exposed to certain stimuli positively influences our preferences for those stimuli. Otherlandmark studies have shown that when people are faced with a choice between two gambles, they willpick the more familiar one. Sometimes, they even pick the more familiar gamble when the odds of winningare lower. So, it seems the writers of Alien understood processing fluency at a deep level. Presenting afilm that radically departed in content and style from what the public was used to still needed a touch offamiliarity to clinch the deal. It didn’t hurt that their point of reference was a blockbuster classic.Familiarity enables easy mental processing, saves energy and so feels fluent. So, in our minds, we tend toequate the feeling of fluency with familiarity. Put another way, we infer familiarity when a stimulus feelseasy to process. More difficult to read, pronounce and/or understand means more foreign, less known,more risky. 1
  5. 5. A raft of different studies over the years shows how the ease ofprocessing ideas, names or words affectsour decision making. For example, test subjects perceived a hypothetical food additive with a name thatwas harder to pronounce – Hnegripitrom – as being more harmful than one with an easier to pronouncename Magnalroxate. Deep analysis indicates that listed companies with stock ticker codes that are easierto pronounce (such as AAPL, GOOG) trade more profitably in the long term. We even “smile” in our brainswhen we see objects that look easy to pick up, compared to complex objects.1. A Familiar contrastIf simple, fluent familiarity attracts us and complex, disfluent unfamiliarity repels us, we can leverage this ina myriad of ways. If your industry offers a high number of complicated solutions, the logical approach is toradically simplify your product and offering.Telecoms companies have done this in the last couple of years with success – Three Mobile’s The One Planand T-Mobile’s The Full Monty remove the “Which tariff ?” conversation from the mix entirely. When SteveJobs returned to Apple in 1997, he radically cut the product line, not only to focus business efforts, driveimprovements and manage costs but also to simplify the choices for customers. It was part of what turnedthe company around from bankruptcy to the world’s most valuable company two decades later. 2
  6. 6. If your industry doesn’t have a backdrop of complexity, the most straightforward way I know is to createone. Simply present one or two options that create a degree of disfluency, followed by the option youprefer, presented in an easy, familiar, fluent format.For example, which of the following options would you lean towards if you were a teenager: “You can go forparty option one, which will be frivolity ad absurdum for a loquacious congregation like yours, or you cango for party option two, which will be seriously fun for you and your crazy mates – up to you?”I suppose the only caveat to be aware of is where complexity is expected and valued, for example, ifyou are evaluating something with a high-tech edge to it such as processors in computers, chemicalsor minerals in household equipment. However, just like Alien, it’s worth adding in simple terms whatbenefits that brings, too. try it Create options. Make the first options disfluent and slightly more complicated; use words with a greater number of syllables or use a touch of industry jargon. Follow this with a simple, straightforward option, articulated in a plain, easy to understand way. 3
  7. 7. 2. Undesired to DesiredAnother great way to intentionally create a perception of extra fluency that I have used many times is topresent an undesired option followed by the desired option. Although it may seem odd to do this at thepoint of making your request, it works.After taking the time to understand what your audience wants and doesn’t want, it’s simply a case offirst recapping what they don’t want, layering in a little complexity to create a sense of disfluency beforepresenting a simple, attractive version of what they do want. It has the added bonus of showing youraudience that you’ve been listening, you’re confirming their thoughts with them and keeping them in theconversation. Very respectful.A visual way to do this is to show the undesired option in black and white or out of focus in some way nextto the desired option in fully focused, clear vibrant colour. This heightens appreciation of the colour imagemore than if it had just been viewed in isolation. I’m not saying I’ve ever done this subtly featuring slightlydefocused competitor logos next to my own sharp company logo, but you get the idea! It’s an idea that’soften used in television or magazine adverts, to show the transition from rainy, drab and dreary “before”to sunny, vibrant and cheery “after.” In fact, the next time you see “before and after” cosmetic shots, check tosee which photograph appears to have been lit more professionally and livened up – it’s always the “after”shot. 4
