Part One of the Positive Reinforcement Sales Series
I plan on the Positive Reinforcement Sales articles being a series. However, if I get a job that pays $100,000 I will probably stop the series and focus on the new job. I need to mention that I got the idea to write this after an interview for a job that was advertised as one that paid $100,000. Anyone who reads this blog probably knows that I have been training dogs most of my life, therefore I will often use dog training and animal behavior as examples of what I am talking about. It so happens that in the job interview I was asked about the relationship between knowledge gained from dog training and how it applies to business and selling. A wide range of both human emotions and behaviors can be seen in the human/dog experience. Recently I have also been doing lead generation for a home improvement company and have had the chance to get to know and see other home improvement lead generators operate. While some people may not think of lead generation as sales, it is part of the sales process. We also need to close, although not as aggressively as what I imagine would be required in a sale. I have found this job quite interesting. I do plan on talking about my experiences doing lead generation as well as what I have observed in others.
Why people don’t like salesmen
When we make a sale we can force our will onto people or push them into a sale, we can also trick them into buying, both of these tactics are aversive to the target/buyer. Selling through aggressive verbal attacks and trickery indicates that the salesperson considers the customer as the enemy who needs to be defeated through deception.
When you use aversive tricks to make a sale you are in an arms race with customers. As your customers catch on to your tricks you will constantly need to come up with new maneuvers, traps, and deceptions to overcome their counter measures.
Some people may say using positive reinforcement will leave too much money on the table. It may be true that you are not bleeding your customers dry, but you will also have a loyal customer base that you can help for many years to come. It is the difference between harvesting all the buffalo on the plains or harvesting enough to make a profit but leaving enough breeding stock to ensure many harvests to come.
If you would like to know what people think of salesmen all you need to do is type
into a Google search. The results I got doing this are
salesmen are liars
salesmen are annoying
salesmen are scum
It looks like salespeople do not have a very good reputation.
Sales can be a respectable profession if it is done in an ethical manner that truly helps customers.
I am not saying that one should avoid using aggression in any form, but the aggressive engagement must be done in a way that builds a bond. To use aggression for building trust (acceptance) and a bond (incentive) with your customers requires a give and take, a vacillation between approach and avoidance. This is a classic pattern for courting behavior. It is also an often seen behavior pattern for an outsider gaining acceptance into a group. Even if we do not see the approach avoidance response, it is often there, hiding under other behaviors.
Learning how to use aggression to influence trust is more an art than a science, although there is science behind the art.
A good example of using aggression to build trust is shaking hands. Shaking hands is a form of ritualized aggression that has been repurposed into a greeting ritual. I have found that a greeting is also helpful for qualifying whether someone is a potential customer. From my experience there does need to be some external stimulus that helps the customer self qualify if the greeting is to be effective. For people this is usually visual, for dogs it could be either visual or olfactory.
Much like people, dogs also have greeting rituals that help build trust and lower the threat level. Even an extremely confident, and what has traditionally been called a dominant dog, cannot enter a new pack without some trepidation. These new pack leaders need to develop some level of acceptance by maintaining a safe distance while continuing to challenge those boundaries. This was most clearly demonstrated by the dog in the picture.
I used to spend a month every year observing and studying the feral and wild dogs in Taiwan. This experience gave me new insight into dog behavior. The dog pictured was quite a pushy dog and had been chased out of the home range by the pack he would later lead. For a day he hovered on the edge of the area where this pack lived. He would move closer and get chased away, but he kept at it. The next day when I came back, to my surprise, I noticed he was the new king. As I remember this occurred over several days from the time he first showed up. At first he stayed a good distance from this pack, but it was only 2 or 3 days until he was leading the family group who controlled the second best den site in the area. Before he could lead the group, he needed to build some level of acceptance and trust within the pack structure.
