What’s the best way to catch a dog that doesn’t want to be caught? Get the dog’s attention and run away as fast as you can. The dog will catch you. Then you simply grab the collar.
What’s the best way to deal with negative news or negative emotions? Address them at the beginning. Run towards them – not away.
It’s counter-intuitive. But your best opportunity to dispel a negative is to confront it head-on.
It’s rooted in psychology, and I’ll show you how.
“We have ways of dealing with people like you”
The British say the German sense of humor is no laughing matter. So, how would you like to be the one to deliver bad news to Siemens?
That was my job for a couple of years. It was hard, but it clarified this important principle …
Get ahead of the bad news and be the first to report it … and report it quickly.
My company had a habit of over-promising and under-delivering. This gave me frequent opportunities to hone and refine my skills. As I did, this simple formula emerged.
Step 1: Tell them you are falling short of what you promised to do.
Step 2: Tell them what caused you to fall short.
Step 3: Tell them what you are changing to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Step 4: Tell them what you’re doing to close the gap between what you promised to do and what you’re actually doing.
It worked brilliantly. On one occasion, the Siemens manager thanked me and said this was the model of how he wanted bad news delivered. He said it set him up for success because he could adjust his internal production proactively.
Later, one of the Siemens team members gave me the biggest compliment I’ve ever received from a customer. It came from Gerhard (not his real name). Not directly – but an indirect compliment.
Gerhard emailed me and asked me to call him when I got into the office. Of course, I was concerned, so I called immediately. Gerhard told me that his wife left, filed for divorce, and he was worried about losing time with his daughter. No discussion of work. He needed to talk. And it needed to be someone he could trust.
That phone call still amazes me. We disappointed Gerhard so many times. But in that moment, in his time of pain, he trusted me with something deep and personal.
Moral: Your greatest trust is built on how you handle the bad news. Anybody can deliver good news. But the most enduring bonds are built during the hardest times.
How to get a cold-call to listen
Cold calling is tough. As soon as you identify them as a salesman, you don’t hear a SINGLE word they say. You focus on planning your exit and that’s all you’re thinking about.
They could tell you they’ve left gold bullion on your front porch. But you wouldn’t hear that. You’d respond by saying: “Okay. Thanks for letting me know. Gotta run now.” CLICK.
Try this. As soon as possible, say:
“I bet you’re tired of getting cold-calls every week from people trying to sell you something.”
Then go silent and wait for them to respond.
The first time I tried this, they went silent for a minute. Then he chuckled and said “good for you.”
We talked for 30 minutes and then scheduled a follow-up call.
Why did this work?
First, I addressed his biggest objection as soon as possible. It was stated clearly and succinctly. It tapped into what he was most likely feeling.
Since I stated his biggest objection, it was off the table. He had to think of a response as opposed to giving a canned response.
Now he was listening. That allowed us to have a real conversation.
Moral: When you make their argument for them, it forces them to think about their next response. The auto-pilot in the brain is turned off and you are deeply engaged with them.
Working with a sociopath?
Have you ever walked away from a meeting and said, I can’t make any progress because they’re:
- A sociopath?
Let’s go a step further …
What if you had to negotiate the release of a hostage? And your hostage was being held by a terroristic sociopath with a history of doing unspeakable things to hostages.
What if your next pay raise depended on the safe release of that hostage without paying the $10 million demanded?
Would you take him to a basketball game and hope the game would entertain him so much that he’d recant his demands and release the hostage?
(It kind of sounds silly when you put it that way … Doesn’t it?)
The problem with basketball tickets, steak dinners, and other gifts is they never address the core objection. Sure, schmoozing and entertainment may open a lot of conversations. But you’ll never have lasting buy-in until you address the core objections.
So, how do you get a homicidal sociopath to stand down?
State their case as perfectly and clearly as you can – even if it sounds like you’re arguing against yourself.