  8. 8. try it First, frame the least preferred option in a slightly complex, disflu- ent way to provide a positive contrast for your preferred, simple, fluent option. Render the undesired option as a lower quality, less coloured or defocused image and your preferred option in full colour, bright and high quality.3. Rejection then Retreat (Door-in-the-Face technique)A leader at an Irish client of ours wrote me a letter of thanks after attending a workshop I ran that includedthis Ask.In her email, she explained how she returned home after the workshop and asked her boyfriend if theycould start making plans to buy a new kitchen and redecorate the living room. After she picked him backup from the floor, her beleaguered beau replied that even though they were doing well, doing two roomstogether would break the bank. She sighed, looked slightly disappointed and then suggested they “Juststart with the kitchen this year,” to which he eagerly agreed. “In truth,” she revealed to me, “I only wanted thekitchen done. The living room is fine for now.” She knew that if she’d asked only for the kitchen, the responsewould have been less favourable, less enthusiastic and with less commitment on her boyfriend’s part. 5
  9. 9. Professional negotiators we work with know to always build a buffer into their figures: ask for more thanyou expect to get, give away less than you’re able to and expect the others at the table to have built in abuffer as well. Usually, our clients who ask big and give small come away with better results.Before we even get to the research around this, we intuitively know that when we haggle, are rejected butultimately arrive at a better deal than the one we started at, we feel satisfied. If we’d named our terms andgot them immediately, there’d always be a nagging doubt in the back of our mind that it was too easy;perhaps we could have asked for more? However, bartering for a deal leaves us with a sense that we got thebest deal possible. So, not only does asking big bring you rewards, it helps your audience feel better aboutthe result they have secured. A “win–win.”In a fabulous experiment over 30 years ago, a group of researchers approached students on campus,posing as the “County Youth Coun- selling Programme.” In the first version of the experiment, research-ers asked the students whether they’d be willing to volunteer to look after a group of troubled youths ona day trip to the zoo, unpaid: 17% accepted; 83% refused. In the second version, the only difference wasthat a significantly larger request was made before the zoo request – spending two hours per week for atleast two years in the role of counsellor to the troubled youths. The result? Three times as many studentsaccepted the zoo gig. Why? 6
  10. 10. There are two reasons why this approach works so powerfully. The first is that we are hardwired for rapportand social bonding – we hate to reject (or say “No” to) each other. As explained in Chapter 1, the work ofZhou, Zheng, Zhou and Guo indicates that the old cliché, “This is going to hurt me as much as it hurts you,”isn’t far wrong, at least emotionally. When we reject someone, we instinctively feel more inclined to helphim or her or agree to his or her next request. In other words, it triggers “reciprocity” and the desire for anoxytocin rush.The second ingredient is “perceptual contrast.” Perceptual contrast is an interesting and well-documentedphenomenon in psychology. If you’d like to try it yourself, you can take three bowls: fill bowl one with veryhot water, bowl two with room temperature water and bowl three with very icy water. Put a hand in bowlone and the other in bowl three for a short time. Then put both hands in bowl two and notice how the “hothand” now feels cold and the “cold hand” now feels hot! The contrast, or differential, is what we respondto, not the actual factual data. It’s counterintuitive because we see ourselves as rational creatures when, infact, we are anything but.The only caveat here is that if we are reckless and make our Ask too extreme, we risk damaging not only ourresults but also our relationships. The trick is to ask just high enough to provoke an initial “No!” responsebefore looking slightly disappointed and repackaging a more palatable offer. My advice to influencers isgenerally that the extreme request should be within the bounds of reality: that there should be somecomparison, benchmark or precedent as a backdrop to your Ask. 7
  11. 11. try it Get clear on what you actually want and then create an initial request that is just extreme enough to produce a “No!” response (70% more investment than you need, three weeks quicker delivery time when you only want three days quicker, a new kitchen, living room and furniture when you just want a new kitchen). Then, looking or sounding slightly deflated, ask for what you really want as a concession. You could phrase this as, “Oh, all right then (sigh). In that case, how about . . .”4. That’s not all . . . (TNA)I’ve attended my fair share of business conferences over the years where experts do their public speakingbit from the stage followed by a one-time-only deal for the audience. If you’ve been to enough of them,which perhaps you have, and pay enough attention to the structure of their pitch, which perhaps youhave, you’ll see the core framework of the final request. If you haven’t been to such conferences, watchsome TV shopping channels to see the same process in action.It struck me between the eyes at a conference some years ago, where “the man who sold the BrooklynBridge,” Paul Hartunian, used this on a grand scale. He deftly persuaded me, my colleague and about 8
