Gentle Offence


Three Keys of Selling Post COVID19

We are now just over a month into the physically distanced world of COVID19.  Having been ordered by public health officials to stay at least 6 feet apart has fundamentally changed the way society operates.  Chances are, we are not going back to the old handshake and cocktail party ways of selling any time soon.

As stock markets around the world reeled, non-essential businesses closed and upwards of a million people lost their jobs in Canada alone (hopefully only temporarily), the entire world went on defence.  We were told to stay home as much as possible, only go out for essential items and stop the spread so that health care workers could have a fighting chance at containing the virus.  Government stepped in with billions of dollars in financial relief for laid off workers and shuttered businesses while essential businesses like grocery stores increased wages and went on a hiring binge to meet demand.

Now, one month in, the tide is slowly starting to turn.  The rate of new infections is slowing, although not yet decreasing.  More and more people are recovering and we’re starting to get the hang of this physical distancing thing.  But there is a dark side too.  Homo Sapiens is a social animal and with governments telling us to expect the reopening of the economy to be a long and drawn out process, people are getting restless.  We aren’t there yet, a pick-up game of basketball, a round of golf or just rollerblading with your family in an abandoned parking lot will still get you a $750 (plus tax) fine.  Opening a non-essential business could cost you $10,000 per day in fines and up to a year in jail.

But the economy will re-open and we have to be ready for a very different world when it does.

This past week, during our weekly virtual team meeting one of the top salespeople in our organization used the term “Gentle Offence” to describe the way in which we will have to pivot our sales approach as a result of this pandemic.  I don’t know if he coined the phrase or had heard it somewhere else, but I thought it was brilliant as it perfectly articulates he way I think sales needs to evolve in the new world.

The way I see it Gentle Offence is just the compassionate and emotionally intelligent approach that people are going to need to hear from salespeople as we all recover from the mentally draining, and emotionally traumatic events of this pandemic.

Gentle Offence consists of three key elements.

1 – Know Your Moment

Now is not the time for a hard sell.  I would argue that there was never a good time for a hard sell but that’s just me.  But this is definitely not the time.

One major car company has been really good at this so far, pivoting their advertising to focus on saying thank you to health care and essential service workers and not mentioning any of their vehicles at all.  Some fast food restaurants have done the same.  You do not want to be the brand that was tone deaf to the cultural moment and continued pitching your non-essential product while people suffer.  Marie Antoinette did that, and it didn’t end well for her, don’t be like Marie Antoinette.

It is enough right now to express gratitude and offer support but do not pitch products.  People have long memories when it comes to how you make them feel.  In a sense we are in a collective state of worry and mourning, be a source of comfort and compassion not additional pressure to consume and perform, people will remember that and reward you for it later.

2 – Let The Client Lead

A good psychotherapist never tells a patient what to think, rather they help the patient interpret their thoughts and adjust their behaviours for a more consistent outcome.  In the post COVID world salespeople are going to need to become a bit more like psychotherapists helping their clients interpret and express their needs and find ways to better fulfill them.  If that means guiding potential clients away from your product or service, so be it, you can’t be all things for all people.  The job of the salesperson is to fulfill a need, not manufacture one.

Advertising was invented to create dissatisfaction with the status quo and manufacture desire.  This has led society in an unhealthy pursuit of materialism and created a world of interpersonal comparison termed “keeping up with the Joneses”.  COVID19 has reminded us that the Joneses are just as vulnerable as the rest of us and what we want and what we need are two very different things.

Letting the client lead means helping the client flesh out their needs and desires and providing solutions to their problems.  It takes patience, kindness, compassion and deep knowledge of the issues and potential solutions.

3 – Bring Your ‘A’ Game

If the new world is going to be all about compassion, empathy and sensitivity then closing the deal is going to require a lot more knowledge of both product and application.  The salesperson is going to need to be better prepared than ever before, know more about their product and understand more about how it addresses the client’s specific need.  It’s no longer going to be enough to pitch a product by focusing on features and benefits, you are going to have to paint a picture of life after the purchase that jives with the picture the client painted for you previously.  And you are going to have to do it better than anyone else.

 

So, there you have it.  I believe playing Gentle Offence is going to be the new way of selling post COVID19 and in many sectors it has already started.  It’s about compassion, empathy, wisdom, and situational understanding.  How do you think sales will change in the new world?  Send me your interpretation in the comments below.

The Age of Nonsensical Nonsense and Unfalsifiable Fallacies


I never understood wind.  – Donald J Trump

Wait a minute.  Alternative facts?  Alternative facts are not facts, they are falsehoods! – Chuck Todd, Television Host, “Meet The Press”

That is not only not right; it is not even wrong. – Wolfgang Pauli, Theoretical Physicist

We are living in bizarre times.

