The last blogpost set an expanded framework for the concept of selling, as outlined by Daniel Pink in his latest book. The next section is concerned with how to be in order to get this into better shape. It’s an outline of your internal, subjective condition as it relates to moving others.
Just like with any complex endeavor, your own mental and emotional preparations are critical for success. If you approach the idea of moving people as a new skill set to acquire, the preparation aspect becomes immediately obvious. You will also find that your skills and abilities with the internal conditions will vary by ability and also according to your levels of distraction, stress, etc. This is normal and should not deter you from the improvement pathway. The ABC acronym applies here: Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.
Attunement means understanding any situation from someone else’s point of view. This applies to both perspective and empathy (rational and emotional). Doing this requires a reasonable level of maturity, personal development and self-awareness. In a patient encounter, this takes the form of higher level listening. In a consultation, understanding what the patient needs and expects is as important as making a diagnosis. This is done by asking questions, not statement, and by allowing the patient to express their thoughts and needs.
- Voluntarily reduce your power by asking questions and assuming the other person has knowledge you do not have.
- Appeal to what the other person is thinking, not feeling. This is a it counter-intuitive, but is well supported by research.
- Use mimicry to make the other person feel comfortable. This form of body language is quite powerful and is most effective when it is done so subtly that neither party is conscious of it. Any situation where one person has an open posture and the other one a closed posture will probably not end in agreement.
This concept is similar to cultivating and maintaining a positive mental attitude, regardless of the immediate circumstances. There is a critical difference, however. Most writers on the subject of positive mental attitude recommend declarative sentences, such as “I am [insert desirable characteristic here]”. This method makes use of Bill Torbert’s powerful idea of Action Inquiry. It’s using questions rather than statements to open new possibilities.
- Before: insightful questions about the process. How can I make this better? How can I complete this process? How can I move this individual?
- During: positive framing and approach. A Brazilian researcher was actually able to quantify the ideal ratio of positive thoughts and emotions to negative ones: 3 to 1. Less than that and you will tend towards depression, more than that and you will tend toward self-delusion.
- After: positive explanatory style. Martin Seligman, a prolific social scientist found that pessimistic people tend to explain bad events as permanent, pervasive and personal. Optimistic people explain them as temporary, specific to that event, and other than personal. The interesting thing is that this explanatory style can be cultivated: it’s not woven into the fabric.
In the area of moving others, clarity refers to the ability to define the problem that needs solving, not solving a stated problem. Many times a buyer will incorrectly frame the source or the scope of the problem. This is a very common occurrence in health care, where a patient wants relief from a particular symptom, without really grasping the larger problem of the situation that is causing or perpetuating the symptom. This does not mean creating a new problem for the buyer that they didn’t have before! It means understanding the desired end result, not necessarily the process to get there. Frameworks are important:
- Contrast principle: comparing your service or product to less desirable pathways, including nothing. This does not mean being dismissive of other methods, it just means giving the buyer something to compare you to.
- Limited choice frame: paradoxically, too many choices leads to indecision and paralysis on the part of buyers. Many times, 2 or 3 choices or levels of engagement are all that’s needed for the buyer to act.
- Experience frame: for services purchase, the buyers are usually seeking an event or a condition that improves their lives. How does your service serve that need?
- Label frame: naming services in accordance with the desired end result will cause buyers to act in much greater numbers than if the label is ambiguous or misleading.
- Blemish frame: this method lists the positive attributes (first), but does refer to a small but real negative. This shows buyers that you are realistic and you’re not trying to hide anything from them
The final preparatory idea is to be physically prepared for the buyer to act and to make that as frictionless as possible. While this is completely obvious, it’s astonishing how often merchants and service providers put barriers in the way of buyers who are trying to make purchases! This has to be put in place before the actual sale, of course, not during.