  12. 12. 300 other frenzied members of the audience to spring into action and secure his amazing offer at the backof the conference room, before the limited amount of deals ran out. There was nearly a stampede. I clearlyremember feeling wild sensations of blossoming opportunity mixed with swelling anxiety as I battled themob to sign up.How does it work? The speaker presents what we think is the deal, extolling its virtues and benefits withpassion in their delivery and asks us to take action. However, without giving us much time to think, they roll 6out the “That’s not all” technique.They typically say, “But that’s not all! For the first n people, for the next five minutes only, this is what you’llalso get . . .” What follows is a list of deal sweeteners, each followed by “a value of ‘£n’,” resulting in a totalusual package price of ‘£N,’ (including the main product). However, if we act now, the entire package willonly cost us less than the main component by itself.Critically, this is a very different kind of psychological phenomenon to the making of an unsuccessfulrequest then offering a discount. Burger’s research concluded that it’s the immediacy of the added valuethat creates the effect by removing your audience’s time to critique the first offer. Like “Rejection thenRetreat,” the TNA technique has two effects on us. First, it makes us feel that we are receiving concessionsfrom the presenter, initiating reciprocity (see Chapter 8). Second, it provides a contrast for the next part ofthe deal to look even better. 9
  13. 13. In one experiment, Burger increased sales of cupcakes and cookies from 40% (a cupcake and two cookiesfor ¢75) to 73% (a cupcake for ¢75 and two cookies “for free”). In another, he increased sales from 44% (onecupcake for ¢75) to 73% (one cupcake for $1, but immediately discounted to ¢75). try it Plan out your TNA. Immediately after presenting your regular offer and without waiting for a response, offer a sweetener to have your audience say, “Yes!”5. Freedom ShoppingThis is a highly controversial exercise that I sometimes use for people who need more confidence, areterrible with rejection and would like to raise their asking game. Although people are initially uncomfort-able with it, the epiphany they sometimes have is astonishing.I developed it from life coach Jamie Smart’s version of an approach by psychologist Paul Watzlawick. In hisbook Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution (1974), Watzlawick is dealing witha young man who is unable to finish his thesis, due to anxiety. Without sharing his reasoning, Watzlawick 10
  14. 14. instructs the student to go into three shops and make absurd requests. The student does so, experiencesa subtle change in his sense of self and completes his thesis shortly thereafter. Jamie Smart’s build on thiswas to go into a shop and ask for something you know they can’t offer, for example, asking for a pizza in afast-food hamburger shop.“Freedom shopping,” my extension to this, also involves intention- ally courting rejection to realize that,while uncomfortable in the moment, life goes on and you get over it.It also draws on mindfulness, perceptual contrast and reciprocity, making it a rocket-powered request.My workshop students enter a high street shop and ask for something they are confident will result inrejection: a dress in an electrical shop, a sandwich in a sports clothing shop or a sofa in a sandwichshop, perhaps. Once they receive the rejection, they ask for something smaller and give a reason (see “Justbecause . . .” in Chapter 13). It often sounds like this, “Oh. Well, might I have something for free because I’mon a confidence-building course and am supposed to return with a little something.”The aim of the exercise is not to see what you can get, or even to “get” something. The aim is to build yourrejection muscle and practise making bigger, bolder, more outlandish requests. However, students oftencome back with free gifts – on average 50% of the time. Over the years, these gifts have ranged in value 11
  15. 15. from bags of gourmet coffee to headphones, from kids’ toys to toiletries (in fact, one sandwich chain is soconsistently generous, I won’t spend money with any other café, if possible!). One group I worked with inLondon got so carried away, they returned to the workshop 20 minutes late with bagsful of gifts, totallingabout 40 pounds each, wearing a feeding-frenzied expression on their faces. Inappropriate, perhaps, butthe next time they’re pitching for venture capital, they’ll almost certainly aim higher and get more andleave their audience feeling satisfied that they struck a great bargain. try it Walk into a shop and ask for something outlandish, with a smile on your face, expecting a rejection. Next, ask for something comparatively smaller for free, giving a reason why. Whatever the outcome, keep smiling, thank them and leave graciously.If you try Haider’s Freedom Shopping challenge and you are success, why not Tweet us at @thisiscapstonewith #freedomshopping and upload a photo of your freebie. All entrants will win a copy of Straight to Yes! 12
