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February 2009

RECESSIONARY TIMES AND WHAT TO DO

As someone who is always being asked to give talks – for example, my latest in London for the Institute of Association Management – www.iofam.org.ukthere is something different in the air. Twice now, I have felt the need by way of my introduction, to deviate from my patter and comment on the RECESSION. It’s almost as if the talk would be incomplete without it – or possibly irrelevant.

So what is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Well, my take is this: the trouble with economic recession and perhaps depression is that it inevitably leads to emotional recession and depression. And this is the problem, period, with all businesses that are purely economically driven: the bottom line is the bottom line.

You see, the problem with money is that we can make it, but – it can be taken away – by the Government, by fraudsters, by inflation, by incompetence. You name it. It’s a win-lose situation. One minute we’re on top – the next we’re in the vale of despond. In short, money always seems to induce panic.

I think therefore that it is very important always to see money as a by-product of our activities; a metric, if you like, one metric that tells us something important about what we are doing. But it does not tell us the crucial thing.

We need to focus on the one area that cannot be subtracted or taken away from us – by anybody or anything. What is that? Value. By adding value to our customers and clients and patients we cannot lose. And for proof of this, think simply of those who are your nearest and dearest: when you add value to their lives it never goes away – it is with them forever.

And here’s the thing: the element of value is relationship. It is through our relationships that we can endure and survive and prosper.

We need to address two critical relationships: first, our relationship with our self. Second, our relationship with others. Curiously, if we do not value our self first, then valuing others will be extraordinarily difficult, if not downright impossible. This cultivation of our self is what energizes and motivates – gives life to us even in the most tricky of circumstances. And when we do it – it cannot be taken away.

From that it is a short step to valuing the relationship – with our staff, our suppliers and our customers. When we have that relationship, the money starts to look after itself.

James


MOTIVATION AND MEDICINE

One of the problems of selling in business is to make your product or service sufficiently distinctive from other offerings in the same field. We sometimes use the phrase – USP – unique selling proposition. Everyone who has something to sell spends or ought to spend time thinking about this issue.

The best way I can conceptualize this process is through simile – by suggesting my product is like something completely different in another field, but beautifully, the competitor product is also like something else in that field too. And the contrast is telling – and easily understandable in that field.

To illustrate what I mean let me share with you my recent thinking about our product, Motivational Maps. In one sense our biggest competition to this ‘new’ product is other diagnostic tools, specifically Psychometric and Personality tests. Our product provides a language to describe and metric to measure the motivations of people at work. To date our biggest contrast between what it does and what Personality tools do is this: you don’t get out of bed on a Monday morning because of your personality; you get out of bed because of your motivators.

This is fine so far as it goes, but that is not far enough to get enlightened people to want to use our Maps.

Recently, a simile occurred to me which I think is really powerful and I would welcome feedback on what you think of it. Basically, conventional personality tests are like allopathic or traditional Western medicine. Motivational Maps are like Chinese medicine – they outline the energy system of the body and work to repair it. Allopathic medicine considers the behavior, the structure of the body, and the possible pill to be taken to remove bad symptoms. It expects energy to increase as a result of increasing wellness; however, energy is not its primary concern or even its specialism, for in truth it understands little about it.

The Chinese system on the other hand makes the study of the meridian system of energy core to everything, and everything depends on the flow of energy if health is to be maintained. And in this way there is a parallel with what our Maps do: we map people energy, team energy and organizational energies and how they flow, support or contradict each other. In this way, bizarrely, huge issues of strategy and overall health emerge from what appears to be a limited field.

Now of course the wise thing is to know both – they are complementary – and both can be effective in an organizational setting. But for day to day maintenance and small repairs – Chinese medicine beats Western allopathy hands down, every time!

James


MOTIVATION AND SALES

Brian Tracy (http://www.briantracy.com/) in his well known Sales Audio tape set makes the observation that 50% of any sale is a “transfer of enthusiasm”. I think this is right, and that if we analyze what we mean by enthusiasm two things become clear. First, that enthusiasm is a direct result of our belief – if we believe in a product or service this creates a ‘halo’ effect around it, which makes it far more compelling, or attractive.

In a way this is a subset of Professor Cialdini’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cialdini) point about influence – when in Rome do as the Romans do! Because someone believes strongly in ‘something’, then we are far more likely to entertain believing in it. There is something heinous about salespeople who have no personal commitment to what they sell – it seems no longer a ‘sale’, but a commodity to be traded as it were. Hence the slightly derogatory connotation of the word ‘trade’ – a nominalization divested of personal significance.

The second implication of enthusiasm is of a kind of energy that the sales person has about the product or service. In part this may derive from beliefs about the product or service and what it may be able to do, but it can be more than that.

Another way of describing the energy a sales person has is: how motivated they are about it. This motivation seems rooted in two areas of the psyche: the self concept and our identification with the product. Secondly, our expectations about the product. Expectations are our beliefs about future outcomes. In other words how the future will be impacted by using the product – a visionary well-being is invoked.

Visions of course are very exciting. I think it is true that most people lose sight of the fact that they are changing the world when they get excited by what their product can do – if they sell it! It’s that that’s at the heart of enthusiasm, and we need to regain that energy in ourselves and our sales forces if we are to be effective.

James