In recent history, the last 80-100 years or so, society has made some incredible advancements in the fields of science and medicine.  We have split the atom, escaped gravity and broken the sound barrier.  Everyday at hospitals all over the world we trade our organs for new ones and implant tiny machines inside our bodies to keep them operating long after our ancestors would have simply passed away or lived with chronic annoyances.

We have the technological know how to produce clean energy for billions of people and drive enough agricultural output to feed every human on earth, extend life and maintain the planet.  A journey from one corner of the world to another that used to take several weeks, even months, is now over in a matter of hours.  It seems as though, there is no country or region that is too remote, no physical reality too complex and no disease too mysterious.

Dolly, the first genetic clone of a mammal. “Born” 1996.

I graduated high school in 1991.  Before the internet, biological cloning, electric cars or the construction of the international space station.  Our coat of arms contained a Latin phrase;

Scientia Vincit Omnia – Knowledge Conquers All

Almost 30 years later, it seems to me that the people of my generation, with the help of those that have gone before and are coming after us, have brought humanity to the verge of conquering all that there is to know.

We live in the greatest time is history.

Yet.

Billions live in poverty and die too young for lack of access.  Our climate is changing rapidly and threatening the lives and livelihoods of the most economically vulnerable of our population.  And the president of the United States openly admits that he doesn’t understand wind.

Now to be fair that last bit was said as his way of explaining his views on wind powered electricity but it’s still just strange and indicative of a larger problem.

That larger problem is this.

Modern windmill, according to Donald Trump, probably manufactured in China

We now have the raw knowledge to solve just about all the world’s physical problems, what we lack is the ability to recognize and prioritize their severity and the moral fortitude to humble our own self-interest in the interest of humanity as a whole.  Our political discourse has been reduced to constant bickering over the validity of proven facts.  When we pitch our rhetorical tent on the wrong side of an easily provable position we are not dealing in “alternative facts”, as some have tried to assert, we are dealing in delusion.  When we argue against clean energy because windmills are made in China but pretend it’s because they kill birds, (which is what the president went on to say when he talked about not understanding wind), we are speaking nonsense that is so far from reality and so impossible to prove that it can’t even be proven wrong, as Wolfgang Pauli so famously stated way back in the 1950s.

It’s 2020.  We are standing at the dawn of a new decade with a new generation ready to step on the stage.  My grandparent’s generation defeated fascism and started the world on the path to human rights.  My parent’s generation defeated communism and pushed capitalism and self-determination to the forefront.  My generation invented the internet and brought human understanding of the physical world to unimaginable heights.  It will be the job of this next generation to tackle the moral and ethical questions brought about by the promises made possible by those that have gone before.

The Berlin Wall – The iconic symbol of institutionalize communism came down in 1989 symbolising the end of the cold war and ushering in what George Bush called “a new world order.”

The tools we used to defeat fascists and communist won’t work in this fight.  In fact, they could just as easily backfire.  The tools we used to build physical knowledge won’t work either.  We need a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the world and a new way of talking to one another.

I don’t know what the solution is.  But I think it needs to start with this whole idea of “otherness”.  Us vs Them, we are right therefore they must be wrong, my interests are more important than your interests, everything is a competition, cooperation is weakness; that is the old paradigm.

Donald Trump, his coked out frat boy meets Bond Villain rhetoric aside, tilts at windmills because they are made in China.  China, not wind or clean energy or even a concern for the well being of birds, represent “the other”.  And it’s that sense of otherness that must be conquered.  Mr. Trump’s supporters point to the strength of the U.S. economy as reason enough for him to remain in power.  They are all too prepared to gloss over and ignore his many moral and ethical failings, and the damage he has done to “other people”, even when they would personally crucify anyone else if the results didn’t serve their self-interest.

The age of self-determination; championed by my parent’s generation and which helped fuel the expansion of technology driven by my generation must now come to an end in order to allow true human equity, and economic sustainability to reign.  We must be willing to submit our self-interest for the good of the whole.

Or because now I’m thinking about Latin and my generation invented Google Translate;

Plus Paucorum Necessitatibus Plurimis Necessitatibus

Equality vs equity – Sometimes self sacrifice makes all the difference.

We have all the physical knowledge we need; we cannot allow that knowledge to conquer us.  We must begin to use it to conquer inequality, inequity, bigotry, arrogance and selfish ambition.  Otherwise we are no better that the fascists and communists that came before and the fight will start all over again, this time with better weapons and everything we have gained on the line.

Another Latin phrase comes to mind;

Amor Vincit Omnia – Love Conquers All

We’ve reached the point in human evolution where anything less, is worthless noise.

