I’ve just come back from Singapore, where I experienced, first hand, the powerful force that is personality-driven sales. One was from a group of tailors (Tony’s Fashions (Tailors) Singapore), the other from the group that includes Onsen and Seacret – natural cosmetics. In both instances, the warmth and engaging power of those who were selling was nothing short of astonishing. I was treated like a King (or as the story unfolds, more like a Princess), I felt like royalty, and I handed over a royal ransom!
The interesting thing for me was the second visit. For my suit, I needed to go back for the fitting. For the eye cream, I went back with a casual question. The second time, I was more like a piece of the furniture. The deed was done, they’d had their way with me. I was old news. It was the morning after.
I guess we all treat people like this -especially those who have become familiar to us. Not so the lovely Linda in our local Cantonese Restaurant. Every time we go there we get treated like royalty – and it’s a joy to watch my Dad respond to this.
Apparently an ancient Chinese curse is: “may you live in interesting times!” Since we do live in interesting times economically, I think clever, pushy, forceful salespeople need to take a longer-term view. With hindsight, I feel abused. Not raped – that’s too strong, but certainly like someone who’s gone on a date – enjoyed intimacy as a fully consenting adult – and then who’s been dumped the next day! Surely the future is in the symbiotic health of developing a life-partnership with our dear customers?
Let’s love our customers, and when we do make the sale (make love to them!), let’s work towards being more excited the next time we see them… the most important sale is the second, not the first, and third is even more important still…
Lend me your imagination for a spell… you can well imagine a birthday bun with a single candle in it, can’t you? But hang on, the candle is not a candle, it’s a lit stick of dynamite! Running away, as you would, you notice you have odd shoes on, one purple and one yellow (or one red and one green, or one blue and one orange… but that’s another story…) You pause to catch your breath and rest against a tree – long enough to realise the tree is growing out of concrete – the concrete that reminds you of that time when you most strongly remember wet concrete. Running on again you come to the shop where you can get refreshments. The shop has been so popular in the past that the owner has decide to provide separate doors for when you come in and when you go out. You choose what you want. While you’re waiting to pay for what you want, you notice that there is a nature programme on the store’s TV. It’s about bees and how they communicate to one another concerning where to find the best pollen-rich flowers… only these bees have upped the quality of their game. They are communicating with their waggle-dances on a giant picture of their territory – like some huge game of Twister. Suddenly your heart skips a beat for joy… you here the amazingly moving sound of Japanese Taiko drummers – and are delighted to see a troupe of them walking past, performing.
Just see how much of the story can you recall.
There are six main pointers:
The dangerous stick of dynamite looking like a number one
The contrasting shoes
The tree in concrete
The in and out doors
The bees communicating using a big picture visual
The Taiko drummers beating their drums with sticks, making your heart leap for joy.
All this is to help you remember the message of this blog. It uses two memory systems: a) the story, which may be enough on its own, and b) I’m linking the story to the number rhyme system where one=bun, two=shoe, three=tree, four=door, five=hive, and six=sticks.
Well, that’s the warm up, what’s it all about?
“I’m Just Not Ready to Evolve”
We all need to communicate. Most of us are horrendously busy. Many of us talk too much and hardly listen. All these work against to most well-established part of our brains: the Reptilian Brain. To get people on-board we must first keep the Reptilian Brain happy. The story highlights six ways to do this.
1 Talk about ‘You’ first (ie. them) and not about ‘Yourself’
Like many consultants, I love language, I can be verbose! I like weird descriptors of my services. Blah, blah, blah, blah… My clients, on the other hand, don’t have much time. They need a clear message – a strong message that passes the test of the oldest part of their brain. The so-called Reptilian Brain is the first to develop in the embryo and it is shared by all vertebrates. It is largely unconscious and yet it comes first. In fact the processing in our brain seems to be first Reptilian Brain, then the Emotional Brain, then the higher thinking brain – the cortex that mammals have. It all makes sense. The Reptilian Brain keeps us alive. It assesses threat – remember the stick of dynamite in the bun? And it looks after Number One – You! This is not selfishness, it is survival – and survival comes first.
Too many of our proposals, conversations, and communications centre around the wrong person: me! How about this for a life-changing quote: “A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself.” (Lisa Kirk, American Book Publicist) If we want to work with the brain instead of against it we need to focus on you not me. This helps the most established, trusted, and unambiguous part of the brain to go, “this person is OK.”
