Every story you tell in business starts with knowing your ask- and there’s a good chance you’re lowballing yourself. I didn’t realize I was until I learned how to be an auctioneer.
As a Communications Coach for nearly 20 years, I’ve helped thousands of entrepreneurs, business leaders and experts build and deliver compelling stories for audiences that matter to their goals. That work always begins with a question: “What are you asking for and how much?”
Too often I don’t get an answer, but instead, I get another question: “Dia, what do you think I can get?”
And, for 20 years I’ve co-conspired with my clients to define and quantify an Ask driven by the question “What do you think we can get a yes to?” Why?
Because “Yes” feels good. “Yes” is safe and guaranteed. “Yes” validates.
But “Yes” leaves money and opportunity on the table. I didn’t see this until I became a hobbyist auctioneer.
In auctioneering we don’t aim to get a “Yes” we aim to get a “No” because a “No” tells us we have met the maximum potential of that Ask. We’ve hit the ceiling. And when we’ve hit the ceiling, we know we’ve left nothing on the table. You can do that in business as well and when you do, you’ll know you’ve left nothing on the table- both business opportunity and money.
Crafting an Ask in such a way that actually threatens getting a “No” is a challenge for us. We get worried that “No” will kill the conversation, that it will stop the negotiation and that it too often means total rejection. But it doesn't have to. We can ask for more and get it if we are willing to make the kinds of Asks that feel bigger, bolder, and more courageous than an Ask that guarantees a “Yes”.
Here’s how: In auctioneering I use 3 key principles that help me be courageous enough to ask in a way that leaves no money or opportunity on the table. These three ideas help me stand tall in my asks and never lowball myself or my client.
1) People are irrational; or their rationale for what they’ll say yes to versus your rationale for what you “think” they’ll say yes to may be really different. So, stop deciding for your audiences what they’ll say “Yes” or “No” to and instead ask and find out. You don’t have to preemptively lowball yourself to guarantee a “Yes”.
2) Know your reserve. If you know what you would say “Yes” or “No” to as a counter-offer to your big Ask, you’re going to be really safe. Because whether its a formal negotiation, a request for PR coverage or an opportunity to step on a larger stage, if you know what your reserve is before you make that ask, you won't be overtaken by the needs, desires and limits of the person, organization or partnership you might be making a request of.
3) Know what you’ll do if you get a no even to your reserve. In my workshops and keynotes, I get this question a lot: “Dia, but what if I get a no?” The answer I always have is: “Great question, what are you going to do if you get a “No”?” Only you can answer that. But having that answer will put you in the most powerful position possible walking into that negotiation. When you have a plan for yourself, you're not going to see that “Ask” as a cul-de-sac or an end-of-the-world situation because you’ll know what to do if your needs aren’t met.
You can ask for more and get it if you’re willing to threaten a “No” and stretch outside the safety of a guaranteed “Yes”. It is a risk; but the upside is you’ll have a more honest approach to what you actually need in the Asks you make in order to move your goals, dreams and strategies forward. Only the most courageous Asks, the ones that get us what we actually need, are the ones that have the power to change everything.
Listen to our Podcast Lead With Who You Are