  16. 16. 6. Choices: Gold, Silver, BronzeNow that you know about perceptual contrast, you’ll appreciate why, “Was £1,499 . . . now £799” is soattractive to us as consumers. Great persuaders know this intimately. As soon as one amount (whichcould be time, price, share, commitment, etc.) is presented, mentioned or even “accidentally” shown, itbecomes fixed in the audience’s mind as an “anchor” to which thinking and decisions inevitably become“biased” – almost as if the anchor is strangely magnetic, which it is. At this juncture, presenting a second,contrasting amount, which is closer to the original expectation is received with exponentially moreenthusiasm than if the second amount had been presented on its own.So, following the theory of ABCs (anchors, bias and contrast), a super high price, followed by a morereasonable price will be more attractive than just presenting the reasonable price on its own. Asking forsomeone to complete a task now, then conceding that they can complete it by the end of today instead, ismore attractive than just asking them to complete it by the end of today.Behavioural economics researcher, Dan Ariely, ran a fascinating experiment based on a chance encounterwith The Economist website.Accidentally, subscription to the magazine was being offered in three flavours: an online only option for$59, a print only option for $125 and an online plus print option for . . . $125! 13
  17. 17. He was intrigued enough to run this experiment with his students. When three options were presented,16% displayed a preference for the online only option and 84% preferred the combination option, printand online. When the unintentional combination was removed,68% of people preferred the online only option and only 32% went with the print only option.Hypothetically, from a revenue-generation perspective, the inclusion of the “mistaken” offer led to a 43%uplift.Why? Ariely explains that our perception of value is relative not absolute. In other words, we may not havea reference for what the value of a year’s subscription to The Economist is, but we do know that print andonline for the same price as print only is a better deal. For that reason, we are (a) more likely to commitand (b) more likely to commit bigger when directed to evaluate competing options, than compared tooffering a solitary option. Choices, it seems, increase compliance and extent of compliance. Our internalconversation moves away from, “Do I or don’t I?” to “Which one would I?”In business parlance, we have shifted from a selling conversation to a negotiating conversation: the “sale”has already been made. 14
  18. 18. One of the ways my company uses this in business is to give clients options in our proposals, commonlyreferred to as “Gold, Silver and Bronze.” It’s a great approach to use for managing the expectations of peoplewho expect you to “do more with less,” at work or in your social life.Using the approaches I’ve just outlined, we offer three options. Three seems to be the optimal number ofchoices, by the way, sup- ported by some cute research – cutting the number of product choices consistentlyincreases revenue. Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing says, “I don’t think people don’t want a lotof choice. People will say they want a lot of choice but I don’t think that’s what they really want. What theyreally want is a better choosing experience. They want to feel competent during the choosing process andthey want to feel confident that what they have chosen is a ‘good’ choice.”So, the Gold option comes first; this is the option that delivers on what they need, gives them what theywant and also adds in some more value-added work. It’s attractive and advisable but more than they’dbudgeted for and perhaps not essential right now. It usually produces a “sharp-intake-of-breath” moment.Next, when they come to the Silver option, they see a scope and price tag that is as they expected; theyexperience a sense of relief and reinforcement – all is right with the world.Finally, they cast their eye over the Bronze option. It’s the budget option and leaves out some of the moreessential elements they need but it’s marginally cheaper. In comparison to Silver, it hardly seems worth doing. 15
  19. 19. Everything points towards Silver and in all my years on consulting, managing and selling, I’ve never hadanyone go for Bronze or Gold.Of course, sometimes they’ve gone for, “No, thanks,” as the sales process progresses but it’s important tounderstand that the only option they ever consider, regardless of whether they follow through, is Silver.For struggling managers, it’s a great one to use when asked to do the impossible. Classifying the option youwant as Silver and outlining what resources you’ll need to make the various options happen (time, money,training, extra employees and so on) helps manage expectations very clearly indeed. try it Get clear about what you want; call this the Silver option. Create an option that is comparatively lavish and a lot more of an invest- ment of time, money and/or commitment, for example; call this Gold. Create an option that is slightly less than what’s wanted or needed but the upside is that it’s less of an investment than Silver, marginally; call that Bronze. Now present your choices in the following order: Gold, Silver, Bronze. 16
