Many of us know that you don’t get what you don’t ASK for, but ASKing for what you need or want can be challenging. You worry about what the other person will think, if they’ll say NO, and then how to handle the rejection. Learn how to make an offer.
Part of the reason it’s a challenge for many of us is because we view ASKing as a win-lose situation.
If we ASK for X, then the person we’re asking has to give up X. Or, put more concretely, if I ask my boss for time off that is time I am not working, not producing for the company.
However, that’s a very one-sided view of the outcome, and it’s what holds many of us back from even stepping up to ask.
If we take a closer look at the same ask we realize there is a positive outcome: I’m taking time off to get some R&R and come back refreshed and more productive than before.
But when we crafted the original ASK we did in such a way that appeared as it was mainly meant to benefit us, thereby creating the win-lose situation.
To avoid creating the win-lose situation, we need to reframe the ASK as an OFFER.
How to craft an ASK as an OFFER
When making an offer, we need to clearly state how the other person is going to benefit from our ask, and that benefit needs to be experienced in the future. Make an offer with confidence.
Let’s break down this example offer:
“Hi Person A, over the past quarter, I’ve reduced the bug count by 50%, which has made the company $100K. Clearly, my work has benefited the company, and I’m now here to ASK for a $10K raise.”
The problem with this offer is that you have no leverage. It’s based on a benefit that the person we’re asking has already experienced. They have no incentive to give you want you what you want.
The reason many of us do this is because we feel like our past performance serves as justification for why we’re asking in the first place. It also provides us with the confidence we need to step up and ask.
However, this is a variation of the win-lose situation. In this variation, we’re emphasizing that someone else has already won, so it’s OK for us to step up and ask. But, to the person on the receiving end of the ask, we’ve made it seem like we’ve been losing, and they’re left thinking, “You’re supposed to be doing your job!”
While it’s OK to provide context for the ask to show how you’ve benefited them in the past and that benefit needs to be clear causation, not correlation, your offer needs to give them a concrete incentive they’ll experience in the future.
Of course the incentive being in the future may cause the person on the receiving end to want to delay the action. So the final piece of the offer needs to be highlighting the cost of inaction: what are the challenges they will continue to face or the benefits they may not experience if they delay or are indecisive about accepting your offer.
Let’s revisit the previous example and rephrase it as an offer:
“Hi Person A, as you know I’ve been implementing a new process over the past quarter to improve our existing code base. I recently measured its progress and noticed that it’s reduced the bug count by 50%.
I also spoke to Person B in sales, who told me that customers who were originally on the fence about renewing their subscription to our product, were thrilled with the quality improvements, and have gone on to renew their subscriptions. This has resulted in $100K in sales.
Now I’m here to ASK for two things. I’d like to be promoted to team lead to continue to lead this effort. As part of that promotion, I’m requesting a $20K raise, which as I understand is a standard raise for moving up from individual contributor to a team lead position.
The second ask is a $2K education budget. I learned how to improve the process through a course I took, and there is an advanced course I’d like to take that costs $2K. The advanced course will teach me a process for how to scale our code base, which will enable us to service more customers going forward.
Given that the previous improvements have increased renewals, I’m certain we’ll continue to see renewals go up in the next couple months. But if they do, I’m concerned that we’ll run into a scaling issue. I’ve pulled up some stats [show a graph of performance] and here you can see for yourself how our performance has gone down with the increased customers.
Right now our customers experience a minor slow down, but as we grow, our product will not be able to support the additional customers. So I’m sure you can understand why we’re going to need to scale the code base before the next quarter. If we put it off, then we’ll lose the renewals we’ve gained.”
You might think this is cheesy and be able to poke some holes in it, but I’ve mentored someone, who presented a very similar offer, and ended up getting a $15K raise and the $2K education budget!
Handle objections before they turn into rejections
There is no guarantee that if you craft your ask as an offer, you’ll get it. It’s very likely that you’ll still receive a rejection. One way to head avoid an outright rejection after you craft your offer is to ask if there are any objections to the offer. By saying something like: “Do you have any questions or concerns with my request?”
If they don’t, it’s good to follow up by asking if they are the final decision maker and if the foresee anyone else having an issue with it, “And do you think anyone else in the department will have an issue with it?”
Finally, attach a deadline to make sure it happens, otherwise, it’s just a floating ask. And make sure there wouldn’t be a cause for a delay, “Great to hear that we can move forward. Can we have it done by X date? Do you foresee any delays with it?”
Let’s recap, to go from making an ASK to making an OFFER you need to do the following:
- Set the context to provide you the confidence you need to ASK. What did you do and what were the positive results?
- Make sure the benefits highlighted were a clear causation of your actions. In the above example, the customers renewed because of the improvements, it was a direct benefit, it wasn’t correlated.
- Present your ASK and OFFER together. The ASK can be a benefit to you, but the offer needs to highlight how the person you’re asking is going to benefit. Most importantly it needs to be obvious! The reason it needs to be obvious is not just so they get it, but because they might go and share it with their boss or other people who are involved in the decision-making process. To avoid the offer from getting muddled as it’s repeated to others it needs to be presented clearly!
- Include the cost of inaction. This is really the step that seals the deal. In the above example, the person asking talked about what will happen if the company fails to scale the code base: they’ll lose renewals! By presenting it in this way, the person who is hearing the offer will understand the problem they’re going to experience if they say no or wait.
- Address any objections they might have to avoid a rejection. If need be, draw them out, and make sure they aren’t just feigning reasons. If they aren’t the final decision maker, make sure you address objections others may bring up.
- Set a doable deadline so you get your ASK!
Now it’s time for you to summon your best Marlon Brando, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” But unlike the Godfather, I’m NOT suggesting you make threats. Instead, think about something you’ve been wanting to ASK for. What is it? Phrase the ASK as an OFFER, using the steps above.
If you’ve already made a successful offer, what was it, and what are some additional strategies you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below!