Sunday, August 30, 2009

Re-thinking Communication

I want to thank you all for writing in with requests for newsletter topics. I will do it more in the future; it was really fun to see how much everyone gets out of the newsletter. A little humbling, actually.

I've included a poll at the bottom of the post. It's just one question.

One subscriber wanted to know about the application of this material to sales. Clearly, when we think of salesmen, we think of someone that persuades you. Sometimes we think of salesmen in a negative light, as someone that may try to persuade you to do something that may not be in your best interest, just to make a sale (gasp!).

At a speaking engagement I had a couple of weeks ago, an astute listener asked about using the High-Performance Communication (HPC) skills to deal with hidden agendas. I view those as a form of the insincerity or information hiding that is associated with Advocacy (as opposed to Collaboration). Sales is a widely-accepted example of a profession in which some practitioners are seeking a given outcome, even if it occurs at the expense of another – the very definition of advocacy.

I see this topic as a great opportunity to describe how to start using the material in the High Performance Communication newsletter to its fullest extent. I have been talking all along about how we can change our own perspective, and by talking to people as if they too understand this material, guide them through conversations so that we end up in a win-win situation most of the time. This week, we will think about selling interactions in a new context – as the same kind of face-to-face interactions we have at work every day.

I’ll play the part of the salesman and say I view selling as a collaborative effort and not adversarial. For the sake of this discussion, it isn’t a contest in which you ‘lose’ if you buy what I am selling and you win if resist buying. It is a collaborative effort in which we are both engaged in trying to fix some perceived issue that you are having. Maybe you need to increase your production, or cut your costs, or raise your quality – whatever it is, you have a need and I am there to help you with it.

That change in perspective alone should have you talking to me, the salesman, differently than you would if you perceived this as a contest. You now see me as a resource that should have a mutual purpose in which you and I want to accomplish the same thing. Not coincident purposes, in which what I want to accomplish and what you want to accomplish are different but mutually beneficial, but a true mutual purpose. I ONLY want to sell you something that helps you accomplish your objectives. If I don’t believe it will, then I will tell you so. For your part, you ONLY want find the best way to accomplish your objective. If you don’t believe in me to help you, you must say so.

You must examine my credibility (track record, knowledge, openness, sincerity, curiosity, etc.) to see if I can act as a resource in solving the issue. In this way, you view the salesperson as a CONSULTANT. So you can feel free to discuss this with other resources, or to discuss other resources with me because we are after the same thing and I want to be connected to a knowledgeable partner in this. One that knows what they want. That makes it much easier to match you with the right solution.

Sales is generally viewed as a four-step process:

  1. Prospecting (or qualifying) potential customers. This step is about finding someone that may already use the widget you are selling, or may have an issue for which your widget is a candidate solution.
  2. Interviewing qualified customers. This is where a salesperson finds out all about the important who, what, when, why, where, and how’s regarding the issues you are facing. It is also when they work though the acceptable solutions.
  3. Presenting a solution. This is where they present their recommendations for your issue.
  4. Closing the deal. This is where they negotiate through any differences between your desired solution and their proposed solution.

Think how easy closing would be if you had each been collaborating through the process! Then think of how you could guide this with High-Performance Communication (HPC) skills, whether you were the customer OR the salesman. Finally think that, if you WERE the salesman, how appreciative your customer would be for you acting in this way. Not just now, but in the future as well.

Remember that just because the other person has a vested interest in the outcome, doesn’t by itself mean that they are honest or dishonest. They could be either. Using HPC techniques, you will collaboratively ask for and evaluate the evidence they use to support their claims. You will evaluate their perspective based on the strength of the information, add that with what you know, and develop the best solution you can.

When I start my conversations with salespeople, I tell them (using the components of THE SCORE) that I am not sure if I need their product; I need a solution to a specific problem and while I think that their product MAY be a solution, I need their help in determining if it is the best one. I ask them if they feel they are capable of using their expertise and objectively help me find a solution. Many say yes, and as i guide them through the process, I begin to find that some really aren't that credible. Their solutions may turn out to be what I need later, but they aren't really right to help me evaluate the issues.

This is the way to approach a problem solving dialog. Viewing an interaction with a salesperson as a problem-solving session is a way to leverage HPC skills into those conversations. Basically, you are converting Advocacy into Collaboration, treating your counterpart with respect, making decisions based on facts, evidence, and sound principles – and building great business relationships. All of this promotes better communication, better decisions, better results!

Insist on great business results! Go to Pathfinder Communication

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