  20. 20. 7. Ugly TwinAnother piece of Ariely research that is useful for visually influencing people’s choice is his “ugly twin”research. He showed groups of people a headshot of a male avatar named Tom and one named Jerryand asked them to say which avatar was more physically attractive. Straightforward, perhaps? The twist,however, was that Ariely added a third avatar to the line up – “ugly twin Jerry” for some, “ugly twin Tom” forothers.Now, rationally, we’d expect whoever is more attractive, Tom or Jerry, to receive the nod, wouldn’t we?The results showed something different. The avatar that had its ugly twin next to it was consistently voted“most attractive.” In other words, when “ugly twin Jerry” was around, Jerry was most attractive. When “uglytwin Tom” was around, Tom was most attractive.Our perception of value is based on relatives (excuse the pun), not absolutes.Again, could this partly explain why “before and after” shots are so prevalent in cosmetics advertising? try it If you’re visually displaying images, choices or products, consider featuring three together. Two of these should look very similar to each other: put the very similar looking older, lower quality or less attractive option right beside the pretty one. 17
  21. 21. 8. Time for a Rhyme?Rhymes are a great example of where fluency is used in advertising campaigns, especially jingles, becauseresearch has shown that rhyming increases influence. See if you can complete these famous slogans: “(What?) Means Heinz,” “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and (what?)” and “Once you pop, you can’t(what?).” All of them are instantly memorable and therefore perceived as credible. Even half-rhymes suchas, “Nothing goes together like a pint and Castella,” or “You can’t fit quicker than a Kwik Fit fitter,” wormtheir way into our minds as credible statements, purely because they’re simple and sound familiar. There’sno comeback to such a rhyming statement, just as, “He who smelled it, dealt it,” meant conceding shameand defeat in my earlier years. try it Playfully, sing or include a rhyming statement in your final request, for example, “Those who’ve been through it, wanna do it. Do you want to do it?” Or, reaching out to shake hands (see “The outstretched hand” in Chapter 7!) try, “Goodbye debts, no regrets . . . What do you say?” or “I can’t wait to get started on this! Let’s shake it in and rake it in!” 18
  22. 22. 9. The Font of SuccessIn tests, fonts that are easier to read make us twice as likely to opt for a product although research existsthat shows that unusual fonts help us remember the information more. What really fascinates me is that inthe tests, where subjects have to read instructions in disfluent fonts or illegible handwriting, they reportthe task itself as more difficult, not the instructions. This is a crucial distinction: the disfluency is passedonto the task, not the instructions. It’s subtle, yet impactful. try it • Make sure your font or handwriting is clean, clear, simple and large enough to catalyze processing fluency. • Use spaces, images, plenty of white space, short sentences and paragraphs where possible. • Keep your words simple: complicated writing creates disfluency and is perceived as unintelligent. • Use elaborate, stylized or unusual fonts and handwritingif your aim is to have your message remembered! 19
  23. 23. Same and Different: a SummaryIn this chapter you may have noted that:• Our minds tend toward options that give us a high degree of familiarity and fluency because they’re safe and easy to process.• Simplicity is king.• Creating disfluency as a contrast to fluency heightens the perception of fluency.• Recapping what’s not wanted before what is wanted heightens desire.• Contrasting a big demand (going for a “No!”) with a subsequent reasonable demand makes the reasonable demand more likely.• Making your offer then immediately adding a “That’s not all . . .”creates reciprocity and a contrast.• Giving three options is best: most costly first, preferred second, cheap and cheerful last.• When we compare similar items and one is slightly less attractive, our attraction to the pretty one is heightened irrationally.• Messages that rhyme are more credible.• Simple fonts persuade. 20
  24. 24. Now that you have these insights, how might you use some of these approaches to:• Secure a big increase in salary or resource from your boss or bank manager?• Enlist a child to do some housework?• Have a partner choose the venue you’d like?In the next chapter you’ll learn favourite Asks from the world of business: time-honoured and good to go. 21
  25. 25. About the AuthorHaider Imam was UK Sales Trainer of the Year 2007, and worksat home & abroad with global brands teaching influencing skills,sales, negotiation and leadership, contributing to a $75,000,000return on investment for clients in this work over the last threeyears. He manages a team of talented consultants, which requiresstellar influencing skills.He has been training for ten years, and is a speaker and writer forthe Institute of Sales & Marketing Managers. He has clients such asEDF Energy, Merlin (Tussauds, Legoland, Sea Life, etc.) ADS (the UKAerospace, Defence & Security body) and more, as well as links atSage UK, Nando’s and others. 22
  26. 26. Why Not Say ‘Yes’To Getting a Copytoday?and learn to ask bigger,more often and even askfor the impossible– and to get it!Buy today from your favourite bookshop Available in print and e-book format