4 Ways To Convince Your Boss to Say Yes Every Time (Backed By Science)
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As marketers, every month seems like the equivalent of a year in other industries.
Marketing has changed more in last few years than in the last 50 before them.
Not only do we have to be awesome at being…
- conversion experts,
- project managers,
- email wizards,
- and 48 other skills…
…we’ve gotta kill the status quo before it kills us.
…and of course, we have to convince our bosses to go along with it all.
This boils down to our ability to influence others.
But, if you’ve ever read about the psychology of influencing others, it can be deflating.
Doubly so when it comes to how to convince your boss or peers to try new stuff.
The Slightly Depressing Reality Of Influence
One of the first principles of influence you come across is called the “halo effect.”
In the 1920s, psychologist Edward Thorndike piloted a study of how military officers judge their subordinates.
He found more physically attractive soldiers were were rated higher across the board on a four-point scale: intelligence, physique, leadership, and character.
This means positive reactions to physical appearance were projected onto other areas of the soldiers.
And as much as we hate to admit it, the rabbit hole goes deeper.
This principle holds true in elections, as well.
In a study called “Beauty at the Ballot Box,” researchers theorized that since physical attractiveness is a cue toward good health, we may be biologically programed to esteem it. Meaning we’re naturally inclined to favor attractive people.
The halo effect is at work in our restaurants, as well.
Another study called “Beauty and the feast” found that “attractive servers earn roughly $1261 more per year than unattractive servers.”
And counterintuitively, “Beauty matters more for female than male customers.” Meaning pretty female waitresses get bigger tips from women.
Oh yeah, and then there’s this happy stat…
Pretty people earn 12% more money than average-looking humans.
From politics to pot pies, something as shallow as looks play a major role in influencing others.
However, when it comes to convincing your boss to say yes to…
…that new process…
…a fresh software tool…
…obliterating makeshift marketing…
…a flexible work-from-home policy…
…we have more science-backed levers to pull than just our faces.
4 Ways To Convince Your Boss To Say Yes With The Power Of Science 🚀
In this post, I’ll share the best research on ethical approaches to convince your boss to say yes to anything.
No makeup required.
You’ll learn four tactics:
- How to position what you’re asking for in concrete terms,
- How to align your change with team objectives,
- Why to conduct a trial run with a mini post-mortem conversation,
- And how to win by starting big, then going small.
One of the most powerful changes we see is crushing the bug we call makeshift marketing.
A major change to the marketing landscape is the volume of tools available. But, most of them don’t play well together.
This means marketers are awash in single-function tools that aren’t actually designed with marketers in mind.
This makes your life more difficult and hurts your results.
So, we’ll walk through examples of leading change to combat it.
Alright, saddle up.
It’s time to convince your boss to say yes every time.
#1: Convince Your Boss To Say Yes Through Loss Aversion
First up, let’s talk opportunity cost.
An opportunity cost is the benefit someone could have gained, but gave up, in favor of another action.
When you choose one action over another, you lose the benefits of the alternative choice.
People fear loss more than they desire benefit. And this greatly influences the way they choose between options (aka: prospects).
This means people will overweigh even the smallest opportunities for loss.
A Nielsen Norman Group article summarizes it like this:
“When choosing among several alternatives, people avoid losses and optimize for sure wins because the pain of losing is greater than the satisfaction of an equivalent gain.”
For example, let’s say you want to adopt a new marketing tool like CoSchedule to replace a less effective one (or even multiple tools).
Because there is a chance the new tool will cost more than it’s worth in hard cash and in lost productivity, your boss may be instantly loss averse.
This will impact her choice between the prospects of “status quo” and “potential loss.”
To capitalize on this understanding, simply structure your ask in two parts:
“If we do [thing you want] it will add [positive value]. If we don’t do [thing you want] it will cost [negative value].”
