Monday, January 20, 2014

The Winner Often Loses

Have you ever met an aggressive sales person who pushes and pushes as hard as they can to make the sale, hopefully wearing down their customer enough that they finally give in? Chances are, your reaction to that sales person was not very favorable.  Even if you did give in to that initial purchase, you probably never wanted to deal with that salesperson ever again. You stopped taking their calls. You blocked their email address. And you may even have told others to "watch out" for this salesperson in the future. In the end, the salesperson may have won a sale, but they lost your future business.

Most successful salespeople understand that sales is not a zero-sum game. Meaning it is not about closing the sale at all costs. A successful sales relationship is built on mutual respect, and the cornerstone of that respect is communication. Salespeople must listen to their customers and empathize with their needs. The same is true in every type of conversation that we have with our customers. No matter what department: customer service, accounts receivable, human resources, etc.  The way we talk with others has a tremendous effect on the success of our business.

Unfortunately, people often revert to the old model of zero-sum in most of their day-to-day conversations. They have something to say to someone, and when they approach that person, the only thing on their mind is to say it.
"You have to respond to these requests faster or my projects get backed up, and it's a waste of my time!"
"Your idea won't work.  We tried it before, and the transportation costs killed us.  Let's move on." 
"The conference room is a mess.  From now on, no one can eat their lunch in there."
"Quit nickel and diming me on my expense reports. I know what is right and what is wrong, so just respect my work."
The truth is that most conversations should be approached as positive-sum games. In other words, we should be seeking mutual benefit for both parties in the conversation. This is the concept of sharing information and understanding the perspective of the other party. Listen to the other person, and let their perspective guide how you frame your message. 

Just as in sales, it is you shouldn't to push your agenda too hard, because you risk tarnishing a relationship that you need to help you in the future. Enter every conversation with the goal of sharing information. Start with questions, and listen to the perspective of the other party. This will allow you to frame your message in a way that will be better understood by the other party, and it will build respect, which is the foundation for a strong relationship.

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