I personally know the two top lead generator for Solar City in Southern California. One of them has a very similar tactic as the dog I just mentioned. He approaches his target, greets and then qualifies (the challenge), if he is not chased away he attaches himself to the group or individual, once this happens even if the people don’t like him they seldom chase him off. Then he tries to overwhelm them with reasons to buy. Some reasons are educational, some are his enthusiasm, and some of what he does is overcoming objections. Personally I don’t think I would respond well to his attaching style. Once he moved into my personal space I think I would be inclined to chase him away. But he does do it in a friendly way and I do enjoy watching him work.
The greeting ritual may to some extent be duplicated online by greeting a person on a website through chat. But I would use it differently than what I often experience. First I would try not to interrupt their website experience. It may be least intrusive to let the website visitor initiate the chat. Another option that is less effective and less personable is the one way communication of a greeting video. The video lets visitors see who you are and get a feel for your business in a safe and nonthreatening low level engagement.
While getting to know your customers on your website would be ideal, it’s usually more practical to start the conversation on social media. It would be great if there was a way to know which of your social followers came from your website. That way you can engage with them in a friendly and helpful way. I seldom try to sell. Instead I help people make decisions that are best for them. Fortunately I represent a very high quality brand, so if people are considering what we offer, I want them to get it from us, and specifically through me. I really think we have one of the best solutions available.
You need to realize that sometimes the most expensive or best quality is not the best solution for a person’s needs. Once while camping and exploring in the mountains of Taiwan I lent my girlfriend a fairly expensive folding knife for cutting up, chopping, and dicing breakfast, when I got it back the very tip was broken and the blade was chipped. While she knew how to care for an expensive knife her friends did not. What happened is she lent it to one of her friends who used it for a whole lot of thing that I would never do. They were very minor dings but it was enough that I notices. The point being that in this scenario a quality knife that cost a lot less would have been a much better choice.
Is your company culture focused on making sales, creating innovative products, or helping customers?
When doing Business to Business sales I try my best to help clients and customers make money with the product or service I provide. Looking for a job, business partner, or sponsor is similar to a B2B sale, I am trying to help those who I work with make money. Although there may be a longer period of time between action and return on investment when working as an employee, business partner, or with a sponsor. As my friend Jack ReVelle says “we all have a customer” We need to give that customer what they need or the system we’re working with will break. The system may be future sales for the sales person or the ability of someone else to do their job in a business setting. This is an idea that’s common in companies that value quality and build systems to support continuous quality improvement. Jack is a statistician and is an expert on Total Quality Management. He was even lucky enough to meet Edward Deming. Jack is also the author of many books about manufacturing and Total Quality Management. You may hear more about both Jack ReVelle who I personally know and Edward Deming who I only know through his writing. They have both been very influential in my life. I briefly alluded to Jack in the very first blog post on this site.
Links about Jack ReVelle
Links about Edward Deming
The Sales Process
Individual sales people are not the only reason sales are so often done in an adversarial manner. The sale is a process that is part of a larger system. If the system advocates or insists on processes that encourage adversarial relationships with others, then that will become part of the company culture. We can often see the deceptive adversarial model used with the sales people by their managers. When I see that there is a sales quota that needs to be met the first thing I want to know is how did the company get that number? Did they analyze the sales process and come up with a sustainable number that is statistically valid? I want to know are variations within statistical control? Or does the company set unrealistically high sales goals so they can browbeat and belittle the majority of their sales force? I want to know if sale quotas are used as tools for continues improvement and personal growth of the sales force or are they tools of deceptions to gain adversarial control over salespeople.
Three Points For Positive Reinforcement Sales.
I am starting the series with three areas that relate to positive reinforcement sales. I will explore each one in future articles.
This is a simplified model that I think is useful when helping people within and outside of our companies and businesses. I also have a more elaborate 7 Track Program that I hope to elaborate on in future posts.
There are three areas we need to keep in mind when helping people make decisions about our products and services .
Who are your customers? How these reference points are used will be determined by who your customers are and what processes are used to serve them.
Stay tuned for more information about how the human/dog experience can show us a better way to sell.
For help with community outreach, Positive Reinforcement Sales, social media, video channel management, and video production you can reach me at Andrew Ledford 562-423-1691