During a recent Win Buy-In: Get Anyone Intrigued in Anything in 60 Seconds workshop I gave in Europe, a participant raised his hand and asked, “What can we do if we anticipate our decision-maker is going to say no? Do you have a way to turn that into a yes?”
“Certainly. What do you have in mind?”
“Well, my son is on a traveling soccer team. We just hired a professional player to coach his team and we need to raise money for his salary.”
“So, how are you planning to do that?’
“Well, we’re going to approach our local bookstore, but we know the owner gets hit up for donations all the time.”
“Good for you. You’re already half way to winning buy-in because you’ve already put yourself in the shoes of your decision-maker and read his mind.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ironically, the key to getting a yes is to ask yourself, ‘Why will they say no?”
“Why is that so important?”
“If you don’t voice your decision-makers’ objections right at the start, they won’t be listening to you – they’ll just be waiting for you to stop talking so they can tell you why this won’t work.”
“How can I do that in this situation?”
“Let’s read the mind of this bookseller. The good news is, I know this industry pretty well because I Emceed the Maui Writers Conference for 17 years (MWC was to the publishing industry what Cannes is to the film industry). I know how booksellers think and what’s important to them.”
He said, “Ok, how do they think and what’s important to them?
“What’s important to every retail business owner – whether that’s a bookstore, dry cleaner, florist or restaurant – is having paying customers onsite or online buying their services and products.
What they don’t like is people taking up their valuable work time asking them for money without offering something in return.”
“That makes sense. How do I do that?”
“Here’s how. When you walk into the store, wait until the owner is finished taking care of paying customers so you’re not pulling him away from his #1 priority.
Then, make sure the first words out of your mouth are, “I know you’re busy, and may I have 3 minutes of your time?”
“Yes, putting a time parameter around your request immediately lets the owner know you’re aware of his busy schedule. It increases the likelihood he’ll give you his time of day.”
“Use the magic words, ‘I can only imagine . . . ‘ as in “I can only imagine how many times you get asked for donations by local organizations.”
“What does that do?”
“He’s probably too polite to mention it, but it lets him know you know the school band, scout troop and local charities are constantly asking for donations.
It shows you’re not just thinking of what you want, you’re empathizing with what it must be like to be put in this challenging situation where he’s pressured to give to every worthy cause that walks in his door.”
“What do I say next?”
“Immediately jump in to how you’re going to make this a win for him. Say, ‘So I’d like to propose an event that draws people to your store, boosts your sales and gives you lots of positive press.”
The participant smiled and said, “That probably would get his interest.”
“You’re right. It at least motivates him to keep listening because this time-sensitive approach is so rare and welcome.
Then say, “I’d be glad to arrange for a professional soccer player who’s written a successful book to appear at your store on the day of your choice for a book signing/mini-seminar. In fact, in exchange for becoming a financial sponsor for our youth soccer team, we’d be glad to put your logo on our team jerseys.”
The participant asked, “What if he isn’t convinced? Anything else I can do to turn a potential no into a yes?”
“Yes, continue to put yourself in his shoes. Ask yourself, ‘What matters to him? What else would make it easy for him to say yes?’ Chances are, asking these questions will help you think of even more ways to make it a double win.”
The participant thought for a moment and then said, “I know. My friend is a reporter for the local paper. We could ask her to interview the soccer pro and cover this event so the bookseller gets lots of publicity. He could put the clipping up in his store to show how he supports his community.”
“Great, but don’t stop there. Keep brainstorming. Anything else?”
His eyes lit up. “Yah. One of our team parents owns his own internet marketing company. I bet he’d be glad to blog about this and promote it to his social media network so even more people are aware of it and show up.”
“Good idea. That will put even more ‘cheeks in the seats.’ Keep thinking, because the more ways you can make this a win for him, the more likely he is to say yes.
For example, if one of your team parents is a good photographer, you can sweeten the pot by saying you’d be happy to arrange for someone to take photos of the soccer pro with customers in front of the bookstore’s logo for $5 a pop. That money will go toward the soccer team, making it even more of a successful fund-raiser . . . plus, it would give the bookseller a long tail of good will because those photos will stay on people’s refrigerators for a long, long time.
Notice, all the above actions benefit the bookseller and your son’s team. That’s the beauty of this approach. When you create a win for everyone involved; you’re more likely to get a yes.”