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How to Get Your Prospect on the “Yes” Ladder (and Make the Sale)

yes ladder - microcommitmentsPeople often follow predictable patterns.

If you understand these patterns, you can use them to your advantage when it comes to selling.

As Robert Cialdini notes in Influence: The Psychology for Persuasion, “…automatic, stereotyped behavior is prevalent in much of human action…”

One of Cialdini’s six key principles of persuasion is “commitment and consistency.”

It basically states that we are driven to remain consistent in our attitudes, words, and actions. So, as we make multiple small commitments (sometimes referred to as micro-commitments), we’re more likely to make a larger commitment later on – one which we may not have originally made.

You can definitely use this principle to increase your sales success.

The way to build this commitment and consistency is through the “Yes” ladder.

The “Yes” ladder is a series of “yes” questions that build up to your product, service, or offer.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Research in Marketing showed that “the frequency of people’s compliance with a request can be substantially increased if the requester first gets them to agree with a series of statements unrelated to the request but selected to induce agreement.”

One of my long-time friends runs an outbound marketing office. His team goes door-to-door, marketing free estimates on windows and roofing. They use the “yes” ladder every day.

Once they say their pitch, they immediately break out their notepads and start collecting information to get prospects on the “YES” ladder:

“This is 116 Main Street, right?”


“Cool. And we’re still in Dorchester?


“Awesome. And you’d probably say you’ve got about 15-20 windows on this house, is that right?”


*It goes on for a few more easy “Yes” questions*

“Okay. And your phone number, is that a 978?

“Yes, 978-555-6652.”

“Okay great. Like I said, we’ll have guys in the area all day tomorrow giving free estimates. You’ll be here around the same time tomorrow, or some time later in the day work better?”

“Yes, tomorrow around this time works.”

That’s a little snapshot of how the “Yes” ladder works. Now let’s break it down so you can put it into action for your company.

Step 1: Identify the “Big YES”

This may be getting the prospect to purchase something. Or receive an estimate. Or it may be getting them to schedule an appointment in the near future. Whatever it is, make sure you identify your ultimate goal from the outset. That way you can…

Step 2: Build Your Ladder

Once you know your “Big YES”, you can work backward to achieve it and start building the rungs of the ladder. From the earlier example, the “big yes” for the door-to-door marketers was to get the prospect to schedule a free estimate.

They built their yes ladder by asking the prospect relevant questions about their address, the amount of windows on their home, their phone number, etc. Each “yes” built compliance and helped earn a little more trust from their prospect.

Remember the study we mentioned before? It also found that mere agreement subtly causes respondents to view the presenter of the statements as similar to themselves, which in turn increases the frequency compliance with a request from that same person.”

Step 3: Get the First “Yes”

You’ll want to start with something you know they’ll say “yes” to. And this will often be something you already know the answer to. For example, “Your office is located over in Pittsburgh, right?” Then from there, continue through your pre-planned “Yes” ladder structure.

Step 4: Make the Big Ask

This is the objective of the whole process. With each “Yes” question, push the envelope a little more and “climb” your way up the ladder to the big ask. If you structured your questions correctly, when you’ve gotten at least 4-5 yes responses in a row, you can go for the big ask.

The “Yes” ladder is a powerful way to build compliance and make the sale. By following the steps above, you can build your “Yes” ladder, earn more micro-commitments, and ultimately get more yeses.


Have you ever used the “Yes” ladder technique? Have you seen other ways in which people use micro-commitments to improve response? Tweet us or let us know in the comments below!