Friday, July 28, 2017

When It's Impossible to Empathize

Have you ever met a person whose values were so different than yours that it was impossible to empathize?
Image result for sociopath

I often talk about empathy in selling with the people who engage me in sales training.  For this purpose, I’m not talking about the kind of empathy you feel when you see a kid fall off his bike or learn of a person who has just lost a family member.  Since this type of empathy comes natural to almost everyone, it doesn’t need to be taught.

The way we teach people how to empathize is targeted toward reaching a desired outcome.  We ask unique questions that give us an opportunity to understand what is important to the client.  We are looking for the client’s desired outcome (even if they aren’t specifically telling you).  If you can understand where the client wants to be, then you earn the ability to present a way to get there.  We call this Empathy With Accuracy.  

This method of selling isn’t new.  But, the way people communicate has changed by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades.  So, understanding how to seek out opportunities to be empathetic in person, over the phone, by email, text, skype, and social media is new territory.  We must constantly stay on top of creating the right client experience through all forms of communication.

Getting back to those rare people with whom you cannot relate… the best thing is probably to just forget about trying to sell to them.  I am always up for a challenge.  I have sold things to people from all walks of life.  I have sold to the ultra rich, dirt poor, perfectionists, bohemians, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindu.  One thing I know to be true is that you are wasting your time trying to sell to someone whose values are so far from yours that you can’t understand what drives them.  

These people will work you, putting no value on your time or expertise.  They will try to find every angle to get over on you.  They will sap you of all your hard work and intellectual capital and then take the business to someone else, who is willing to take it a step further… Like offering an illegal rebate or some immoral enhancement to the deal that you would not even think to consider.

I’m writing this article, because this just happened to a colleague of mine “John” and I want to bring it to light.  John was recently (after 6 months of very hard work) able to offer a friend, who is a prominent businessman in the Raleigh area, a product that was contractually better than what the friend/client already had.

The client in this situation showed signs of an immoral and irrational behavior from the beginning of the process.  His nature was that he couldn’t be satisfied with even the highest standard of work from John.  He would complain over things that most buyers would be excited about.  He was also hot and cold.  He would be into the sales process with quick responses and helpful info for a week or so and then John wouldn’t hear from him over a simple request for 3 weeks.  When the final offer was in, he seemed unhappy and reluctant to buy, even though he was saving 30% on a product he was already paying for.  He complained that the process took too long and looked for holes in the contract.  He couldn’t find any because there weren’t any.  The contract was actually substantially better than what he was already paying for, yet still, he was trying to find a reason not to buy it.  During the whole process, it seemed like the client was challenging John to beat his current deal, while feeling certain that it couldn’t be done.  And when it was soundly beaten, it was as if the whole process was cheapened further.  Instead of feeling appreciation, he felt disgust.

In the end, the client took John’s intellectual capital and hard work and handed the same deal to a better friend of his (the same guy who sold him the original contract!!).  The commission on the deal was about $10,000.

So what do you do when it seems like this is happening to you?  Here is something that I learned a long time ago that works well.  You let the process commit the client.  You don’t do anything special for them.  Actually, it’s better to fall back on protocols.  Keep it dry and stick to only the essentials of completing the case.  This way, the quality and the value is still great for the client, but you protect yourself from getting emotionally committed to the case and wasting time.  If the client doesn’t follow through, forget it.  It was never going to happen.  Often times though, the people with whom we cannot empathize will end up buying when you take a robot like approach.   

-Insurance Professor

Monday, July 10, 2017

“Morality, like art, means drawing a line somewhere”

It’s December 31st.  You’ve had an ok year.  You are about 3% short of where you need to be for the year.  The higher ups raised your performance goals 10% compared to last year.  They never lower them. Pressure is on.  Stakes are high.  You have a mortgage to pay and a family to feed.  If you don’t hit your year end numbers, you don’t get that big bonus you’ve already spent.  Worse yet, maybe you get fired.  Money problems are one of the most significant factors that lead to divorce.  What do you do?  Do you change a number around?  Sell something to a client that they may not need?  Not only is there not a consequence there is a reward.  Dishonesty can permeate through a system and show up not because of selfish interest but because of a desire to help.

