The Art of the Ask: The 3 Things You Must Give To Get a 'Yes' The most successful people are the ones best prepared the most often.
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Let's say that you have a great idea that you want to present to your partners, your business network, or the company that you work for. You've put a lot of thought into it, you've considered all of the angles and you're confident that it's going to be a great money-maker/efficiency-booster/whatever, but no matter how good the merits of your idea, the difference between hugely successful people and everyone else is the amount of prep they do before they pitch any idea.
There are three habits that will change your life – learn your own language, practice perseverance, and upgrade the quality of your network. I think that working up to a successful ask actually takes a little of all three of these habits into account.
1. Work on your network.
Before presenting a new idea or direction to your partners or supervisor, develop a genuine relationship with them and demonstrate your value – this may mean putting off an ask for months, but it's bound to get a better response once your network is primed to trust your instincts and acumen.
2. Demonstrate your own value first.
A lot of us have been inside companies (or industries) and understood their strengths and weaknesses and have come up with ideas to address those weaknesses, but the answers are complex long-term solutions. Companies naturally resist those types of ideas -- they take time and money, and the payoff may not always seem evident or soon enough. The only time companies will ever say "yes" to those ideas is if they come from people that have shown their value to the company -- "A-level" employees who have great morale, a fantastic work ethic and have shown that they understand the company and provide great value.
Here is my question to you: Do you know what your boss's or potential partner's top three priorities are and can you help them get closer to achieving those priorities without asking for anything in return for a while? Can you just give and give and give for a while before making your ask?
3. Quid pro quo is the way to go.
The first part of this equation is demonstrating your usefulness. The second part is making sure that the other person knows you did the job. Be vocal. Let them know that you make promises and then you deliver. That's the Holy Grail in business, but people move so fast, they don't always recognize when you've just done that. Don't forget to ask for feedback along the way so they feel as though they've had a hand in your success.
This is all called goodwill. Acknowledge your role and contribution to their achievements, express your appreciation for being able to assist with that project, and then ask if you could talk to them about a project that you are interested in and get their feedback and support.
People that recognize the currency of goodwill are more likely to be open to hearing you out. Once you've demonstrated your loyalty and willingness to help your network, people are far more likely to reciprocate when you get to the point of asking for their help.
To sum it all up:
If you're serious about taking action on your great idea and want the best possible chance of getting to yes, remember:
- BUILD your network relationships. You need to prove that you're intelligent and trustworthy before people will want to take a chance on you.
- Demonstrate your VALUE Bring value to the projects of others before you ask them to support yours.
- Use the currency of GOODWILL People want to help those who have helped them.
Does your company or business network have a culture of goodwill? How have you worked to strengthen your relationships and prove your value?