“Your function in life may not feel like it has anything to do with sales, but when we deal with others it matters to remember that the best way to get the outcome we want is to help others get the outcome they want.”
This was a statement that I made about a photo meme that I posted on Facebook. It sparked a brief dialog with a close friend and one of the driving forces behind LeadershipVoices.com. And it has caused me to share some more thoughts that further develop my original post. But first, here is the question that prompted my additional thoughts.
How do I do that when our wants are sometimes at cross-purposes? Or, what if what they want is detrimental to the health of the organization?
There are some problems in life we can’t solve.
There are some people that we will encounter in life that will refuse, resent (or even attack) our help.
There are many times in life where people have a different problem than they think they have (or that they have the ability to articulate). As a father to young children, I frequently have to solve the real problem rather than the problem my children perceive.
There are often times when we think we understand a problem and jump in to solve it, only to learn later that it is our own understanding that is flawed. In the consulting business, this is known as being a hammer and assuming that everything you encounter is a nail. If you encounter hesitation, reservation, objection (or even rejection), the right idea is to test your own understanding: Have you really asked enough questions to have determined the problem, and if you remove the (perceived) problem, is the outcome desired actually obtained?
If a successful outcome for the person you are serving involves – with certainty – something that is detrimental to you or your organization, then there are several options.
- Either the person with whom you are engaged does not understand the value you or your organization provides (which means that value needs to be worked out and agreed upon).
- Potentially you / your organization is not legitimately delivering anything of value.
What To Do
First, recognize that sometimes the best business you do is the business you don’t do. Perhaps the best thing you can do for another person is to find someone who can help them better than you can help them yourself – even if it’s a competitor. It could be that serving them best means getting them better help than you can provide.
Second, recognize that just because you can solve someone’s problem doesn’t mean that they want it solved.
Third, recognize that sometimes the greatest thing you can do for another person is to help them solve a problem they may not even know they have.
Fourth, test and retest your understanding of the problem that you believe is being solved. Ask “Why?” until it’s awkward to ask “Why?” again, and then ask it three more times. Then validate that the solution you desire to provide will actually produce the desired outcome.
Fifth, make sure that the other party you are serving understands appropriately the value of what you are doing for them. If there is no value to the person with whom you are engaged, either re-establish the problem, reassess the desired outcome and re-engage, or revert back to #1.
Finally: There are times in life that we face a legitimate enemy that we must confront. In my very blessed experience, these times have been rare. But then sometimes in life it is worth sacrificing ourselves for the good of another – maybe even for someone who won’t value the sacrifice we are making, or who won’t appreciate it, or who may even be hostile to us as a result. In a situation like this, I’d suggest that the problem we are solving is a holy one, and the entire benefit of solving it is ours, even if in doing so it results in some near- (or long-) term misery.
Ultimately some sales people are entirely coin-operated, but the best ones are the ones who recognize that their reward is greater than a commission check.
25+ years experience in high-tech sales, business development, marketing and evangelism, with experience at Sogeti/CapGemini, Apple, Symantec, Adobe and Microsoft
Professional scuba instructor and underwater photographer | Oenophile | Instructor in graphic design and production at the college level | Amateur musician | Faith, mission and church based work