If you are like most managers, when it comes down to it, you are downright scared of being direct and to the point and telling your CEO in no uncertain terms, “I want more money for marketing!”
Think about it. There’s a conspiracy that encourages people to bury their most important wants and desires. Many management consultants advise using probing and consultative questions to draw people out. They say to avoid being direct and straight-forward. People hem and haw and they are even afraid to ask you what they want to ask you the most. They feel vulnerable about being honest and up-front. It petrifies even the best of us!
Yet when it comes to being successful in business, being frank, open and clearly asking people to give you what you want is what wins the day.
John Baker, a veteran Fortune 25 management and leadership consultant and author of the new book The Asking Formula – Ask For What You Want And Get It, says the world would be a better place if marketers were totally up front and said “I’m selling windows today; are you buying?”
Baker spent several years studying the fears and trepidation people demonstrate in situations across the whole spectrum of human interactions. He concluded that people do not know the best way to get what they want. He then documented the simplest tactics and strategies that he observed in the people who were getting exactly what they were after. His discovery was absolutely earthshattering in simplicity.
Very simply, the most successful people ask for what they want. Then they give the three very best reasons that explain why it makes perfect sense to say yes.
Here’s an example.
A company intrapreneur has worked for months with the target top executive, created a devastatingly beautiful project plan, addressed scheduling and pricing issues, developed an integration plan, customization plans, a communications strategy, etc. After all of the time, effort and energy he knows that he has overcome the financial, technological and even the human issues with flying colors. What he doesn’t know is if the executive will commit the marketing money needed to set it all in motion.
Even the most experienced, young and old are often stumped over asking someone for a clean and final decision. They stumble and bumble their way through touchy feely talk about their hobbies, the weather, their pets, family or weekend plans, anything but what they are really after.
Oh sure, all sorts of experts tell you that it’s important to build a relationship, or you have to draw out the prospect, or listen for buying clues, and any number of other items, but the crucial, bottom line issue is that they never get around to asking the big question.
Yet the quickest and best way to ask for the answer you need is to go right up to his client and say:
“Will you please approve the marketing budget now? I‘ve answered all your questions. You’ve seen the correlations between multiple repeat tests and predicted results. You’ve expressed support for the all the ideas and everyone is standing by. You’ve seen how everything works, how well integrated it will be, that it’s going to make a real difference. How about it?”
“It is crucial,” Bakers says, “to identify the exact most important request, and brainstorm before you decide on the best reasons. Each reason needs to be carefully selected from a larger number of options and be backed by three important facts.”
It’s about that easy, and the power of this strategy is more than a little amazing. Baker has shown that this method can be successfully used to penetrate difficult accounts, close difficult sales calls, shorten a sales cycle, protect price margins, reduce meeting time, speed up Powerpoint presentations, structure personnel reviews, sales letters, company communications with suppliers, corporate memos and even email messages.
What’s more it is proven to be quite helpful in corporate and business personal interactions with personnel, especially with supervisors and staff.
And it really helps if you put your money here your mouth is:
“Let’s implement the plan as follows. You approve the budget today. I’ll meet with your top three Directors by the end of the week. We’ll finalize the deployment, assign responsibility for the action items, identify the start date and set the implementation schedule, and document the action planning on the company-wide calendar. Then we’ll kick things off and monitor the progress and the results each day. And it will happen in less than a week!”
“Conversations are clearer and there is less misunderstanding and I earn lots of points for being thoughtful”, he says.
Baker’s formula has three key rules:
- Only offer information that is meaningful. The rest is trivial.
- Get to the point and ask for what it is you want.
- Be quick about it.
Building a relationship is great, but taking responsibility and delivering the results is what builds trust. The biggest problem with never getting a direct answer, is that it gets in the way of the real progress. It’s pointless. It wastes time and effort. It allows for procrastination. It enables people to avoid rejection. After all, if you are busy probing the needs of the prospect you don’t have to risk actually doing the work.
Can you image a vendor at a ballpark consultatively selling you a hot dog: “On a 1 – 10 scale rate your level of discomfort with your hunger?” “Tell me your main objective with the hot dog?” “When you had a hot dog before, how satisfied were you with the mustard and ketchup ratio?”
Isn’t he more effective when he just yells:
“Hot dogs, hot dogs, come and get your hot dogs!”
Just give me the damn hot dog!
John Baker has held top leadership positions in sales, client service and operations in Fortune 25 companies for more than 25 years. John is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with BA and MBA degrees. He is a member of the National Speakers Association, a noted speaker on topics of leadership, leader development, and building winning organizations. John lives in Minnesota with his family. His new book The Asking Formula – Ask For What You Want And Get It is scheduled for late fall 2011 release. For more information visit www.theaskingformula.com