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To Get What You Want, Play the Percentages

One of my favorite questions to ask our sales people is: “When you ask for something, what percent of the time do you typically get what you want?” I’ll go around the room asking for specific percentages from everyone. I get a lot of 50 percents and 40 percents, and at least one overconfident 90 percent.  

The answer, of course, is somewhere between 0 and 100 percent. But if you don’t ask, it is 0 percent. As hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” In other words, you can’t succeed if you don’t try. You must take action. 

If you want something, you need to ask for it. To increase the chance of hearing ‘yes,’ keep these tips in mind:

Identify what you want – and why you want it.

The first all-too-obvious, but often overlooked step is to clearly outline your ideal end result. What do you want to accomplish? Once you know, it’s easier to ask for it. 

After you know what you want, it’s time to ask yourself why you want it. Imagine yourself having achieved what you want; try it on – in every detail – and see if it’s indeed right for you. Knowing what you want, and why you want it, steadies you. You’re clear on where you’re headed and daily life won’t distract or disrupt you with conflicting feelings.

Returning to your “why” – again and again – will help you stay grounded through both the challenges and the opportunities bound to come your way. 

Determine who to ask.

Do your research to make sure that you’re reaching out to the decision-maker. When you know who’ll you be talking to, Practice. Ask a colleague or friend to role play the conversation with you. You will gain a wealth of insights from the fresh and unbiased perspectives another person can offer. Take notes and learn from the interaction. 

If you’re worried about antagonistic replies when you ask for what you want, this is a great opportunity to have your colleague or friend role-play that scenario. You’ll feel better equipped to handle any situation you fear. And that will empower you to come across as confident and prepared when you do reach out to the decision-maker. 

Be brave – and ask!

Rejection is always a possibility – and that’s not a bad thing. It’s better to hear a ‘no’ and move on than to waste time waiting to ask the question. In fact, it’s helpful to rethink how you consider hearing ‘no’ – it does not signify you’ve failed. Getting a ‘no’ means you’ve opened up a discussion. People are often more apt to eventually get to a ‘yes’ when they start out with ‘no.’ We feel we’re being coerced or pushed if we answer with a ‘yes’ right off the bat, and then we’re liable to become defensive.

A Business Insider article quotes an expert negotiator: “When people say ‘no,’ they have a tendency to relax. They have a tendency to actually be more open to other questions. So when you wrap your mind around that, you can actually use ‘no’ to your advantage.”

Be specific. 

Be clear and direct about what you need. Leave no room for interpretation. This is no small feat, because people interpret instantaneously, and those interpretations are largely their own assumptions tied to their life experiences and unconscious beliefs. We tend to believe our own thoughts, taking them as fact simply because we “own” the thoughts. In the moment, our thinking seems logical. But our thoughts are often arbitrary and inconsistent, shifting depending on context and contradicting our instincts. 

Because everyone is prone to blind spots in their own arguments, put sufficient time and effort into making certain you’re clear and specific about what you need. For ideas, read 8 Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day and How To Prevent Them.

Follow up and follow through.

Regardless of the answer, do as you say you’re going to do. The fortune is in the follow-up. “Play the percentages” means you choose a safe and methodical course of action when calculating the odds in favor of success. Although the word “play” in the phrase seems to imply a “game of chances or odds,” it’s really quite the opposite of risk. Using a safe and methodical course of action boils down to using a system. 

For your follow-up and follow-through, create a system that’s easy for you to use and requires very little effort – and use this system daily. You’ll find that when you trust in a process, you won’t feel overwhelmed or intimidated by it. You’ll feel encouraged rather than defeated! A course of action, regularly repeated seamlessly, will have you accomplishing your goals in no time. Small, steady steps build a system of success.

You can’t always get what you want, but one thing is for sure: you’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask.  

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