It’s when you say it

I’m about to walk into a store, when someone on the street calls to me.

“Would you consider giving me some change on the way out?”

Uncertain what to say – I mean, who really asks this when you’re walking in? – I uneasily reply “Uh…sure.” After all, I’m making my way into the store, and I just want to get in there. I say whatever I need to say. Of course, when I walk out and he asks about that change. The brilliance of his ploy unfolds. Now I’m committed. Indeed, I gave him the change.

Now any big-city dweller will tell you that after some amount of time, it becomes pretty easy to avoid doling out your change when you’re not up for it. It’s just a byproduct of constant exposure. You get used to saying “No.” But this guy did something smart. He asked me when my guard was down. And he didn’t ask for the change. He asked if I’d consider it. Smart. If it weren’t for the fact I had no idea where to find him, I’d consider hiring him.

His tactic? Commitment. People don’t tend to back down on things they agree to. We like to think of ourselves as consistent, and we like to honor our word. The trick is in getting the agreement.

Now, I’m no fan of manipulation. And the reality is that I use very few commitment techniques when I speak with my clients. Sales should be about genuine connections. But if you are trying to help in earnest, you’re going to have to ask questions. And you’re going to need things confirmed. And the last thing you want to do is ask an honest question and come off like a salesman. If you are, look to timing and scale. How much are you asking people to commit to and when? As long as you do keep it sincere, I say go at it. Just be sure that you don’t ask your clients if they have some change.

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