The prevalent theory of dishonesty is the idea of cost–benefit analysis.  What can I gain? What can I lose?  From there we figure out if this is a worthwhile act of dishonesty. If there’s a big cost, we’re not going to be dishonest.  It is really more complicated than that. There are psychological, environmental, or societal factors that may exist to help keep us honest.  

Locksmith Parable

Locks are on doors to keep honest people honest.  1% of people who are honest will always be honest and never steal.  Another 1% will always be dishonest and always try to pick your lock and steal your television.  The rest will be honest as long as the conditions are right.  One of the frightening conclusions is that what separates honest people from not-honest people is not necessarily character, it's opportunity.  Because of the commonality and danger of the first step, what is the difference between people who commit crimes and those who don’t? Is it just missed opportunity?  It’s all about the ability to rationalize dishonesty.

Where Do You Draw The Line?
If it is okay to nudge the truth a little bit but, where do you draw that line?  There is an excerpt from “Three Men in A Boat(to say nothing of the dog)”  I knew a young man once, he was a most conscientious fellow, and, when he took to fly-fishing, he determined never to exaggerate his hauls by more than twenty-five per cent. “When I have caught forty fish,” said he, “then I will tell people that I have caught fifty, and so on. But I will not lie any more than that, because it is sinful to lie.”

Dan Ariely, author of “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty” ran an experiment and gave people 20 simple math problems: each one was a matrix of numbers where people had to find two numbers that added up to ten.

It was a simple enough exercise that anyone could do, but he didn’t give them enough time. At the end of five minutes, people had to put their pencils down and write on another piece of paper how many they solved correctly. They then put the original test paper in the shredder, so nobody would know the true number they had solved. They received $1 for each problem they claimed to have solved correctly.

  • On average, people solved four problems but reported solving six.
  • Nearly 70% cheated.
  • Only 20 out of the 40,000 were “big cheaters”, people who claimed to have solved all 20 problems. They cost the experiment $400.
  • They also found more than 28,000 “little cheaters” who cost the experiment $50,000.

So although there are some big cheaters out there, they are very rare and their overall economic impact is relatively low. On the other hand, there are a lot more “little cheaters” out there and their economic impact is incredibly high.

What The Hell Effect

You made it past 12/31.  What did you decide?   On to January 1st.  Those resolutions aren’t going to break themselves.  It’s diet time.  Now you’ve made it a whole week.  You have been eating healthy the last 7 days.  The moment you say: “today i’m not on a diet, I’ll have a burger.” Once you say “I’m not a dieter”, which is how you defined yourself until now, you usually don’t go back to that definition. You form a new definition for yourself: “I’m not a dieter, what’s the point?”  Once you cheat one time you are more likely to keep doing it.

Dan Ariely, ran a study utilizing a vending machine. The machine was set up to say that bags of candy cost 75 cents on the outside, but its mechanism on the inside was set to zero cents. So when people put money in the vending machine, they would get extra bags of candy, and all of their money back. A big sign on the vending machine read, “If there’s something wrong with this machine, please call this number”. Nobody called, but nobody took more than four bags of candy.

We all struggle with honesty and self-protection.  We want to think of ourselves as decent, honest individuals, which is not consistent with being a liar.  On the other hand, we want to justify being dishonest when it is self-beneficial or protects us from painful truths. Consequently, we walk that fine line between being honest and being dishonest, between acting in accordance with reality and tweaking that existence. Honesty is something of a state of mind. When we lie, it's not always a conscious or rational choice.  

The Solve - Do You Swear To Tell The Whole Truth?

If I caught up with you on your way to work on December 31st and made you sign a form stating all of your reporting is accurate, truthful and in the clients’ best interest, would that have an impact on your day?  Ariely and his colleagues had one group of study participants to recall the Ten Commandments, and the other group to recall 10 books they had read in high school. The latter group largely engaged in widespread but moderate cheating when given subsequent reward-based tasks designed to measure honesty. But the group that recalled the Ten Commandments didn’t cheat at all. The result was the same when they reran the experiment on a group of self-declared atheists who were asked to swear on the Bible.

Oscar Wilde said “Morality, like art, means drawing a line somewhere.”  In every industry, age, and walk of life we are presented with choices that stretch our moral fiber.  Knowing how powerful our brains are at dictating our conscious and subconscious thought process is half the battle. The next time you preface a statement with "To tell you the truth" or "I'm going to be honest with you" ask yourself if that really needed to be said and if everything up to that point was a lie.