Here’s a tip to help you get more of what you want. If you you need something from someone (to make a sale or otherwise persuade) and you have a feeling they might say “no”, don’t ask if you “can” ask “how” you can.
If feel there’s a high liklihood your prospect/counterpart will shoot down your request, don’t serve them up an easy opportunity to close the door and send you away.
Instead of “Can I have a job at your company?” ask “How do I get a job at your company?”
Instead of asking a buyer “Can you carry our product in your flagship store?” ask them “How can I get the product carried in your flagship store?”
Instead of “Do you know the doctor in charge?” ask “How do I contact the doctor in charge?”
Everyone is busy. If you give someone a yes/no question and the consequences of saying “yes” are harder than saying “no”, there is often a good chance they will say no. Especially if they lose nothing by saying “no” and don’t see much benefit in saying “yes”.
Not only that, but when you ask them “how” you can get what you want, there’s more benefits:
- You get certainty on the process of how to get what you want. Any misunderstandings you might have had previous to this conversation are cleared up when they explain “how”.
- You are setting up an informal contract. When they tell you “how”, they are essentially saying “if you do all this then I agree to give you what you want”. You can even repeat it back to them at the end: “So if I am able to do x, y, z then you will do a, b, and c?”
- It shows you are willing to do the work, willing to do what they want and willing to meet their needs. And not just thinking about what you want.
Asking “how” instead of “can I” might feel a little over-confident and out of touch with reality. It’s not. You’re just asking how something is done.
Asking “Can I” is asking for them to be a judge or gatekeeper. Asking “How can I” is asking them to be an ally. Asking “Can I” is asking them to sit across the table from you. Asking “How can I” is asking them to move to your side of the table and see things from your point of view. Which would you rather have?
Related tip: Judicious substitution of the word “we” for the word “I” can add more power. Putting your counterpart on the same side of the fence as you puts them in the mindset of working with you not against you. “Can you lower the price on the repair?” becomes “How do we lower the price on the repair?”
Obviously there’s a point where you have to close the sale and get an affirmative, so you don’t want to ask the “how” forever, but this small change can make a big difference in many instances where you need persuade.