People make small and big decisions every day, ranging from what clothes to wear to what shoes to match to deciding the opening sentence for that big presentation.
“Past experience, cognitive biases, age, and individual differences, belief in personal relevance, and an escalation of commitment, influence what choices people make”."Decision making", Research by Cindy Dietrich
Regardless of the position you hold at work, you need someone’s approval of your decision. For example, taking your manager's approval before asking for time off or a raise, getting the approvals from your boss and finance manager before investing in new software, and many more.
Your request, however reasonable, can sometimes get rejected due to bad timing, incomplete research, or lack of information in it that leads to a delayed response from a supervisor or colleague.
To maximize the chances of your request getting approved, you should know:
- Whom to address and in what manner
- How to choose the appropriate timing
- The form of the request message you're sending
- What information to include in the request
- How to leverage decision-making factors
Let's go through these things step by step, and once you're finished reading, you'll have all the answers!
Decision-makers at the company
In essence, they are the people who have the final say in whatever it is we need done. It’s an integral part of a leader’s job. Even if you are not in a leadership position, you will have some kind of decision to make that will impact your company.
You need to learn about the thinking process of 5 types of decision-makers in order to close the deal successfully.
Here’s how to identify them and prepare accordingly:
1. The Charismatic
These people are enthusiastic but practical. Get your facts and data right and you will have their full attention.
2. The Deep Thinker
They weigh their words carefully before speaking and will take complete information from you to draw a conclusion. Your prospect is a Thinker if they ask you questions on the minutest detail.
3. The Skeptic
They are doubtful of anything that does not align with their existing knowledge and beliefs. These decision-makers play the most vital role in winning a deal. Prepare yourself while keeping Skeptics in mind to win them.
4. The Follower
They are highly meticulous and play their game cautiously. They base their decision on previously successful results, testimonials, and case studies.
5. The Controller
These are organized decision-makers and don’t like uncertainty. As the name suggests, they want everything to be in control. If you want to gain their trust, bring in experts to reinforce the details in your presentation.
After identifying the prospects based on their thinking process, you need to modify your presentation according to their expertise as well. For example, a finance executive will prioritize decreasing the overall cost, whereas a program manager will be more concerned about aligning the program with the business goals and its overall planning and execution.
Leverage decision-making factors
The decision-making factors that should be taken into account before making a decision are:
- Past experiences
As explained by Cindy Dietrich in the research ‘Decision making’, people are more likely to make a similar decision based on their past positive experience but would refrain from repeating their past mistakes.
- Cognitive bias
Cognitive biases are based on observations and generalizations that lead to inaccurate judgment and logic. These may lead people to focus more on what they already know and what they anticipate rather than looking at things from a broader perspective.
Commitment influences a large part of your decision-making process, which explains your dedication to a particular project. It pushes you to make riskier choices and devote a lot of time, energy, and resources.
- The power of timing
You have cracked the code if you are aware of the power of timing while requesting approval. For example, you submit a request for a raise to your boss, just after being praised for not missing any deadline for years.
Don't disregard the mood of your decision-maker when you request approval. It sounds wrong, but the truth is we are more inclined to please people around us when we are content and happy, while the depressed and stressed state of mind makes us resentful and negative.
Read the room, so to speak.
Approaching your approver at the right time with the right message can make the world of difference.
How to write an approval request
Let's get practical. First, why write?
Why not just approach someone personally and ask face-to-face?
There are situations when the personal approach is the best. You can read your approver's reactions and act accordingly, you can leverage your personal charm and adjust your words on the go. However, most approvals are trivial and do not require this level of subtlety. Besides, asking personally has its flaws:
- No record of the conversation ever taking place
- No written arrangement you can refer to in case of any misunderstandings
- Talking in person requires time
- You don't have the chance to think over your responses
- You might still have to repeat the request in writing for the record
- Talking in person is not always possible, especially in a remote work environment.
So, submitting your approval request in writing is usually the best and simplest way to go.
What can you do to give your request more chances to be approved:
- Address it to the right person
As crude as this advice is, you'd be surprised how many requests get misdirected.
Make sure to address requests to the right stakeholders who are authorized to make the decision.
