Get yes! to your request!


CSP–Certified Speaking Professional, World Champion of Public Speaking

Forty percent of people's time at work is engaged in persuading, convincing, and influencing! In a recent workplace study (What Do You Do at Work?) by Qualtrics, people are devoting twenty-four (24) minutes of every hour to moving people. People consider this aspect of their work critical to their professional success (Pink, 2012).

The higher you go in your career, the less you will need your technical skills; the more you will need leadership and influencing skills.

- Bob Darretta, Former Vice Chairman and CFO, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals

I've worked in technology for over seventeen years. There is a belief among technical professionals that technical skills are the elixir of success. It will lead to great success, happiness, and wealth. And there is truth in this statement. The problem is, it's not 100% true. The other day, I heard a technical professional lament, “I'd be much more successful if I didn't have to deal with people.” This thought is naïve; even in this Facebook–LinkedIn–Twitter–Instagram, high-tech, low-touch world you still need to deal with people. Not only do you need to know how to deal with people, you need to now how to influence them. Don't believe me? How is “your way” working for you? Are you as successful, happy, or wealthy?

As a friend of mine often says, “If your approach worked, you'd have the results by now.”

If your approach to influence works, frankly, there is no need to read further. However, if you've tried everything you can and you still don't have the results by now, read on.

By the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Discover the benefits of using influence first and real authority last.
  2. Increase your effectiveness to persuade people to say yes to your every request.
  3. Differentiate the six basic categories of influence—a.k.a. the weapons of influence.
  4. Strengthen your persuasion efforts by using the appropriate weapon of influence to persuade people to say yes to your ideas, suggestions, presentations, and project proposals.
  5. Learn and apply a six-step Influence Without Authority (Cohen & Bradford, 2005) model.
  6. Reduce your frustration associated with influencing others.
  7. Add proven tips, tools, tactics, and strategies to your influence tool kit.
  8. Apply these concepts to an existing (or previous) challenge or project. In other words, you become the case study.
  9. Have lots of fun in this interactive program.

Your Case Study

As we go through these ideas, think of an influence situation, project, or people (past or present) where you did not achieve the desired outcome(s). Write down the name, initials, or code word of this situation, project, or people. Capture ideas, tips, and techniques you want to apply to your case study.

Influence First–Authority Last

I learned this principle as the president of a non-profit organization. Lesson #1–you can't fire volunteers. Unlike Corporate America, where a fired employee is never seen on the premises again, a fired volunteer shows up at the following weekly meeting. And they can make your life a living hell. I had to develop another approach.

I had a vice-president of membership who was not recruiting members. Members are the lifeblood of any organization–especially a non-profit. I decided to invite every board member to lunch, one-on-one. I didn't want to embarrass the vice president of membership, so I met with her third. She is a very popular ice-skating coach. When I arrived at the South Suburban Family Sports Center (Denver area), it was chaos. Everyone wanted her attention: parents, students, professional, and amateur athletes. It took over an hour for us to escape and have lunch.

Below is an abbreviated version of our discussion:

Ed: “Wow! It was crazy back there. You are a rock star!”
VP: “I've been so busy at work. I feel bad that I have not been able to help the club.”
Ed: “I have an idea I want to run past you. We have a new member, Rory, who wants to get involved. On a temporary basis, only until you're not so busy, how about we make him co-vice president of membership. He reports directly to you. What do you think?”
VP: “That sounds like a great idea.”

Did she ever become, “not so busy?” No.

What were the benefits of this approach? She was able to save face. The club was able to fill a role with someone who produced great results.

What did I learn? Use your influence first–authority last. That is, use your creativity to solve a problem. If you do this, maybe you'll never have to use your authority ever!

When I applied this principle at work, influence-first and authority last, I only had to use my real authority a few times. Influence First—Authority Last.

