Two Little Words

“Yes, and … “

That two-word phrase can deepen your relationships and make you better at sales. That’s the word from Isaac Rodriguez, CEO of Provident Loan, and an amateur improv performer. He learned “yes, and … ” as an improv technique for continuing or escalating a scene, but then discovered it was very effective in the business world as well. I’d never really thought about “yes, and … ” before he recommended it but now that I have, I see how it’s a surprisingly powerful tool.

It helps you upsell.

A customer says something like, “Your product is really working well for us.”

Your first instinct might be to say something like, “Thanks! I’m so glad you’re happy with it.” That would certainly be anybody’s first instinct.

But consider a “yes, and … ” response instead. “Yes, we’re glad it’s fitting your needs so well. And many of our customers also have good results when they pair it with this other complementary product.”

Or, “Yes, and it’s available at a discount for a limited time, in case you’re interested in stocking up.”

It improves negotiations.

Consider concluding your next negotiation with “yes, and … ” rather than just plain “yes.” “I’m glad we have a deal, and I’m wondering if you have any friends or colleagues who might also be interested in this service.”

Or “Yes, and I’m wondering if you can give me some extra help on terms.”

Be judicious with that second usage. If you already have a done deal and there’s nothing left to do but sign the paperwork, you don’t want your “yes, and … ” to make it seem as though you’re reneging.

If the answer is no, they can’t help you on terms, and you had a negotiated agreement, you should still go through with the deal. But using “yes, and … ” might get you extra accommodations or perks that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t ask for them.

It reduces frustration.

“In a negative situation, use ‘yes, and … ‘ instead of ‘but,'” Rodriguez advises.

Sound advice.

Listen to the difference: “Your work is great, but we couldn’t use it because you didn’t deliver it on time.”

Instead: “Your work is great, and it would be really helpful if you could deliver it on deadline so that we can be sure to use it.”  Removing the word “but” takes the opposition and conflict out of a sentence. It brings you closer to a cooperative solution to the impasse.

It expands relationships.

If someone says, “You look great today,” you could just thank that person.

But consider a “yes, and … ” response. “Thank you, and you look great as well” or “Thank you and maybe it’s because I really enjoy working with you.”

Just as in improv, “yes, and … ” forces you to widen the boundaries of your relationship by bringing additional information or acknowledgement to every conversation. Even if your answer is, “Thank you, and I just got back from vacation,” you’ve made more of a connection by offering personal information you might not have shared otherwise.

It keeps the conversation going.

Favorite thing about “yes, and … ” It’s certainly why it’s so useful as an improv tactic.

If you respond to a statement with “yes, and … ” you’re going to bring some additional information or viewpoint into the conversation.

It’s likely your “yes, and … ” will invite further information or comment from whomever you’re speaking with as well.

If she or he also responds with “yes, and … ” that may call for further comment from you. And so on. Pretty soon you have an ongoing dialogue. And that’s how the best relationships start.


Suresh Shah, M.D., Pathfinders Enterprise

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