Friday, December 03, 2010

11 Secrets of Tactful and Diplomatic Selling

A friend of mine talked to me about internal family business politics. A different friend talked to me about frustration in working for a big company and not being able to "get her way" which was causing high frustration.

I loved being in business with all my brothers and even hired my father. We worked together for years. On balance I loved those years. And somehow we avoided some of the problems I have heard of in other family businesses.

I also had the big company experience for almost 5 years after SYNNEX bought EMJ. My job often included the need to "sell" head office on an idea or get resources to implement things. to some extent, I even had that when EMJ was public for 10 years as I had a board of directors.

The key in both cases is to make the sale but leave the relationship stronger than before. Much of this has to do with ego and respect.

I studied how to sell and developed these 11 secrets of making tactful and diplomatic sales.

1 - None of these secrets work in every situation or with every person. Secrets (or perhaps I should call them techniques) are situational and person dependent.

2 - Speak highly of everyone. I find speaking highly of people tends to make things come true. (perhaps that is why my brother, Glen, is a genius?)

3 - Let the idea incubate. I often found that I was completely convinced that an idea was a good one so I just wanted to implement it. But then I thought about why I was convinced. I had often been thinking of it for weeks. I had often done research. I had given the idea a chance to grow on me. In many cases, I found when I let the idea grow on other people, they "bought" into it. So present, leave them with information, then back off to let it grow (but of course follow through).

4 - Sell multiprong. Selling requires to support of all. So I would start socializing my ideas with everyone who might have influence. I would even figure out who might influence and make sure I touched them. That way if the person I needed to sell went elsewhere for advice, the idea would be supported.

5 - Think downside. Often the reason I could not get instant support was due to a fear. So in every opportunity, I would design downside protections. Ways to limit risk. And I would point those out. This goes with my Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap. Cheap means looking at downside.

6 - How you talk to people is every bit as important as what you say to them. Much of selling is about respect. I use some of the age old selling phrases like - Feel, Felt, Found. I know how you feel, I felt the same way when I thought of the idea but what I found was this would really help us because...

Another one I use is "that is not like you". "It is not like you to never take a risk...". When repeated often enough, people start to believe it themselves.

My earlier experience taught me not to use lines like "I am surprised they would give anyone so stupid an MBA" or "Let me get you some fish oil so your brain can work better".

7 - Trade. Often I would trade support of another project for mine. In organizations, we all have things we are passionate about but others we are not as sure about. If their passion is not mine and what they need support of is not bad, then I would trade support.

8 - Ask the How question. I find people are much more creative and open when asked "how could we fit another 20 containers in the warehouse" than "Why can't we fit them in?". The act of answering how causes people to think creatively.

9 - Fear is a great motivator. Often people would object to my ideas because they always meant lots of work and change. If found people would buy in to change better if they realized the status quo was just not possible. So we were going to have to change anyways we may as well change this way.

10 - Build the relationship. I tend to be an all work guy (particularly when I was younger). So it took deliberate action for me to spend time building relationships when I had no specific agenda at that moment. What I have found is deep relationships make decisions easier.

11 - Ask them to argue the other side. If someone prepare the case for why something should be done, it reinforces something in them that causes them to support the idea. I like to say "Ok - your turn to sell the idea and I will play devils advocate".

So now the secrets are not secrets.

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