From No to Yes: Persuading Clients with the 3Ps Method
The following is adapted from the recent book Small Actions: Leading Your Career to Big Success, by Eric Sim, CFA, and Simon Mortlock.
Nobody likes rejection. Which is why, over the years, I’ve developed a three-step process to transform situations from hopeless to hopeful. I call it the 3Ps approach:
Let me give you some examples of how to put the 3Ps into action.
Leaving by 7 pm
Getting a table on a weekend at some of Hong Kong’s most popular restaurants can feel, with only mild exaggeration, like winning the lottery. But hope springs eternal, and like all those people who patiently queue up at lottery counters hoping to buy the winning ticket, I can’t help but try my luck at my favorite Italian restaurant chain. Its thin-crust pizzas and aglio e olio pasta are just that irresistible. My family loves to have Sunday dinner at the busy Kennedy Town branch. Of course, we usually make spur-of-the-moment decisions to go, and it’s all but impossible to reserve a table on the same day. But that’s where the 3Ps came in.
One Sunday afternoon, I called the restaurant.
“Good afternoon!” a woman with a cheerful voice answered.
“Do you have a table for four tonight?” I asked hopefully.
“No sir, we’re fully booked,” she replied with a tinge of regret.
“How about at 6 pm?” I countered.
“Sir, we’re fully booked,” she repeated, probably thinking, “Which part of ‘fully booked’ do you not understand, sir?”
But I wasn’t deterred. “What if we leave by 7 pm?” I asked.
There was a slight pause on the other end of the line. “Let me check,” she said. A few seconds later, she replied, “Yes sir, we have a table.”
I used the 3Ps to change her mind. Here’s how it works:
Perseverance: Show Your Effort
I didn’t hang up after she said “fully booked.” Instead, I came up with a counter proposal. When I suggested leaving the restaurant early, I showed her I could be flexible on timing.
Perspective: Understand the Other Person’s Priority
The restaurant employee’s main concern wasn’t catering to my needs; it was ensuring that customers who had reservations were seated by the allotted time. She didn’t care whether I wanted a table to celebrate my child’s birthday or my boss’s resignation. Getting angry, saying how much business I’d given the restaurant, or threatening never to go there again weren’t going to work with her. Instead, I helped her do her job by offering her the restaurant hostess equivalent of an options trade in finance. I gave her a contract establishing her right (but not obligation) to chase me out at 7 pm.
But that Sunday night, I wasn’t shooed away: The restaurant had enough room, so the option holder didn’t need to exercise her option.
Call me an eternal optimist, but I always hope I can flip a situation from unfavorable to favorable. Many people would have given up at “we’re fully booked.” Not me. I sought a compromise that was a win–win solution for both sides. The restaurant is rarely full during the early evening, so I helped it use its resources more efficiently.
Can I Drop By?
The ability to change a “no” to a “yes” is even more critical in our careers.
When I was working for a bank, a corporate client based in Taipei asked for a renminbi (RMB) construction loan to build an office tower in Shanghai. This was a 10-year loan, and my colleague from the loans department priced it accordingly, using the People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC’s) five-year or longer rate, which was then 5.94%.
In the cutthroat world of finance, that wasn’t enough. Another bank offered the client a more “creative” loan structure. Instead of the standard 10-year loan, the bank proposed a six-month arrangement that would be continually extended until the loan was paid off at the end of 10 years. This shorter loan period had a much lower interest rate of 4.86%.
My colleague came to me for advice on how to resurrect the deal. I suggested a loan in US dollars (USD) as well as a USD–RMB currency hedge to create a synthetic RMB loan with an all-in interest rate of 4.5%. It was cheaper than the other bank’s offer but was still a 10-year loan. We proposed our solution to the client’s finance team. They liked it and submitted the idea to their CFO. The feedback was positive.
I had saved the deal! Or so I thought.
A week later, the client told us that they couldn’t accept our proposal. Their CFO had already verbally committed to the other bank before he heard our innovative offer. We were devastated. I couldn’t understand why the client had gone with our competitor’s pricier solution, so I asked if I could “drop by” for a coffee meeting in Taipei.
Over our lattes, I explained that under Mainland regulations, banks in China weren’t allowed to price a long-term construction loan using the six-month PBOC lending rate. Should the “creative” bank run into trouble with the regulator, its clients could be impacted. The finance manager from the client firm took what I said to heart. I left the meeting and flew back to Hong Kong the same afternoon. The next day, the client called to say we’d won the deal. Again, the 3Ps worked.
Perseverance: Show Your Effort
I continued to engage with the client even after they turned down our solution.
Perspective: Understand the Person’s Priority
There were two potential “no’s” here. First, the client could have refused to take the face-to-face meeting. Had I stressed the business trip was just to see them, they might have turned down the meeting. Taking it might have made them feel obligated to reverse their decision.
But when I asked, “Can I drop by?” they didn’t feel as pressured. I gave them the option to say they weren’t going to change their loan decision. This brings me to the second potential “no.” I found out during the meeting that the CFO would lose face if he withdrew his commitment to the other bank without justification. A better offer was not enough. But by highlighting the compliance risk of the competing proposal, I gave him a way out. A potentially noncompliant financing structure wasn’t a risk worth taking.
Despite having the door slammed shut after our competitor won the loan mandate, I still made the trip to Taipei and remained hopeful I could do a deal.
That’s the lesson of the 3Ps. We receive more rejections than approvals during our lives. People will say “no” to us more than they say “yes.”
But to achieve big things, the 3Ps method can help to persuade others, turn no’s to yeses, and reject rejection.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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