 

 

Four Types of Clients


I can’t be sure who it was who first came up with this list of personality types, it might have been Aristotle describing the way certain students approach learning, it might have been Socrates, and it might just have been the guy who sells me my  gas every week.  It doesn’t matter whoever it was.  In reflecting on the way certain clients have been interacting with me this week I thought it might be fun to talk about each of these character types and how I approach dealing with them in my financial practice.

#1 – He who knows not, and knows not, that he knows not.

Otherwise known as the arrogant fool.

Another way to say it is that we don’t know what we don’t know and going through life convinced that we know everything about everything is a recipe for disaster.  The great musician Louis Armstrong once said;

“There are some people that if they don’t know, and don’t know that they don’t know, you can’t tell them..”

This is the definition of arrogant ignorance.  These people will never be your client because they believe they are smarter than you.  Indeed they believe they are smarter than everyone they meet.  The only thing to do when you encounter someone like that is smile politely and move on.

#2 – He who knows not and knows that he knows not.

Otherwise known as the simpleton.

These are some of my favorite kinds of people to have as clients.  People who know that they don’t know things are teachable.  They of course must be willing to learn but the real danger here is that they may become paralyzed if you give them too much new information all at once.

The key with these kinds of clients is to take it slow, give them only as much information as they can digest.  If you go too fast you run the risk of causing “paralysis by analysis” or you end up with a client who feels like they were bullied into making a purchase that they didn’t fully understand.  Both are undesirable outcomes that are to be avoided at all costs.

#3 – He who knows and knows not that he knows.

Otherwise known as the unconscious drifter.

These are the people that, if they become interested in something realize that they had the necessary information all along and make decisions quickly.  The problem is they tend to be asleep to both their own needs and their own knowledge.

Waking up an unconscious drifter is a delicate business.  At first glance they may appear to be simpletons but if you treat them as such they may feel insulted.  The key to dealing with these people is to ask lots of questions designed to probe their knowledge.  Once you’ve determined that they do know more than they seem to be letting on you can switch tracks and begin asking a different sort of question.  Questions designed to get them to see that they already know what they need and how to get it.  Once they see their need they tend to buy quickly and confidently.

#4 – He who knows and knows that he knows.

Otherwise known as the wise one.  Unless you’re selling commodities, these people won’t likely be your clients either.  They already know their needs and they bought a long time ago.  It’s still important to get to know these people.  They tend to be leaders, and can be a great source of knowledge, guidance and influence.  They are also a great source of referrals and if their circumstances ever change, they are the first to know when they do need you.

Watch out for these four types of people.  Don’t waste your time with the arrogant fools but carefully cultivate unique relationships with everyone else.  Relationships with these types of people eventually pay off.

Standing Under


About fifteen years ago my wife and I took a vacation to St. Louis, Missouri. We were living in London, Ontario at the time and I was working shift work in a call centre. When we transitioned off of the night shift we were usually given 3 days off to rest and reset before we were asked to come in on a day shift. But by some fluke of scheduling it so happened that I was given 5 days off.

We were newly married at the time and hadn’t yet taken a honeymoon so with this extra time we decided to pack up the car and see how far we could get and what we could see. Well my wife is big Little House on the Prairie fan and she had always wanted to see Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house in Mansfield Missouri. That’s only about a 10 hour drive from London so I being the good husband that I am, agreed. On our way down we stopped and stayed for a day in St. Louis and went to the Gateway Arch.

gatewayarch

The Gateway Arch is a massive steel structure that serves as a monument to all the American pioneers who passed through St. Louis on their way to open up the west. St. Louis was the last chance to stock up on supplies before heading out in to the frontier. Once you crossed the Mississippi river at St. Louis, you were on your own.

As I stood under the Gateway Arch and looked up at this incredible mass of steel and glass rising into the sky I remember thinking to myself, “I sure hope the engineers knew what they were doing when they built this.” That is of course a ludicrous thought considering that the Gateway Arch has stood on that spot for over 50 years. I certainly didn’t need to understand the math or the physical construction work that went into the structure to confidently stand under it. All I really needed to do was submit to the idea that someone else did.

I was recently reminded of the fact that at least in part that is what the word “understand” means; to stand under and submit to knowledge that you may not fully grasp. Understanding therefore is an act of submission to truth, not dominance over it and you can understand something without knowing exactly how it works.

That’s how it is with God.

I understand God, in that I stand under Him. I submit to Him. I know that God is Love and that my life must reflect that love back on the world. I submit to that fact and that command, even when I don’t fully grasp it. I know it to be true even if I don’t know how it works.

That may sound nonsensical to you. But if you’re being honest I bet there are a number of “facts” that you stand under without understanding them in the traditional sense. Each and every one of us live every day in submission to something that we don’t fully grasp. We base our understanding on evidence and observation not on knowledge of how things work together to achieve the result.

What are some truths that you are submitted to? What do you stand under in your life?