Five Ways to Get People to Say YES

Wouldn’t it be awesome if people responded positively to your requests every day? Getting people to say yes is the goal for any sales message. It’s what psychologists call “compliance.” The ability to get people to say yes is a skill few people have mastered. It’s important several aspects of life — from business to dating to everyday interactions — and unlocking the power of getting people to say “yes” can open doors usually locked shut.

‘Yes, I will buy your product’. ‘Yes, I will invest in your startup’. ‘Yes, you can take Monday off’. ‘Yes, you deserve a raise’.

Getting a “yes” to anything and everything might be unrealistic, but there is a way to hear those three lovely letters more frequently.

By mastering the art of persuasion you can get customers, clients, investors and bosses to see things from your perspective and grant you your wishes. Start with these five persuasion techniques:

One reason tactic

People love answers, and when a request is made without a supporting reasoning, people often don’t give in. But if a simple explanation follows your question (i.e. “Can I take the day off? I have to go to the dentist.”), people surrender to your wants.

In the famous “Xerox Copy” study conducted by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, experimenters asked to cut in line at a busy Xerox store.  They found that those who gave a reasoning behind their request (i.e. “I have 5 sheets of paper. Can I cut in line? I’m in a rush”) got their way 93% of the time. But those who gave no explanation (i.e. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I cut in line?”), only 60% said yes.

Start with a small request

If you can get someone to do something small for you, you most likely could get him or her to do something they normally wouldn’t do. This is called the “foot-in-the-door method”. It’s an approach based on trust and consistency, and it’s effective.

Researchers in the 60s called a group of housewives and asked if they would answer a few questions about household products. A few days later they called again, asking if they could send 5 employees to rummage through their kitchen to assess products in person. They found that twice as many women answered “yes” to the second call if they participated in the first call.

If you want a raise, start with a small “yes” by asking for an added benefit or two, and then go for in for the bigger question about a higher salary. If you want someone to subscribe to your video service, ask him or her to sign up for a free trial, then go in for the money.

Narrow down options

Paralysis analysis is for real. If you’re trying to sell something- whether it’s cupcakes, web design, agriculture software, or a cleaning service- try to limit the amount of options available to customers.

A Columbia professor found that when customers are given too many choices, they are 10x less likely to purchase your product. When selling the jam to passersby, 30% bought a jar when given only six different jam choices. The next day, when people were offered 24 different types, only 3% bought anything.

If you offer payment plans or bundle variations, don’t give buyers 78 options. Limit their choices and you’ll hear more yes’s.

Scarcity tactic

When something becomes limited or scarce, humans throw themselves into survival mode. Their desire for something is doubled, and they’ll say yes just to be safe. When supply is limited, demand soars. That’s why airlines advertise “remaining seats available” for each flight, and websites often countdown to the end of a sale.

Hubspot recently ran a test via an email campaign, where one landing page advertised “a limited time offer” to promote a whitepaper download while the other landing page was without the scarcity claim. Turns out, the “limited time offer” page performed 8% better than the page without the declaration.

Use contrast

The power of contrast can work wonders. In the early 90s, Williams-Sonoma starting selling a bread maker for $275 and it sold poorly. But when they placed a newer, more expensive $429 model adjacent to the first bread maker, sales double. Just by creating a contrast, the first model seemed like a deal.

Maybe you want to take a week vacation during a busy time of the year.  You can propose that offer to your boss, contrasting it with: “OR, Mr. Boss, I’d like to take a 3-week vacation in a few months to Bangkok. With the long flights and everything, 3-weeks would be a minimum” Then maybe that one week will look more reasonable.