My wife asked me last week, “what the toughest sales job you ever had...?”
That was easy to answer, it was when I was in Health and Safety.
When I say that, people usually correct me “no, I asked which Sales job…”.
Asking people to change engrained behaviours and work in different ways is still the toughest thing I ever had to sell.
“You are a skilled technical specialist, I see what you are doing, and I understand it. We need you to listen to this, absorb it and change the way you’ve worked for years…”.
The result isn’t a purchase order, it’s a sustained change in behaviour and that’s entering the very complex area of social, psychological and biological sciences.
The 'buy' has to be right and I struggled in my early years in Health and Safety, I was lost in compliance and policy – “thou shalt because it ith written in the manual…”.
That didn’t work at all.
When I realised it was all about influence, things changed.
I realised the key was to tap into why people did what they do, what were the drivers and how could ‘we’ find a way for them to stay safe and then meet all the compliance and policy stuff.
I found that different people responded to different stimuli.
When I started tapping into the person, in each case we saw improvement and it was easier, more effective and sustained.
It also had the bonus of turning the whole ‘them and us thing on its head’. It was no longer ‘do as we say’, it was ‘how do we all get better together’…we were all in it together and we were forming a trusting community.
In one case that is etched on my brain, we had a drilling rig with a huge number of regular injuries and incidents, close to being thrown off contract by a major operator. When we changed the narrative and the positioning, things started to improve. That rig when onto win global rig of the year for the same client a few years later.
In an excellent article recently published by Greg Satell called “This One Simple Scientific Principle Explains Why You Shouldn’t Waste Too Much Time Trying To Convince People” (link below), Greg investigates persuasion.
He says “Experts have a lot of ideas about persuasion. Some suggest leveraging social proof, to show that people have adopted the idea and had a positive experience. Others emphasize the importance of building trust and using emotional rather than analytical arguments. Still others insist on creating a unified value proposition”.
So, the thinking about persuasion is complex.
Greg goes on to say, “Yet consider this one simple science-based principle that explains a lot: The best indicator of what we think and what we do is what the people around us think and do. Once you internalize that, you can begin to understand a lot of otherwise bizarre behavior and work to spread the ideas you care about. Often, it’s not opinions we need to shape, but networks”.
When I moved into Sales, I was taught a tried and tested method that had been in play for decades. “Show as many people as possible what we can do, and then stay on top of them until they let us in. When we get in, we will bombard them with features and benefits…”.
The world has changed, thinking has changed, and tastes have changed.
As the digital twin of your industry grows, the key to access is in the creation of ecosystems, communities, and partnerships. In the digital world, the only way to create these is with influence.
I often asked the question “who are the leading technical and commercial digital influencers in your sector…?”.
Nobody is yet to give me a solid answer, because most organisations are not paying attention.
Influencing your entire digital target world to see you as the right answer. Not your competition, you.
In his article, Greg Satell says “We like to think we can shape the ideas of others. It can sometimes seem like a puzzle. How can we conjure up the right combination of value proposition, analysis, emotive argument and social proof, to persuade our target? There is, in fact, an enormous communication industry dedicated to exactly that proposition.
Decades of scientific research suggests that it’s not so easy. Our thoughts aren’t just the product of neurons, synapses and neurotransmitters reacting to different stimuli, but also our social networks. The best indicator of what people think and do is what the people around them think and do. While we’re trying to score debate points, those complex webs of influence are pushing back in often subtle, but extremely powerful ways.
We need to be far more humble about our persuasive powers. Anybody who has ever been married or had kids knows how difficult it is to convince even a single person of something. If you expect to shift the opinions of dozens or hundreds—much less thousands or millions—with pure sophistry, you’re bound to be disappointed.
Instead of trying to shape opinions, we’re often better off shaping networks. That’s why we advise our clients pursuing transformational change efforts to start with a majority, even if that majority is only three people in a room of five. You can always expand a majority out, but once you’re in the minority you’re going to get immediate pushback.
Instead of designing arguments, our time and effort will be much better spent working to craft cultures, weaving the complex webs of influence that lead to genuinely shared values and shared purpose”.
**Thanks to Jeff Mountain for sharing Greg Satell’s excellent article – link below