- Present a clear objective
Come straight to the point, and write in a clear tone leaving no space for misinterpretation.
of your request and use relevant documents to give weight to your request.
- Highlight individual responsibilities
If your project involves many people, define the goals of each individual in your approval request to give a clear picture.
- Only include the information that is necessary and enough to process the request.
Share neither too much, nor too little. Too much information will hurt the chances of your request being read at all, while too little will call for additional questions and delays.
- Strike a chord with their emotions
A company that has a healthy working environment always considers its employees as humans first. Trying to connect with them on an emotional level is important when you think about how to request approval. Take into account not only their values and personalities but also their level of stress and mood and write your request with that in mind.
The form of approval request and communication channel
Effective communication is key to a successful marriage as well as a successful business.
Do you communicate with your manager requesting project approval in an email approval workflow the same way you chat with your colleague on WhatsApp? No.
The tone of the message you send depends on:
- the receiver’s position in the company
- the communication channel you're using
- the relationships you have with the approver (friendly, respectful, distant, hostile, or neutral)
- the essence and urgency of your request (that also defines your choice of communication channel)
Do you send a WhatsApp text to your manager asking for leave approval? Do you seek approval in Slack from your seniors to decrease the working hours to save the pay rate? The approval-requesting practice can vary from company to company and depends on the corporate culture and communication channels of choice.
Now, the type of your request will determine the tone in which you convey your message. For example, the tone used to request approval to fix the air conditioner will be different from your ask for a salary increment.
It has to be short and scannable, can include links and/or files attached, but no more than one. Can be less formal than an email, but needs to be more formal than WhatsApp. Ideally, should be in a "yes or no" format.
Has to be visually simple: lists, paragraphs, and space between the lines will make it more readable. Can be quite elaborate (but not TMI) and include links and files, as many as needed to support your claim. A formal tone is advised.
WhatsApp (or any other personal messenger):
Has to be short and straight to the point, with minimum extra information. Attaching links and files is not advised, since opening them on the phone might be inconvenient. A tone can be friendly, but still within the business framework.
How to formulate your request for easy approval?
The common denominator, however, exists.
Any request, regardless of its purpose, has to be
Try to avoid in your messaging:
- open manipulation (I've helped you so many times, you must do this for me now, otherwise you're just ungrateful)
- appealing to nepotism (We play golf every Sunday and I babysit your daughter, so please approve my raise request)
- blackmail (If you don't approve, I'll have to report you being late for the client meeting which I thoughtfully haven't done before for your sake)
- begging (I need this so much, you have no idea how. I'll do anything you ask if you approve)
If you need to use leverage, do it in an elegant, non-transparent way.
Do your homework
You will lose a big chance of getting your request approved if you didn’t do your homework properly. Make your case strong with research and prepare for the questions that are likely to be shot your way.
Identify your audience and test your idea
Harvard Business Review explains that you need to identify your audience who are responsible for approving your idea and test your idea with them before you formally present it. You will know where your idea lacks and will be able to fill the gaps timely.
Stay calm and confident
Be confident when people scrutinize your idea. You will have enough pointers to make improvements. Don’t forget to smile while presenting to win people. As Dale Carnegie explains, smiling is one of the key principles to influencing people for business success.
Be consistent with your ideas as it will make it easier for people to agree with them. Robert Cialdini explains in The Psychology of Persuasion that “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.” So, stick with what you believe to be good, and eventually, people will see the situation with your eyes.
Don’t assume urgent means ‘right now’
People have their own versions of urgency and ‘ASAP’. It’s always good to specifically enquire about the deadline before you shift your entire focus. It's always best to operate with exact dates and time, and not with vague terms like "soon" or "urgent".
Requests in approval automation software
An average office worker receives 121 emails every day. Your approval request, no matter how urgent, can go missing.
The best known way to ensure the smoothness of the approval process is automation.
A user-friendly software carries out approval workflow with much ease, gives value for cost, and makes the whole approval process a cakewalk.
With Approveit, you can maximize your effectiveness and integrate approvals into Slack workflow to build a better work life. Here are all the basics you need to know about approval automation and how to leverage it for the benefit of your business.
If you play all your cards right and get acquainted with the psychology of business processes, your hands will never get sweaty before hitting the ‘send’ button to your approval email.