5 Ways to Get People to Say Yes


I attended a speaker training workshop recently. There were about 30 of us on the course who regularly do speaking engagements and were keen to fine tune our skills.

One man, whose business card looked like it had been printed at the local dollar store, approached me (and everyone else on the course) and thrust his card toward my chest, pitching his unsolicited credentials as a speaking coach. Yikes!

I formed somewhat of an aversion to this man fairly quickly. What created this powerful NO, and what could he have done differently to get people to say YES? Getting a yes is what psychologists call compliance.

Compliance strategies you can use

1. Smile 

When you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you. Louis Armstrong

A smile is contagious. It improves our mood and can make us appear more attractive to others. One study (1) published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that an attractive face activated the medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in the brain and that this region processes sensory reward. Responses in the OFC were enhanced by smiling and this suggests that you actually feel rewarded when you see another person smile

2. Reciprocation – Giving people something for free. If a smile creates a sense of reward for those experiencing your smile, you have in a sense, created a gift. And people like to reciprocate. Whoever is on the receiving end of your gift is then in your debt. I know that sounds cold, but it isn’t meant to. Dean Rieck (author of Copy Blogger) describes this as the Rule of Reciprocity that says: We are all bound — even driven — to repay debts of all kinds.

It doesn’t take much to activate the rule of reciprocation, just a genuine act of giving. Here are three that I like to use:

  1. email – Following a networking event, I like to email an article I think would be of interest or use to someone I’ve met.
  2. Compliment – Be authentic here. I love to notice unique qualities in another. Often, this is something they aren’t even aware of:  An ability to include other people in a conversation; or a terrific sense of style or how they smile using their whole face.  I’m also really good at noticing when someone I know has had a haircut. Men love this, because it’s usually women whose hair gets noticed.
  3. Download – If you are giving away something to download, make sure it’s really valuable. I offer a really well written ebook on my website when people subscribe: The 7 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Correcting Their Posture. It took me a good number of weeks to write this and I even hired a designer to do the illustrations. Don’t skimp on your free gifts. Your customers will assume if your free gifts are fabulous, then your paid services and products must be amazing!

3. Be likable – Remember the man – the speaking coach – that showed up at my training day? I’d suggest, he wasn’t very likable. He came across as abrupt, pushy and self-interested. Be personable and curious about the people you meet. Ask questions – not with an agenda – but because you are genuinely interested. 

The best way to be likable is to find something you have in common. Build rapport. This isn’t always easy but the best way to find out what you have in common is to ask questions:

  • So tell me, how on earth did you ever decide to launch such a creative business? Notice, I did two things here – I used a compliment AND asked a question, in order to find out what we have in common.
  • Wow, you really you have four children? Do any of them share your love of business?
  • How often do you run? I’ve never been a very successful jogger myself.

4. Stories and social proof – Whether we like it or not, we care a lot about what other people think. What would you do? What do you think? Did it help you? Then we act accordingly, all thanks to the impact of social proof.

This is how stories can be effective:

When I was 43, I decided to leave a successful private practice as a chiropractor and took my posture tips online in the form of Posture Videos on Youtube. In less than 12 months I had a million views and now, many millions more and growing fast.

People love this story (I love it too) because it’s true. It tells the story of an ordinary person who did something extraordinary. Perhaps most important, it provides social proof. When people see that what you offer is valued by other people, they are more inclined to trust you.

5. Open posture – No discussion on compliance strategies would be complete, if we didn’t talk about the power of posture. Your posture speaks volumes about you. What is your posture saying about you?

  • Folded arms – cold, on guard and defensive
  • Fidgeting – nervous
  • Slouching round shoulders – lacks confidence

Open upright posture looks attractive and confident, and attractive confident people get more yeses. If you don’t know how to stand tall, with open posture, perhaps this will help you:

1. Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(2):147-55.

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