Weapons of Influence

There are thousands of tactics that professionals use to influence us, the majority fall into six basic categories (Cialdini, 2009):

  1. Reciprocation: When someone gives us something, we reciprocate by giving him or her something in return.
  2. Liking: We say yes to people we know and like, and we like those who act as though they like us.
  3. Authority: We look to experts for guidance in making decisions, assuming they have more knowledge and experience than we do.
  4. Social proof: When a situation is uncertain, and when others are similar to us, we find it easiest to do what they do.
  5. Consistency: Once we identify ourselves as a certain type of person or say we are interested in a product, we continue to behave according to that commitment.
  6. Scarcity: When something is in short supply and we have to compete with others for it, we tend to want it more than we would if it were easily available.

Reciprocity is the almost universal belief that people should be paid back for what they do: that one good (or bad) turn deserves another. Ignore the Law of Reciprocity at your peril!

Allen R Cohen and David L. Bradford – Influence Without Authority


A few years ago, while connecting in Chicago's O‘Hare airport, my flight was cancelled. It was the last flight of the evening. The airlines are only obligated to put you on the next flight. In this case, it was the following morning. While standing in the customer service line at United's B concourse, I overheard one of the customer service agents say, “Oh no, Starbucks is about to close. We're going to be here for a while and I really needed a coffee.”

I heard opportunity. Immediately, I made a deal with a guy standing in back of me. I'd buy him whatever beverage he wanted from Starbucks if he kept my place in line. He agreed. I purchased three coffees and got back in line.

As I waited in line, some of the other passengers began to treat the customer service agents rudely. Outwardly, I was appalled. Inwardly, I was cheering. I was not cheering for people to be rude, but I realize, the ruder they were, the more valuable my small gift will be perceived. When it was my turn, I said, “Here you go ladies!” They looked up with big smiles on their faces and said thank you. Then we reached that awkward moment. You know that moment—when they figured out what I was up to. Simultaneously, they said, “What do you want?”

I said, with a big smile, and a playful attitude, “Well, since you asked. I'd like a hotel room; transportation to and from the hotel; a dinner and breakfast coupon; and an upgrade to first class for tomorrow's flight.”

They both started laughing hysterically. Finally, in hushed tones, one of them said to me, “Don't say a word; don't react.” She began typing and then she handed me certificates for the hotel, transportation, food, and an upgraded ticket to first class.

I got everything I asked for. As much as I travel, I can't tell you the number of times that I received a complimentary upgrade–all because of reciprocity. Do I get an upgrade every time? No. But my success rate is above 50%.

In this case, I was also successful because of a concept called “currency.” Being nice is currency. I'll elaborate on the concept of currency in the section on the six-step Influence Without Authority model.


The more we like people, the more we want to suggest to them. One of my favorite celebrities is Taylor Swift. I can't say I'm a fan of her music. I am a fan of the person. I saw an interview of her and it revealed how she was involved in many charitable causes. I felt that she was, perhaps, the most authentic celebrity I had experienced in a while. She had high likability and I was instant fan.

There are five factors to liking:

  1. Physical attractiveness. People who are physically attractive have something called “halo effect.” Research shows that attractive people get yes answers to their requests. Dress 10% better than you expect your client/customer/peer or boss (Hogan, 2011).
  2. Similarity. We like people who are like us, and we are more willing to say yes to their requests, often without thinking about it.
  3. Praise. We tend to believe compliments and the people who provided them.
  4. Familiarity. Repeated contact with a person or thing.
  5. Association. Advertisers associate their products with positive people, causes, or things. For example, the retired basketball great Michael Jordan's association with Nike gym shoes.


We look to experts to show us the way. We tend to follow people in authoritative roles, titles, or clothing: police officers, doctors, judges, etc.

Social proof

We look to what others do to guide our behavior. How many of you have an iPhone? How many of you own Samsung products? How many of you own another brand? The vast majority of people in the United States own either an iPhone or a Samsung cell phone.