In this example, your ask might sound like:
“If we [adopt this new tool], it will give us a [55% lift in productivity per team member]. If we don’t [adopt this new tool], we are actually losing [$1,255 per week in lost productivity].”
The idea here is to highlight the gain as specifically as possible.
Then showcase the loss of the alternative option — in this case changing nothing — as specifically as possible.
This way, you can position the facts according to the emotional principles at play.
Make loss aversion your friend and get to yes faster.
#2: Convince Your Boss By Aligning Change With Team Goals
Next, marketers have goals to hit.
In fact, a recent study we conducted found that marketers who set goals are 429% more likely to be successful.
To warm up your boss to a change, use this stat to your advantage.
If you have goals, like driving 1,000 qualified leads every month…
Cash in on alignment theory.
In essence, it posits that the most successful people understand their strengths and then arrange their lives in alignment with them.
This theory works for individuals and is also portable for groups.
Successful organizations tick using this principle. And the power of alignment is possible when strategy, goals, and purpose mutually reinforce one another.
To put it to work with your boss, structure your ask for change like this:
“Our team is trying to achieve [goal]. But we have [failed] for the past [timeframe]. I think the best way we can do this right now is by [thing you want] [based on prior success].”
In keeping with our “1,000 qualified leads” example, the ask might be:
“Our team is trying to achieve [1,000 qualified leads every month]. But we’ve [only reached 70% of that goal] for the [past three months]. I think the best way we can do this right now is by [focusing exclusively on driving traffic] [to our top-performing landing pages].”
The change you’re after is a shifted focus: driving more traffic. However, the goal you’re trying to achieve is the same: 1,000 qualified leads.
It’s also super important to notice the last part of that statement… “based on prior success.”
If your team has had any related successes in the past, highlight them for leverage as proof. In this example, it was top-performing landing pages.
In their fantastic book, Switch, authors Chip and Dan Heath call these prior wins “bright spots.” They’re extremely powerful because they showcase that positive results are possible, because you have achieved them in the past.
You’re team is capable of the results. So, you’re aligning your methods accordingly.
Bonus: This is also a great chance to sharpen your goal-setting strategy if it needs a little work.
#3:Convince Your Boss With A Post-Mortem
Post-mortems sound depressing…
…but can I confess something?
I think they’re awesome.
A post-mortem is an analysis held after any project. Usually, it’s aim is to figure out: “How on earth did things go so wrong?!”
However, I love them because they’re amazing chances to learn. They’re even beneficial to hold on the heels of successful projects.
No matter how well a project has gone, there are always things that can be improved. They promote healthy self-reflection and can benefit your entire team.
In this case, I want you to hold a mini post-mortem with your boss in advance of your ask.
The reason is twofold.
- You can learn why similar changes have failed in the past.
- You can pre-empt legitimate objections your boss will have ahead of time.
Why Have Other Things Failed?
By learning why other initiatives have failed, you can learn what pitfalls to avoid.
For instance, if you’re proposing a move from spreadsheets to CoSchedule — or a similar transition from a clunky way of doing things — how helpful would it be to learn that the last tool transition to be shot down actually had the support of your manager, but got squashed by the CFO?
An easy way to phrase this question is, “When was the last time we wanted to get budget for a new project, idea, or tool in our department?”
If the last attempt failed, you can follow with, “Why do you think it failed? And is there any way it could have been approved?”
If it succeeded, even better! You can ask, “Why was it successful? And how has it panned out?”
Overcoming Legitimate Objections
Next, you can glean what legitimate objections your boss may have to your idea.
Almost every boss I’ve ever had loved to say, “Yes!” to great ideas. But so many of my attempts at leading a new change as the underling failed because I didn’t understand their field of visibility.
Field of visibility means their viewpoint informed by the things they know that I don’t.
Often, it’s the difference between someone standing on a balcony and someone in the crowd below.
Company execs sit in meetings that you don’t.
- They hear forecasts, plans, and upcoming constraints that you don’t.
- They understand organizational dynamics you may have missed.
