I made two significant requests in recent weeks and while both yielded the outcome I wanted, the first involved a protracted and frustrating back and forth process and the second was solved with a 10-minute conversation. What was the difference? After the former experience, I went back to basics and refreshed my knowledge on negotiation and how to make requests that others are happy to grant. Here are a few points that helped me get a much quicker, more enthusiastic yes the second time around.
Hints are for scavenger hunts and murder mysteries, not for getting someone to do you a favor. No “It would be great if…” or “I’d be interested in…” or “Maybe we could…” No one can give you what you want if they don’t know what it is and you don’t make it clear you actually want something. Look at the difference between “What are you up to on Thursday?” and “Could you give me a ride to the airport on Thursday at 2PM?” Being very specific about what you want (a 15% discount) and when you want it (on your next cable bill) makes it easy for people to give it to you. The askee isn’t required to tax their brain to understand what sort of help you need and how it involves them. Removing this cognitive stress makes your request seem much more reasonable and painless to grant. You already know what the solution is, you just need a little bit of help reaching it.
Get connected to the decision maker
If what you’re asking for is beyond the scope of the person you’re asking it of to grant, it doesn’t matter how persuasive your case is. Whenever you see someone badgering a cashier or bullying a server, you know that not only are they a jerk, they’ve failed to grasp this lesson. Make your request to the person at the level of power to grant it and enlist those below that level to connect you to that person. A manager may not be able to approve a new investment in productivity software this quarter, but getting her onside can open the door to a meeting with the head of the marketing department who does have that power, for example.
Like any good salesperson worth his or her salt, you need to understand what might cause someone to hesitate or say no to your request and preemptively address those issues. Is it price? Highlight your installment payment plan or your money-back guarantee. Is it the time commitment? Explain that this customer satisfaction survey will take no more than 90 seconds to complete and won’t require entering any additional data. Concerned about reciprocity? Be clear that if Tim will cover your shift on Tuesday, you’ll happily pick up one of his when his brother has his bachelor party next month.
Follow up as appropriate
There’s a fine line between persistence and pestering, but knowing just how squeaky a wheel you need to be is critical in getting your needs met . Assume that anyone you’re making a request of already has a full plate and while they might have the best intentions to help you, they also have numerous competing priorities. For example, a given tech reporter might get dozens of press releases a day. If you want him to cover your client’s startup, it makes sense to send the initial pitch, wait a few days for a response and then do a single follow up to re-surface your original request before moving on to pitch another journalist. Want to get into a class that’s already full? If your email to the professor has gone unanswered, stop by during her office hours to follow up face-to-face. And don’t be afraid to make a request of someone who’s told you ‘no’ in the past. You’d be surprised at how likely they might be to say yes now.
This article was written by J. Maureen Henderson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.