“You’ve faced 500 years of oppression. First from the Spanish. Then the Japanese, and now the Americans. You’ve had your fishing rights violated and you’ve suffered economic harm. So that’s why you feel you’re due $10 million in exchange for Jeffery Shilling’s life.”
That’s what the Philippine hostage negotiator said. And those words unraveled the entire ordeal. The ransom was never discussed again.
Abu Sayyaf was the terrorist group on the Philippine island of Mindanao that captured Jeffery Shilling. Suddenly, Shilling noticed nobody was watching him. After 3 days he walked away and found a farmer who called the authorities and he was rescued.
Several weeks later, the Abu Sayyaf leader called the negotiator. He said he deserved a promotion for his work.
He was about to kill Shilling. But that call changed his mind. Yes, the call where the negotiator seemed to argue against himself resolved the negotiation. The homicidal sociopath stood down. The American walked free. No ransom was ever paid.
Moral: The sooner you can clearly state the core objection in a convincing way, the sooner you will get lasting buy-in.
Emotional vs. intellectual level
These examples challenge the rational mind.
- Should you trust a supplier with your deep and personal pain when that supplier has been repeatedly unreliable?
- Should openly admitting that you’re cold-calling with intent to sell something cause them to drop their guard and talk for 30 minutes?
- Should you be able to get a homicidal, terroristic sociopath to drop a $10 million ransom request because you clearly articulated a case for their demands?
You are probably troubled right now. This must seem like madness.
Yes, it’s an absurd idea to say that equipping your counterpart with arguments against you is the fastest path to your desired resolution.
It makes me wonder if I’m a bit loony for even publishing it.
But it works. That’s the problem. It’s pure madness … and it works.
We’re in a counter-intuitive business. The actions that have the greatest impact often appear to be counterproductive … until you try them.
This principle works for two reasons.
First, you are connecting with people at an emotional level. Convince the heart and the mind will follow.
The analytical readers are puffing their chest and boldly claiming they’re not subject to these forces. Well, I’m an analytical with the credentials to back that up … and you’re wrong if that’s how you’re thinking.
We can go through history and chronical the asinine things we’ve done in the name of science. An example is how we killed America’s first president by draining 40% of his blood in one day to rid him of pneumonia. That is one of many really bad data-based decisions in the name of science.
The second reason this principle works is it disrupts a cognitive bias. Cognitive biases are tools our brain uses to make decisions quickly. One of those cognitive biases says we fill in characteristics from stereotypes, generalities, and prior histories.
That means when a salesman acts in a way that seems to hurt the sale, it disrupts the tool our brain uses to quickly categorize the engagement. When a hostage negotiator argues the case of the hostage taker, it disrupts the brain’s ability to quickly categorize.
When you disrupt the cognitive biases, it forces longer and deeper thought as they are restructuring the way they make decisions. That’s the moment you win long-term buy-in.
Putting it to work
One area of focus for allies4me is wealth managements and financial advisors. They’ve got a problem on their hands. September and October of 2018 have been rough months. By October 24th, the market lost all its gains for the year.
So, how should they respond to their clients in times like this?
Say nothing and hope the clients never bring it up?
You’ll find your answer by getting in your client’s head. A client with a $10 million portfolio just lost $1 million in 2 months.
Any rational person who just lost $1 million is going to wonder if they should pull some, or all, out of the market until it stabilizes. (That doesn’t mean they will – but they are wondering.)
The sooner they’re convinced you understand what they’re feeling, the sooner you can guide them to the right path.
But if they feel you’re giving advice without regard to their concerns, you’ve put yourself at a disadvantage. They won’t see you as an ally. And that’s a hard place to be to get your job done.
You find these principles in all disciplines. Savvy politicians don’t hide their dirt. They get it out early and clearly state it happened. The news media feeds on it for a couple of cycles and then moves on because there’s no lasting scandal.
The point is don’t let fear consume you.
- Companies miss commitments.
- Financial markets go through periodic corrections.
- Politicians have spotted histories.
Don’t hide from these things. Confront them head-on. That frees everyone to move on to a better and more profitable place.
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