- They see your team from a broader perspective than you might.
This means understanding their field of visibility is incredibly beneficial.
With an informal post-mortem, you can dig into why a similar change failed.
This will help you position your ask to overcome your boss’s legitimate (or even illegitimate) objections.
Whether it’s data… A project champion up the chain… Or competitive research…
You can gain insight beforehand to have great answers to tough questions.
#4: Convince Your Boss By Asking Big, Then Small
Last, if you’re a marketer, you’ve probably heard of the rule of reciprocity.
Psychologist and mega best-selling author Robert Cialdini explains it in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion like this. He says,
“The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us… [and] by virtue of the reciprocity rule…we are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations, and the like.”
The idea is to do something for someone else before you ask them to do something for you. When you do so, you’re far more likely to get that coveted yes.
But honestly, this principle might be effective, but it’s too manipulative for me to entertain actually doing this.
Call me a boy scout, but that seems like a pretty sketchy move. And worse, an infringement on a healthy relationship.
Now that I’ve taken a stand on my moral high ground, I’ll share with you a version of this rule I’d happily endorse 😎
Cialdini also shares a specific application of this rule called bargaining, saying,
Bargaining “is frequently used in the negotiation process, which involves reciprocal concessions. That is, if Person A rebuffs a large request from Person B, and Person B then concedes by making a smaller request, Person A will feel obligated to reciprocate this concession with a concession of his or her own by agreeing to this lesser plea.”
In 1975, researchers on the Arizona State University campus cracked the code on exactly how this works.
Their experiment was pretty slick.
Half of the students in the test were asked, “Will you chaperone juvenile-detention-center inmates on a day trip to the zoo?”
Only 17% of them said yes.
The other half of the test subjects were asked a leading question first: “Will you volunteer as a juvenile-detention-center counselor for two hours per week for the next two years?”
Everyone said no to the first question.
However, almost 50% said yes to the second question about chaperoning the zoo visit!
The angle for our marketing purposes is pretty obvious.
Construct two versions of your ask.
The first should be your utopian vision for the future. This is a big ask equivalent to the two-year counselorship.
The second is still awesome, but far less involved. It’s on par with chaperoning a day-long zoo trip.
Start big, then go small.
For example, let’s say you want to shift your job responsibilities to focus on something you’re more passionate about.
Today, let’s say you’re a marketing manager.
Your team owns the entire marketing program. But, every day you’re in the weeds.
You’re writing copy for ads… Approving graphics for campaigns… Sitting in back-to-back meetings… Etc.
However, to go to the next level, you need time for strategy, vision, thinking, getting creative, roadmapping new ideas, and other big picture ideas.
Your desired change might be:
“I want one day per week where my schedule is completely blocked off for strategic work.”
First, though, you can put the bargaining principle to work.
So, you can structure your leading question like this:
“I would like to be promoted to marketing director so I can focus on high-level strategy and new initiatives I have ideas for.”
While it might make you a bit nervous to ask for a promotion — your leading ask doesn’t have to be so grandiose.
But it does need to be sufficiently big to put your secondary ask into perspective.
Now It’s Time To Convince Your Boss To Say Yes…
You know have four fresh approaches to convince your boss to say yes to the change you want.
If you’re serious about leading the charge against the poor results caused by makeshift marketing, these strategies are your new best friends.
Plus, I’ve got even more ammo for you to convince your boss to say yes when it comes to CoSchedule…
You’re invited to a personalized demo of CoSchedule.
It’s 30 minutes or less where the agenda is all about you, and finding out what problems CoSchedule may help you fix.
You can have an entirely new mission control system to get total visibility into your marketing.
It will be your version of truth that helps you plan, execute, and promote all of your projects including campaigns, social, email, events, and beyond.
Schedule your demo call right now, and there’s a 99% chance you can chat with someone today!
Now, have fun convincing your boss to say yes every time 👍
May 11, 2018