Through in-depth and dynamic presentations, strategic communication and leadership expert Heath Slawner shows audiences how to leverage proven strategies using influence and persuasion to achieve outstanding results. He also specializes in delivering powerful training workshops—on performance development and strategic-planning initiatives—for clients around the world, including the United Nations. Heath took a moment to share his tips on how to make the most of success:
Imagine this scenario: you’ve just put in a lot of effort and finally succeeded in persuading your client, customer, or potential business partner to follow your advice. They listened to you, and they were ecstatic with the results. Bravo. Congratulations. Great job.
They come back to you praising you big time for your help: “You’re amazing! Without you, I don’t know how we could have done this. Thank you so much for your work on this. It was a huge success.” And so on. Sounds familiar, right?
In this potentially magical moment, what’s your best response to this kind of head-over-heels praise?
The problem with grace and humility
If you’re like most people, your instinct might be gracious humility. Who could blame you? You would say: “No problem,” or “Glad I could help,” or “It was my pleasure.” If you’ve had help along the way, then you may also tip your cap and say: “Well, you’re welcome, but I really couldn’t have done without it my team, they really deserve the credit.”
Well, it turns out that you may be fumbling away one of the most crucial opportunities available to you in the span of a potentially long-term business relationship. The last thing you want to do is squander it. Because your attempt at gracious humility actually belittles and undermines the special effort you’ve put in on your customer’s behalf, and by extension, you’ve unwittingly downplayed the importance of the relationship itself. Not exactly your intention, right?
Science and Moments of Power
Scientific research from BJ Fogg at Stanford University Persuasion Technology Lab and Dr. Cialdini at Arizona State University point to the existence of specific influence windows, or moments of power, when your counterpart will be especially open to what you have to say. Right after receiving praise for extraordinary work is one of these moments. So how do you avoid fumbling it away? How do you actually take advantage of this moment to further strengthen the relationship and set up for ongoing success? Follow these three tips:
1) Never belittle the work. Do not, under any circumstances, diminish the special effort you’ve put in on your customer’s behalf. That means avoiding phrases like “It’s nothing” or “No problem, don’t worry about it.”
2) Always elevate the importance of the relationship. Communicate to your customer that you did this for them because you are committed to the relationship for the long-term. Their success is important to you, so say it. In other words, elevate the special effort you’ve put in by referencing the relationship when accepting the praise. “That’s what long-term partners do for one another,” or “That’s what a long-term relationship is all about,” or even something as bold as “We’re committed to your success” are all superb responses because they bring the relationship front and center. Not only that, it will make you customer feel special. The more you do that, the more loyal they become.
3) If you want something, now’s a great time to ask*
Looking for a reference, testimonial or sales lead? There is really no better time than right now to ask. Why? Because they’ve just finished telling you how amazing you are! They’re practically obligated to say “Yes” as long as you don’t abuse the moment of power and ask for something unreasonable* (e.g., just because your boss has just praised you for a tremendous job, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to ask for a raise on the spot!).
The stage is now set for ongoing mutual exchange – which is the foundation for all long-term relationships. By elevating the importance of both the relationship and your contribution, it will be very difficult for your counterpart to forget or resist in the future. Just to be certain you’re laying the foundation for future exchange, you can also say: “I’m sure you would do the same for me.”
The next time someone is thanking you for something special, think of it as a moment of power and use it wisely. Apply the tips above to positively impact the relationship and your future success!
By Heath Slawner