A streetfighter's guide to getting what you want

Getting what you want requires that you to have the ability to convince someone that the value of your idea, product or service is worthy of their commitment. The communication process that you use to get a commitment is basically the same regardless of application: negotiating important concessions from suppliers, getting new clients to become members of your barter company, getting your members to spend more of their barter dollars or expanding services from existing ones, or even getting your spouse to agree to watch a certain TV show. It boils down to one idea that most people know but have forgotten:

The person asking the questions is in control of the conversation and you have to be in control of the conversation before you can get what you want.

Most people have a tendency to talk too much and listen too little. Yet, by reversing this common practice you have a great advantage in any conversation that allows you to discover what it's going to take to get that person to agree with your point of view. To illustrate, consider the very unhappy experience I had while shopping for a new car. The odd thing was that after the experience I discovered I was not alone. At the time, I was driving a big luxury car and thought it was time to buy a sports car. A close friend had a very nice sports car and let me drive it a couple times. I soon decided that the one thing I wanted most out of life was to drive fast and look cool.

I started shopping around at a number of dealerships and every time the same thing happened. Some guy in a plaid, polyester sport coat comes out, shakes my hand, pops the hood on the car to show me the engine and then starts talking about how much money he can save me. There I am, staring underneath the hoods of these cars. I have no idea how an engine works. I look at all these tubes, wires, fans and belts and it means absolutely nothing to me. The salesman is going on and on about cams, liters and ratios and this and that. I have no idea what he is talking about. All I want is to drive fast and look cool.

Finally, at one of the places I went a salesman came out while I was looking over a particular car. It was hot. But what captured my attention was that he did not pop the hood. Instead, he asked me a question. "I see you're interested in one of our most popular cars. Let me ask you, what is it about this car that grabbed your attention?"

He was showing interest in me. I got a little excited and responded, "My buddy has one very similar to this and he let me drive it. I couldn't believe how fast it was and how well it handled.

"You like to drive fast"

"Oh yea."

"I had this one out the other day and cranked it up to 110!"


"And then I shifted into second!"


"Not only that, whenever I took the car out, everybody thought I was cool."

I'll take it!"

He had me. I sold me what I wanted. He found out my hot buttons. I looked at numerous comparable cars for weeks, but no one offered the solution to my problem; drive fast and look like a big shot. Even so, he would not sell me that car. I could not believe it. Instead, he comes back with, "Listen. You do not want this car and I will tell you why. For $3000 more I can get you a sticker on the back that says 'turbo'."

"What does it do?"

"I don't really know, but you can drive faster and you'll look cooler!"

"I'll take it!"

And he was absolutely right. Everywhere I went people noticed the little turbo sticker. I thought turbo was a type of fish. I did not know. Nevertheless, he knew what I wanted to buy and sold it to me and I felt great about the decision. I knew that this car, with turbo, was what I really wanted all along.

Asking questions, not pitching or selling features, is the way to uncover real needs and problems, which in turn allows you to offer your solution and get the commitment to either join your barter company or spend their barter dollars.

Staying In Control with the Echo.

One way to stay in control of the conversation and, at the same time, gain a lot of valuable information is to use a technique called the "echo". We first learned this from Bill Bishop a number of years ago and it really works great. The idea originally came from psychotherapists. If you have ever been to one you may have noticed that they always answer a question with a question.

"Well Doc, do you think I'm crazy?"

"Well, Jeff, do you think you're crazy?"

This always drove me up a wall, which is probably good for their business. At any rate, this approach keeps them in control and more importantly, they want you to come up with your own solution. If it is your idea, you are more likely to buy into it.

The same applies in sales. Here is how the echo works. You take the last few words of your prospect's comments and echo it back in the form of a question so it may sound something like this:

"The problem I have is that I'm not sure how this applies to our situation."

"Your situation?"

"Yea, you know with the merger going on."

"The merger?"

"Yea. It's a real mess. This company from overseas is making an offer on the company and we really don't know where we stand."

"Where you stand?"

"Well, they may want to cut some of the sales force to reduce overhead."

This is a great way to extract information without having to do too much thinking. It gives you the opportunity to figure out the best way to handle the prospect. This is a great way to get information about your members so you can offer products and services you know they need.

When Bill first told me this technique, I was excited. I was flying back to Columbus, Ohio from Orlando and thought that a perfect time to try it out was when my girlfriend, who later became my wife, picked me up at the airport. She always complained that I did not pay too much attention to her, which was pretty much on target, so, I thought this might just help turn things around. I get in the car. Instead of staring off into space, as I usually did when I returned from a trip, I turned to her and lead off with a question, "How was work today?"

She was excited. I am paying attention to her and her eyes lit up. "Work was really crazy today. They sent this guy in from the corporate office to do a quarterly report."

"Quarterly report?"

"Yea. They send someone in every three months or so to make sure we're on target and going to hit our projections."


"Oh yea. See, last year we were down quite a bit and our quota is to increase the quarter at least 12 percent."

"Twelve percent?"

"At least! If we do, the entire department gets a big bonus!"

"Big bonus?"

"They are going to send us on a trip!"


I kept her going for 35 minutes on the way home from the airport. I did not say more than 25 words. I knew everything about her life and she very little about mine . . . which was pretty much what I wanted. My echo technique worked. She thought I was the warmest, most sensitive, caring individual in the world. One year later, I closed that sale! Then about a year after that, we had a little spin-off business. About two years ago, I got some repeat spin-off business.

As you begin to use it, you will get a little more comfortable with it. Be warned, however, that if you echo too much some people start to catch on. After about five or six echoes they will look at you with a funny look on their face and say, "What are you . . . an echo?"

Therefore, you might want to alternate it a little using a few other approaches. One that works very much the same way is simply called, "oh?" No matter what the prospect tells you, respond with "oh?" and they come back with more details. You can keep them going for hours if you want. So, the next time you find that you're not getting your point across, ask more questions and listen to what the other person is saying.