Getting clients to agree with your content proposals requires asking the right questions.
If the old adage is correct that it’s easier for your body to smile than to frown, you might think it’s easier to say “yes” than “no,” right? Well, as it turns out, just as frowning actually uses fewer muscles than smiling, you’re biologically attuned to prioritize negative news over positive news.
Put another way, we pay more attention to “no” than “yes.”
But this is neither your fault or choice — it’s a survival mechanism. Prehistoric humans needed to prioritize negative events over positive ones to stay alive.
For example, imagine it’s prehistoric times, and you’ve just discovered what fire is. While that’s great, if a predator were creeping up on you during that epic discovery, your brain would place more importance on the incoming threat than fire.
Fast-forward to present day and recast the “hunt” in marketing terms. The spear has been replaced by the advertisement. Prey has been replaced by prospects, and getting them to say “yes,” is the challenge, or the hunt.
So how do you get them to agree with your brilliant proposal to create consistent, engaging content?
It all comes down to the questions you ask…
Asking the Right Questions
Before you know the right types of questions to ask, it’s important to keep in mind the psychological principles that underpin the act of saying “yes.”
Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, the foremost expert on the science of persuasion, wrote in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, that it’s more productive for people to obey authority than not.
While that may seem like a stretch beyond the topic of this piece of writing, clients look to marketers to know their industry. In other words, marketers are authorities on advertising.
Part of knowing what’s what is knowing the right kinds of questions to ask your clients. For example, you can show a website visitor relevant content and then ask what their position is through chatbots, forms, etc., so you can match them to appropriate content.
The right questions are divided into two groups, according to Sam Harrison, author of Idea Selling: Successfully Pitch Your Creative Ideas to Bosses, Clients & Other Decision-Makers, who quotes Seth Godin on the types of questions you should ask clients:
- Questions to obtain more information.
[i.e. What does your product do? Who is it for?]
- Questions to demonstrate how much you know.
[i.e. Which platform is better for lead gen.–LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter?]
Using these two types of questions is key to influencing people, getting on their good side, and winning them over. This can prove quite useful in client meetings, presentations, networking events, conferences, and tradeshows
Dale Carnegie was a genius at this. In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he details a series of tested, common-sense principles to win people over.
Specifically, one of his principles involves getting a person to immediately say “yes, yes.” He cites several examples of people who were good at this—one of them being the ancient philosopher, Socrates:
Socrates… was one of the greatest philosophers the world has ever known… He is honored as one of the wisest persuaders who ever influenced this wrangling world.
… His whole technique, now called the “Socratic method,” was based upon getting a “yes, yes” response. He asked questions with which his opponent would have to agree. … until he had an armful of yeses. He kept on asking questions until… his opponents [reached the conclusion they originally denied.]
What the Socratic method looks like in action involves framing the answer you seek in the form of a question. For example, “What can we do about this?” It’s an open-ended question that requires a thoughtful answer.
So if you use your position as a marketing authority to ask clients the right two types of questions and keep at it, you may get the answers you want in order to deliver the right solutions.
Getting a “Yes” Response Requires Being Tactful
“Tactful,” as in strategically tactful. For example, when telling clients news of any kind, such as reporting ad campaign results, it’s always a good idea to give them the good news first.
As outlined in Arthur H. Bell’s book, How to Write Attention-Getting Memos, Letters, and E-mails, you can introduce good news first, but whether it’s believed is another story:
Good news may be welcomed by every reader, but that does not mean it will be believed by every reader. Good news must be presented in a way as to seem not only possible but probable. This entails careful analysis of what the reader may resist in the good news being presented.
There are exceptions, of course. In marketing, negative product placements outsell good news by a significant margin.
Geico used the bad news/good news combination in a series of signature commercials like this one. The commercial was of a committee hearing in which a criminal sentence was being handed down, but the good news was that they saved money using Geico’s promise. Here, the negativity bias may have been leveraged in that particular campaign to humorous effect.
Not everyone can pull off being funny, though. For example, that same Geico ad detailed above might not have been funny if Geico were using a different promise.
Joseph Sugarman agrees that humor is hard and shares more of his copywriting tips here.
At least, that’s what he thinks in The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook. He also said that’s why you have to establish a buying environment to get buyers into the mood to make that conversion by handling any objections they may have about your product or service.
Getting customers into the mood for your offer can be as simple as keeping it front and center at all times using design tactics related to the positioning of information on the page, and engaging visuals.
Other suggestions to get your clients on board with your proposals include:
- Tweaking your value proposition
- Demonstrating your worth
- Eliminating barriers to a “no” answer
You want to make it easier for a client to agree with your proposal. This means removing all of the things that may be roadblocks to a “yes.” In turn, this also implies that you need to ask a client questions about what they want.
For example, imagine a client tells you what they want. You ask them questions about it. Their answer shifts slightly. It becomes more defined. You are getting rid of the barriers to a “no” answer with each question you ask.
Whether it’s leveraging psychological principles, using your authority as a marketer, or being strategically tactful using two types of questions, getting a “yes,” doesn’t have to be hard. As marketers, we should know our clients well enough to elicit “yes” responses to our proposals. Lacking this familiarity and knowledge would be a disservice to both our clients and our best efforts.
What has been the most successful “yes” you have gotten from a client? Did you use any of the tactics above? Message us in the chat below to share your experience.