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[SDS] On seeking permission...

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“This is going to sting. Are you ready?”

Visit a doctor with decent bedside manner and you’ll witness the power of permission. You see, a good doctor will tell you what they’re going to do, then get your permission before doing it.

There’s a history of skin cancer on my dad’s side of the family, and I was recently diagnosed with a harmless pre-cancer that needs to be treated. The dermatologist knew that it’s a social no-no to touch someone’s face, even in the context of the doctor’s office. I mean, let’s be honest, she implicitly has my permission to do her job as soon as I set foot in her office.

“May I touch your cheek?”

Of course. And even if she didn’t ask I would let her. The difference is that I’d feel differently about her and the experience when I walked out of the office.

There’s something important about seeking permission. Permission or not, she’d just be doing her job as a dermatologist. But “doing her job” feels like something undertakers or prison guards do, not doctors.

And if you’re wrapped up in “doing your job” without regard to how you’re making other people feel, I have some news for you: you’re not as effective as you could be. I’m not arguing that you should have so much empathy that it dominates every decision you make and distracts from doing your job. There’s a balance there. But here’s what I know…

People want to feel valued and understood, and they want control in their lives.

But there’s something more basic going on here.

When you ask for and receive permission from someone, they can either comply with your request or not. If they do comply, they’ve acted consistently with a commitment they’ve made.

For example, ask a question like this one, and surely your client will say yes and then answer you:

“Is it okay if I ask some questions about the lifetime value of your clients so I can get a sense of the impact our work might have for you?”

Asking for and receiving permission in this case means your client will want to act consistently with their commitment. It works like this:

But it’s more than that. It’s considerate, and puts them in the driver’s seat. Think of this way: they’re driving, and you’re the navigator. You can tell them where to go, but it’s up to them if they go and how fast.

Some fantastic uses of permission come in:

  • Setting and establishing call agendas
  • Asking tough questions about a client’s business
  • Asking for a decision to move forward in the sale
  • Involving additional decision makers in the process
  • Getting introductions, referrals, or other valuable networking opportunities
  • And more…

Now a question for you:

Are you asking for permission from prospects and clients? If so, what are you asking permission for?