We want to act consistently with our commitments and values. If someone has said no in the past, it will be difficult for him or her to say yes in the future because of consistency. There are two ways to overcome this objection:

  1. Focus on regret (Hogan, 2011). If you can get them to call upon the best, under similar circumstances where they said no and they regretted their decision.
  2. See themselves in the future (Hogan, 2011). Asking the person you're seeking help from, to see themselves in the future and imagine what it would be like is a powerful technique for increasing compliance and gaining agreement. This is how life insurance is sold. The prospective customer is asked how it would feel if the breadwinner suddenly died and left the spouse with no money to pay the bills or put their kids through college. In the PMI world, you would ask, “How would it feel to be part of team that pulled this project off? Heroes will be made when this project done.”


The less available a resource is, the more we want it. We see this on advertisements all the time. For example, Disney will release “The Lion King” for a limited amount of time and then it goes back into the vault forever. You can use the same approach to influence others. Point out that this project is a once in a career project. The people who make this happen will accelerate their careers. Point out that this is not your typical PMI project.

Influence Without Authority Model (Cohen & Bradford, 2005)

  1. Assume All Are Potential Allies: Assume all people in your project are allies and not enemies. This change in mindset opens you up to new possibilities.
  2. Clarify Your Goals: Separate your primary and secondary goals. Once, while traveling on an 18-hour international flight, my laptop was running out of power. I thought my primary goal was to be upgraded from coach to business class. This was actually my secondary goal. My primary goal was to get electricity for my laptop. Once I got clear about my primary goal, I was able to solve problem. My laptop got upgraded to business class, while I waited in coach. And I was able to complete my project on time.
  3. Diagnose the World of the Other Person: In the United States, there is a chain of nutrition stores called GNC–General Nutrition Centers. When it comes to diagnosing the world of others, there is also a GNC: what are the other person's goals, needs, and concerns. In other words, what's in it for them to cooperate with you?
  4. Identify Relevant Currencies (Theirs & Yours): Currencies are what you have to trade. In the reciprocity example, being nice was a currency for me. Take the time to identify their currencies (what they have of value to trade) and your currencies (what you have of value to trade). Currencies are unique to every situation. The point is for you to sit down and process the questions, “what currencies do they have that I want?” and “what do I have that they might want?”
  5. Dealing with Relationships: People are different. This is not a revelation; however, you need to recognize your behavioral style. That is, are you an analyzer, a driver, a socializer, or an influencer? How do people want to be related to? The point is this: you must communicate with that person in their style, not yours! For example, if your behavioral style is an analyst, you have a tendency to be methodical and task oriented. Conversely, your opposite is an influencer–they are fast-paced and people oriented. You must pick up the pace from your methodical style and find a way to present your case in a more compelling and entertaining style. The opposite is true for the influencer trying to persuade an analyst. The influencer must slow down and make it logical. Additionally, what is status of your relationship? Is it positive, negative, or neutral? Depending upon the status, you'll have to create a strategy for each one of these.
  6. Influence Through Give and Take (Trade and Exchange): Here is where you put together your approach. Basically, come up with multiple approaches. That is, what does the conversation look like? What will be the give-and-take, bargaining/negotiating?

Your Case Study Revisited

Your case study exercise: Returning to your previous case study, answer the following questions:

  1. Who are your Potential Allies?
  2. What are your specific Goals/Result(s)?
  3. What are their GNCs: Goals, Needs, and Concerns?
  4. Currencies? Theirs? Yours?
  5. Relationship Status? Plus (+), Minus (–) or Neutral (0)?
  6. Approach? What will be your approach(es)?

These are just a few of the strategies and techniques that will be covered in this course. I hope you find them useful.

Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science & practice (5th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education.

Cohen, A. R, & Bradford, D. L. (2005). Influence without authority. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Hogan, K. (2011). The science of influence: How to get anyone to say yes in 8 minutes or less! (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Pink, D. H. (2012). To sell is human: The surprising truth about moving others. New York, NY: Penguin.

© 2015, Get Yes! To Your Request – Ed Tate, CSP, WCPS
Originally published as a part of the 2015 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Orlando, Florida, USA



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