You Only Had To Ask

Sales and Marketing

signing sales books with manchester river behind geoff

Now here is a simple persuasion technique that, if you can turn it into a habit, can be literally life-changing. But first, a story. When I speak to a room full of business start-ups and budding entrepreneurs, I pride myself that I can intuitively sort the winners from the duds. As I go around the room, I sort them in my head.

“Terry, what’s your idea?”


“Doomed!” (Not out loud, of course)





“A tea shop.”

“Don’t tell me, you are going to call it The Mad Hatter!”

“How did you guess?”

“Oh, I don’t know, just a funny feeling” (and then in my head) “Doomed”.

Then I came to a woman who was a cake modeller. She could make and ice cakes in any shape for any occasion. The cakes were brilliant, she was brilliant – what a talent. In that room that day she was the one that I would have picked out to succeed. So imagine my chagrin and surprise when, in just a few months’ time, I found her working at the checkout of our local supermarket.

“What happened to the cake business?” I asked.

“Oh, it was a disaster. I got all them moulds and equipment, then nobody bought them” she replied sadly.

I couldn’t understand what had happened. The cakes were wonderful. Why did no one buy them? Then like a bolt from the blue, I realized what she meant. She meant that no one had clambered over the abandoned car in her garden, fought off her savage dog, found her kitchen door, and then asked, “Ere, you don’t make cakes, do you?”

No one bought them – she had never tried to actually get out there and sell them.

When I had received and digested this revelation, I grabbed her arm and hustled her out into the street, doing the Beauty and the Beast thing of ‘the first person I see I will persuade’.

Disappointingly, round the corner, came a small strange rotund elderly lady, laden down with shopping.

“Do you know anyone who is having a birthday soon?” I asked her.

Her face lit up.

“Oh yes!  My little nephew Terry.  He’s going to be ten!  He’s a little tinker, into everything – drives his dad mad.”

“Ooh, can you imagine what he would make of a cake shaped like a shark, with great big teeth and a diver clamped in its jaws!  Blood coloured icing everywhere – oh and we could make the diver look like his dad!”

“He’d love that. How much are they?”

“Twenty five quid.”

“That’s a bit much and it ain’t his birthday for a couple of weeks.”

“Well it takes a while to make ‘em, but look, you only have to give us a fiver deposit and then it’ll just be twenty quid – and we deliver it!  Go on!  You know he’ll love it.”

Sold to the first person we met. Just look at your streets, thousands upon thousands of people, all itching to grant you your dearest wish.  Maybe not one in one, not even one in ten or one in a hundred, but enough out there to keep you rich and busy forever. The secret?  Just ASK!  It can change your life. The thing is, we don’t ask. In the takeaway, give a big sunny smile to the kid in the paper hat and say, “Give me a few extra fries, please?”

At the Carvery, a smile and a little twitch of the eyebrow, “A bit more meat, please?”

At the theatre, in the cheap seats, “I notice now the show has started, the front stalls are not full. May I move down there please?”

Just see the things you would like and politely ask for them.

“I notice you have a lot of unpicked fruit on your tree. I love apples – do you mind if I harvest them?”

Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen? You get told “no”.  So what. If you always ask at the airline check in desk for a free upgrade, they say no nearly every time, but nearly isn’t always, is it? I horribly embarrassed my wife in a very up market jewellers when I asked for a discount. The poker straight assistant paused, winced at the word ‘discount’ but then said, “My manager will allow an adjustment!

Maybe no discount, but a fifteen percent adjustment felt just as good.


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