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How to Make an Ask That’s Hard to Refuse

make an ask

By: Vid Micevic, Co-Founder of 33 Buckets

Being an entrepreneur and starting your own venture is one of the hardest journeys you can embark on. You’ll hear “no” time and time again, accompanied by a number of excuses ranging from “your idea won’t work” to “you don’t have enough experience”. Well, you know what? J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times before Harry Potter was published, Steve Jobs was fired from the company he created, and Walt Disney was told he “lacked imagination.” Now they’re all household names.

Getting rejected is an especially sore subject for social entrepreneurs – those who want to do well by doing good in the world. But the beauty of entrepreneurship is becoming more resilient and continuing to believe in yourself. What differentiates successful entrepreneurs from the rest is influence. It’s the art of how you can transform those no’s into yes’s to launch your venture into the big time. Here are some ways to change those no’s into a lot more yes’s:

1. Ask Face-to-Face

You’ve hit a critical launch point for your company. Do you send an email blast to 200 of your closest professional acquaintances or start scheduling face-to-face meetings? A recent study from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that “people tend to overestimate the power of their persuasiveness via text-based communication, and underestimate the power of their persuasiveness via face-to-face communication”.

People are about 34 times more likely to agree to a request in person than over email. Stay away from sending that email or posting a fundraising campaign on Facebook – establish a personal connection and ask people for help in person. Chances are you will persuade far more people to take an action (donate to your venture, complete a survey, subscribe to an email list, etc.)

make an ask

2. Use a Personal Note

If you need a specific task to be completed, be sure to add a personal touch to your request. Research from Sam Houston State University found that people were more likely to complete a survey if the survey included a Post-It note asking for their help and outlining the specific favor. The essence of a personal touch doesn’t go unnoticed and makes the other individual feel special and appreciated. In our current era of e-mail, slack channels, and text messages, a handwritten note makes the intention even more special.

make an ask

3. Be Honest and Straightforward

Every conversation starts with a little small talk to get both parties feeling comfortable. But is that the best way to frame your ask? According to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers found that a request was more “likely to be granted if it was asked in the beginning of a conversation as opposed to the end of it”. Leading with the request and being up front allows for the rest of the conversation to focus on any questions the other party may have about your request. Additionally, the other party is more likely to be distracted by their next meeting at the end of the conversation, making it less likely for you to get that “yes” you need.

4. Give the Option To Say “No”

Sometimes when a request is asked forcefully, the other party can be rubbed the wrong way, leading to a higher likelihood of them say “no”. Researchers from France found that the chances of a “positive answer dramatically increases” if the other party does not feel pressured to give a certain response. Make people feel more comfortable by reminding them it’s okay to say no, and that your relationship is not jeopardized by a negative response. This allows them to speak openly with you and be more supportive of your request!

5. Map Out Detailed Steps

Making the ask is only the first step in completing the action you request. Next, you need to give explicit instructions on how to make it happen! Studies show that mapping out detailed steps dramatically boosts the response rate to a request. This eliminates any questions that may arise, and allows people to feel more confident in completing the action.

In an experiment with students being asked to donate canned food at their school, one group of students received an email asking them to drop off a can of food on campus. Another group of student received an email with a map of how to get to the location and a specific request for a can of beans. At the end of the study, about 4% of the students with the general letter donated to the food drive while 33% gave food after receiving the detailed letter.

make an ask

To conclude, hearing “no” can be very difficult. It’s hard to accept that “no”, but it’s important to learn from setbacks and start adapting your methodology, your product, or your idea. Oftentimes it has nothing to do with your idea, but how you approach others. By asking in person, adding a personal note, being honest, accepting “no” as a valid response, and providing detailed action steps, you will enhance your outcomes. Learn how you can improve, and go out there and get that “yes”!

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