How to Be More Persuasive at Work: The 3 Steps to a Yes

January 7, 2019

How to be more persuasive at work – make it easy to say yes.

What’s the biggest reason people say “no” to an idea, particularly at work?

To avoid risk. Saying “yes” to something comes with a degree of risk. And many of us don’t love taking risks in our jobs that could cost us our reputations.

So, the key to being persuasive at work really comes down to making it easy for the other person to say “yes,” according to LinkedIn Learning Instructor Dorie Clark.

“If you want to get people to say yes to you, there's a simple formula,” Clark said in her course, Persuading Others. “You have to reduce their perceived risk. In fact, ideally, you want to convince them it's riskier to say no and leave things as they are than it would be for them to try something new.”

LinkedIn Learning Instructor Dorie Clark explains how to make it easy for people to say “yes” to your idea.

How to Make it Easy to Say Yes: Follow This Three-Step Formula

Okay, so how do you make it easy for the other person to say yes to your idea? In her course, Clark suggests following this three-step formula:

    1. Explain the consequences of maintaining the status quo.

Yes, there’s always a risk to trying something new. But there are also downsides of doing nothing, either.

To start your pitch, you need to explain those downsides. Maybe doing nothing will lead to stagnation or the current method costs more money than it could otherwise or competitors are doing it better.

The more risk you can share about maintaining the status quo, the less risk the person will feel breaking from it.

    2. Share your research and evidence that supports your alternative.

Next, you need to make the person believe your recommendation is the best alternative. And the best way to do that is to share the research you did to come to it.

So, don’t spring the idea right on the person as if you made it up in the moment. Instead, talk to them about how you got there. What other ideas did you consider? What factors led you to choose that option?

Additionally, you should have some data to support your alternative. Did you survey customers to see how they’d feel about it? Did you pilot the idea to see how it’ll work? Is this in response to a survey of your customers?

    3. Be willing to start small.

Let’s say your boss (or whoever you are trying to persuade) is still hesitant about trying the idea. In that case, further minimize the risk by making the ask smaller.

“If the change would feel big and risky to your boss, if it were implemented on a wide scale, propose a small pilot, something time-limited and reversible,” Clark said. “If it fails, no big deal, no one will notice. But, if it's successful, you have proof and you can leverage that to roll it our more broadly.”

The Takeaway: Getting to a Yes is About Making “No” Sound Riskier

There are exceptions. But, most of the time, people are adverse to saying “yes” to new ideas at work because they come with a certain degree of risk.

To overcome that, you need to show the risk of saying no, and then minimize the risk of saying yes. That’s done by showing the consequences of maintaining the status quo, citing evidence for your alternative and then be willing to start small to prove out the success of your recommendation.

“Change is risky, let's face it, but with these steps, you can make it much safer and easier for your boss to say yes,” Clark said.

Want to learn how to be more persuasive? These LinkedIn Learning courses can help – and, they are free until Jan. 31: