Match, pace, lead – the athlete’s approach to major gift asks

Match, pace, lead mirrors the martial arts philosophy of going with the direction of the movement and using the energy of your partner to take them to where you want them to be.[1]

In marathon racing, cycling competitions, and even in horse racing, competitors often have a teammate run alongside or even just ahead of them, matching their pace and speed. From time to time, the teammate picks up the pace a little. Miraculously, the runner alongside follows, exactly as though their pacemaker’s thoughts have communicated directly to them. With no observable change in demeanour or effort, the other runner picks up their partner’s pace, until eventually one takes the lead and goes on to win the race. Sometimes their partner will come in second. Pacing is so effective that it is illegal in many competitions.

Rapport is key to pacing and leading

Pacing is also highly effective in sales and negotiations, and similarly highly effective in asking for philanthropic gifts. The key to pacing and leading in gift asking is establishing rapport with your prospect and holding shared values, ideas and beliefs around the organisation’s case for support.

Rapport can initially be built by asking questions, showing genuine interest in the prospect’s answers. Open questions using what, where, when, how, why and who are often the best. And remember, as in the sporting illustration above, you can allow the prospect to do most of the work, giving you rich and interesting answers. You may find that you become physiologically attuned to the prospect—sitting, gesturing, and even breathing in a similar way. You may even find that the rhythm and tempo of your speech patterns adjust to one another.

Match your prospect’s language

You will find that if you start matching some of the prospect’s language back to them, particularly relating to their beliefs and values, your rapport with them will grow. You can say things such as, “So you believe that….?” “You said that…” We are agreed, then, that…?”

Once you have matched and paced successfully, it will be comfortable for you to take the lead and steer the conversation naturally toward the ask. If, at times, you lose rapport, drop back into matching and pacing for a while.

Wait for the answer for as long as it takes

Remember that when you do make the ask, to WAIT for the answer for as long as it takes—don’t rush to fill the silence and pre-empt their response; you remain in control of the conversation until its close.

The objective of an ask meeting is to make the ask: its success lies in leading the meeting to a close, maintaining the same rapport whether the next step is to accept a gift, negotiate a detail, or continue the relationship with a view to asking again another day.

[1] Sue Knight, NLP at Work

John Godfrey CFRE, Senior Consultant, Global Philanthropic, will present the workshop Asking Made SiMPL at the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ) Conference on Friday 14 June 2019.

If you or your organisation would like to know more about professional coaching or training on major gift asks, contact Global Philanthropic.

Republished with permission from FINZ.