I’d like to sell you on an idea. I’d like you to consider just shutting up. Really. Just hear me out for a second.
Can’t Help It. We’re Always Selling
Like it or not, we really are always selling.
I don’t mean to. You don’t mean to. We just can’t help it. Five hundred generations of civilization have honed us down to a perfectly self-interested pack animal, surviving by making the case for our argument.
Why do you greet your colleague with a chirpy “good morning”? What a nice person you are, right? So courteous. But c’mon. Do you literally hope they have a pleasant morning? Maybe. Even if you paused for a moment to imagine what their morning might be like and how it might be more pleasant. Yeah, you didn’t. But that’s secondary.
Consider the possibility that your instinct is to be courteous so that the recipient will respond in kind. You offer courtesy to receive courtesy in return. You make your life a little more pleasant by being pleasant.
You’re laying the groundwork for what you want. Not for them. For you. It’s been a social more for a long time. In Judeo-Christian sociology this is called “The Golden Rule.”
Retire the Selfie
If your mouth is open, odds are you’re pitching. If your mouth is closed, you’re listening to figure out how to make your pitch. If you’re alone, you’re thinking about your next pitch. If your mouth is open and you’re alone, see a doctor.
This instinct makes us bad partners, ignorant friends, selfish lovers, woeful parents. Our nature is selfish. We’re wired that way. We have not yet had time to alter our behavior. Civilization is new. Common cause is new. Rule of law is new. Selfish is self-defeating.
Hammers and Nails
To overcome this nefarious trait, we first have to ask ourselves what we’re selling.
What are you trying to accomplish? What do you want from the other person? Actors, psychiatrists and police detectives call this “your motivation”. What is your motivation?
No doubt you’ve heard the old adage, attributed to everyone from Maslow to Mark Twain, that “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
I’m working with sales teams for a big tech company. These otherwise thoughtful men and women may as well be a carpenters’ convention. Everything’s a nail! They have a technology, and they are going to tell you about it.
My job is to get them to pause for a second and think about someone else for a second. Like their customer. You know, the buyer.
Cart Before the Horse
Our default mode puts the cart before the horse. That means we’re doing it backwards and pushing when we need to pull. We have to try harder to put the horse before the cart.
No less than Steve Jobs makes an articulate case for the vital importance (and common sense) of understanding your customer’s needs first. You can’t design the right solution if you don’t know their problem. If you think they’re a nail and you try to hammer them, prepare to get screwed.
Jobs 1. Heckler 0. Customer 100.
Could not have said it better myself.
Know what you want. Ignore it. Put your customer first.
(Okay. That’s what I wanted to say. Remind me again—what did you want?)