How to build your “yes set” for success

How to build your "yes set" for success

Contrary to popular belief, when people come to your website, your blog, your sales page, they aren’t thinking, “I need to blow a ton of hard-earned cash today – how about this place?”

Of course not. Your visitors are skeptical. They don’t know you. They don’t care about you. And they have lots of questions about you, too.

The inappropriate – and common – response is to write “convincing” copy that persuades visitors that their ideas, opinions, and mindset are wrong; that what they feel, know and believe is incorrect, in an attempt to break down resistance and win them over.

Doesn’t really work.

The best writers don’t tell readers that they’re wrong.

They know they’ll never win that argument.

Instead, they write copy that gets readers agreeing with them, nodding along all the way. They make sure that their talks about situations readers can relate to and asks questions that readers can answer as being true.

They make it easy for readers to think, “That’s right… that’s exactly how I feel. That’s exactly what I’m going through.”

That’s how you win them over.

Let me show you. Imagine you read this at the top of a sales page:

“Have you ever thought that writing sales copy could be easy, simple and so much fun you want to do it again?”

I don’t know about you, but my brain is already thinking, “Hell no.”

Try this version instead, and see how it feels:

“Writing your sales copy often seems difficult – even impossible. You’re fraught with self-doubt, feel uncertain, and totally ill-equipped to the task of creating words that get sales.”

A lot of people would probably think, “Hell yes!”

Here’s the cool part about this: After nodding – after agreeing with that statement – they’d keep reading. They might read something like this:

“I completely understand. I’m James Chartrand, a recognized pro copywriter and writing coach, and years ago the thought of creating a killer sales page scared the living daylights out of me. I hated writing them, and I even turned down clients because I didn’t think I was up to the task!”

I’ve just admitted something emotionally important that helps me start to build an empathetic relationship, but here’s what’s important:

The readers nod again.

“Yeah, that’s how I feel too. This James person totally understands.” Now I’ve become a team player – their friend. I get it. I get them.

And I have them agreeing with me. Not once, but twice now.

It’s the beginning of “yes” momentum.

The more you can get someone to agree with you, the easier it becomes to present them with an idea that’s a bit of a reach or outside the person’s comfort zone.

Like this one:

“One day, after years of learning, research and hard work, I realized I’d hit on something big – I’d discovered a way to write sales copy that wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t scary. In fact, it even made it a little bit fun.”

Now, if someone had been reading this content, nodding along and feeling I completely understood where they were at, how they felt and the problems they’re facing… they wouldn’t be skeptical when they read that idea. They wouldn’t say, “That’s bull. I’m outta here.”

They’d be curious. Intrigued. They’d stick around, and read more.

It’s called the “yes set” technique, or the foot-in-the-door technique, and here’s why it works so well: Once a person has been agreeing with you for several statements, completely refuting the next thing you say becomes psychologically difficult.

It’s used in all sorts of commercial settings. (Upsells, anyone?) It’s used in sales training. It’s used in Internet marketing. (“Type yes in the chat box if you can hear me… type yes if this sounds like something you’re experiencing.”). Even psychologists on TV talk shows use the “yes set” technique:

“So you agree that this situation is unpleasant.”


“And it’s making life terribly hard for you.”


“And it’s affecting your friends, your family – even your co-workers, right?”


“And you’ve said yourself that you hate how this has taken control of your life.”


“Let me see if I have this right. You said this situation is unpleasant, making life hard, affecting your friends, family and co-workers, and you hate how this has taken over your life.”


“Sounds to me like it’s time for a change. Would you agree you deserve that?”

It’s pretty hard to say no. After all, the person’s been agreeing the whole way through the conversation!

Heck, even your kids use this technique. “Can I go to Ashley’s house to study? Thanks, mom, you’re the best… Can I stay the night?”

Use this in your copy. Get that reader agreeing the whole way through, and you’ll lead that person straight to the doorstep of your offer, nicely primed to say yes.

How to Use the “Yes Set” Technique Right Now

You’d be surprised at how potent the “yes set” technique can be when you apply it to your existing content.

Look at a page of your website copy, or grab an article you posted to your blog.

Do your opening sentences launch into your idea or pitch from the get-go? Did you lead into your point with statements that your audience knows to be true (at least, from their perspective!) and can agree with?

If you don’t have enough statements that people can agree to – even if you don’t agree with them – change your copy to something they can.

Don’t try to convince people of what they don’t yet believe (like, say, that you’re the best company in the field). Instead, speak to their truth: their knowledge, experiences, feelings and beliefs. Communicate to them that you know their pain, feel their hurt, and understand their predicament.

Most importantly, think about statements and questions that virtually guarantee a “yes” answer. Ask your readers questions such as, “Are you tired of XYZ?” You can follow that with a statement they could agree with, such as, “It’s such a pain; you try ABC and get frustrated when QRS.”

Later on in your copy, when you start to trot out your offer, maintain your “yes” momentum. Ask questions like, “Wouldn’t that be great?” or make statements like, “I’m sure you’ll agree you deserve this.”

Don’t be frustrated if developing your “yes set” doesn’t come naturally to you. It takes practice. Work on it slowly. And remember, you’re not trying to tell them or convince them that their beliefs, per-conceived notions and ideas are wrong – you’re trying to show them that you understand them, and that you know that this is their truth right now.

With every sentence you write, ask yourself, “Can my readers agree with this easily and know it’s true in their heart of hearts?”

If they can, then you have a win.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.