From No to Yes: Persuading Clients with the 3Ps Method

The following is an adaptation from the recent book Small actions: lead your career to great successby Eric Sim, CFA, and Simon Mortlock.

Nobody likes rejection. That’s why, over the years, I’ve developed a three-step process for turning hopeless situations into hopeful ones. I call it the 3Ps approach:

  1. Perseverance
  2. perspective
  3. The positivity

Let me give you some examples of how to put the 3Ps into action.

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Departure at 7 pm

Getting a table on a weekend at some of Hong Kong’s most popular restaurants can feel, with only a slight exaggeration, like winning the lottery. But hope springs eternal, and like all those people who patiently line up at lottery counters hoping to buy the winning ticket, I can’t help but try my luck at my favorite Italian restaurant chain. Their thin crust pizzas and garlic and oil the pasta is so irresistible. My family loves Sunday dinner at the busy Kennedy Town branch. Of course, we usually make urgent decisions to go there, and it is almost 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!” answered a woman with a cheerful voice.

“Do you have a table for four tonight?” I asked hopefully.

“No, sir, we are completely,” she replied with a hint of regret.

“How about 6pm?” I countered.

“Sir, we are completely reserved,” he repeated, probably thinking, “What part of ‘complete’ don’t you understand, sir?”

But I was not deterred. “What if we leave at 7pm?” I asked

There was a short pause on the other end of the line. “Let me check,” he said. A few seconds later, she replied, “Yes, sir, we have a table.”

I used the 3Ps to change my mind. Here’s how it works:

Perseverance: Show your effort

I didn’t hang up after she said “full”. Instead, I made a counterproposal. When I suggested leaving the restaurant early, I showed him that I could be flexible about the timings.

Perspective: Understanding the other person’s priority

The restaurant employee’s main concern was not meeting my needs; he made sure customers who had reservations were seated at their assigned time. He didn’t care if I wanted a table to celebrate my son’s birthday or my boss’s resignation. Getting angry, saying how much business she had given the restaurant, or threatening to never come back, they weren’t going to work with her. Instead, I helped her do her job by offering her the restaurant hostess equivalent of a financial options trade. I gave him a contract stating his right (but not the obligation) to chase me at 7pm.

But on that Sunday night, I wasn’t scared: the restaurant had enough space, so the option holder didn’t have to exercise his option.

The positivity

Call me an eternal optimist, but I always hope that I can turn a situation from unfavorable to favorable. Many people would have given up on “we’re done”. not me I looked for a compromise that was a win-win solution for both parties. The restaurant is rarely full in the early evening, so I helped him use his resources more efficiently.

Relationship alpha box

can i pass

The ability to change a “no” to a “yes” is even more important in our careers.

When I was working for a bank, a corporate client based in Taipei took out a renminbi (RMB) construction loan to build an office tower in Shanghai. It was a 10-year loan, and my colleague in the lending department priced it accordingly, using the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) five-year-plus rate, which was then 5.94%

In the world of finance, it 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 extended continuously until the loan was paid off at the end of the 10 years. This shorter loan period had a much lower interest rate of 4.86%.

My partner came to me for advice on how to resurrect the deal. I suggested a US dollar (USD) loan as well as a currency hedge between USD and RMB to create a synthetic RMB loan with a total interest rate of 4.5%. It was cheaper than the other bank’s offer, but it was still a 10-year loan. We proposed our solution to the client’s finance team. They liked it and pitched 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 he could not accept our proposal. Their CFO had already verbally committed to the other bank before hearing our innovative offer. We were devastated. I couldn’t understand why the client had opted for our competitor’s more expensive solution, so I asked if I could “drop in” to a coffee meeting in Taipei.

Over our lattes, I explained that under mainland regulations, banks in China were not allowed to price a long-term construction loan using the six-month PBOC lending rate. If the “creative” bank had problems with the regulator, its customers could be affected. The CFO of the client’s company took what I said very seriously. I left the meeting and returned to Hong Kong the same afternoon. The next day, the client called to say we had won the deal. Again, the 3Ps worked.

Confidence study sheet

Perseverance: Show your effort

I continued to engage with the client even after they rejected our solution.

Perspective: understand the person’s priority

There were two possible “no’s” here. First, the client could have refused to attend the face-to-face meeting. If I had emphasized that the business trip was just to see them, they might have declined the meeting. Doing so could have forced them to reverse their decision.

But when I asked, “Can I stop by?” they didn’t feel so pressured. I gave them the option to say they would not change the loan decision. This brings me to the second potential “no”. During the meeting I learned that the CFO would lose face if he withdrew his engagement with the other bank without justification. A better offer was not enough. But highlighting the risk of compliance with the competing proposal, I gave him a way out. A potentially incompatible funding structure was not a risk worth taking.

Journal of financial analysts Current number mosaic

The positivity

Despite having the door slammed shut after our competitor won the loan mandate, I still made the trip to Taipei and held out hope that we could make a deal.

This is the lesson of the 3Ps. Throughout our lives we receive more rejections than approvals. People will say “no” to us more than they will say “yes”.

But to achieve great things, the 3P method can help you convince others, turn nos into yeses, and reject rejection.

For more career and personal development advice, see Small Actions: Leading Your Career to great success, by Eric Sim, CFA, and his co-author Simon Mortlock.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. Therefore, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the views expressed necessarily reflect the views of the CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Image credit: ©Getty Images/zhihao

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Eric Sim, CFA

A key opinion leader at LinkedIn, Eric Sim, CFA, is the author of the book Small actions: lead your career to great success. He founded the Institute of Life with the mission of training young professionals to be successful at work and in life. Previously, while in Hong Kong, Sim served as a managing director at UBS Investment Bank and an adjunct associate professor of finance at HKUST. Check out his visual resume and notable mistakes here.

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