2 Be Different, Distinct, Contrasting
Remember the shoes? Well your Reptilian brain doesn’t like lots of options. It likes to make split-second decisions based upon clear contrast – as clear and distinct as the contrast between blue and orange, or red and green, or even purple and yellow shoes. Saying you are, “one of the foremost providers of…” is indistinct. When it is your turn to talk about yourself, make sure you’re different. You are the only person who can do the things you do, the way you do… so let people understand exactly what you do, and how this is different to what anyone else can do.
3 Give Concrete Associations
Like pacing and leading in communication, people like to be able to follow the thread. You need to meet them in their world, at their pace, using their frames of reference. This means using associations that they can, well, associate with! I have a strong background in UK TV, films, adverts, and humour. I work Internationally, and the culture doesn’t always jump the gap between the continents. This is why personal stories that others can relate to are often far more powerful than cultural references. Stories bridge the gaps between people, cultures, ages, and beliefs.
4 Primacy and Recency – Beginning and Ending.
Attention is not constant. We remember the Monday and Friday of the week, but dip with the equivalent to the Wednesday of any communication! This means that your message must be strongest at the beginning and ending of your event (remember the in and out doors at the store?) Grab attention at the beginning and hit a home run at the close. There are many keys to keeping attention high, but that’s another blog and book (eh, Jennifer?)
5 Use More Pictures
I am an authority on Accelerated Learning (by which I mean I ‘authored’ a book on the subject, which is supposed to make you an authority!) So I know a lot about learning preferences. However, I still meet people who think they are a ‘Visual’ person, or an ‘Auditory’ learner, or someone with a ‘Kinaesthetic’ preference. Whilst I understand that many people in differing situations have varying lead sensory preferences, we have to face biological facts. Sight is the fastest sense – and the Reptilian Brain sees the need for speed. A picture paints a thousand words – and paints them at the speed of light. Regardless of your own sensory preferences, give your audience (interesting word) the Big Picture every time. This can be via a story that captures the imagination, hence our opening memory story.
Be an Emo! The Reptilian Brain works intimately with the Emotional areas of the next level of mind – the emotional centres. Blah is the new bland – not the new brand. Brand your message into your target audience’s brain with burning emotion and passion.
This is a blog, not a book. Yet it should be enough to make sure you’re working with the Reptilian Brain and not, instead, building barriers to your own success. If you want to dig deeper, I’ve based this blog on an interpretation of the material to be found in “Neuromarketing” by Patrick Renvoisé & Christophe Morin. This book paid for itself within the first 17 pages. Nice one!
Busy people don’t have the time it takes to deep process situations, scenarios, and propositions using the slower yet sophisticated higher brain. Conversationally, they are just not ready to evolve. So keep it simple and stroke their inner Croc!
I’m standing at a table on the top of the World. To be specific at the Ku de Ta bar on the 57th Floor of the Marina Bay Skypark. Of course one can still go higher… there’s a private members section and other barriers to suggest you’ve still got higher to fly until you’re at the top your game. How do I feel about this? I am really ambiguous. This is a most beautiful place. If you’re ugly, but rich, you can come in too. But what about the poor? No way… and I think there should be a way. I can vividly remember the days when a McDonalds was a treat for Julie, Me and the Kids. Wow! That was another lifetime.
Am I happier on top of the World? Actually, I am. I enjoyed the simple pleasures of a small gift for Christmas (typically a new set of strings for my 12-String Guitar), and the ‘special’ nature of a family moment in McDonalds… but we must as a species and as individuals, develop, mature, grow, and evolve.
The key, then, is to evolve in a sustainable way. I was musing on the fact that I am a biped. I require both feet to work together to maintain forward momentum. For me, each step forward is driven by “Creativity”. This is when I am happiest, being creative, making headway. This would, however, be an ugly hopping movement without the back-up of my left-foot: sustainability. My left-foot consolidates the progress of the right-foot, and allows the right to stride forward again.
Imust press on to new pastures, but I cannot do this without managing the pastures I’ve already cultivated. And, to do this in a balanced way, we can look to Ecology as a model of how to sustain progress. The first insight is to realise that nothing and no-one exists in isolation. We are all connected – like it or (most likely) not! This means that our actions (to mix metaphors in my cognitive cocktail) impact others – like a drop of rain on surface of a lake.
My ripples have not always been helpful. This too is a lesson in Ecology. We must seek balance. Indeed, in Organisations, too often people don’t leave a job but rather leave a manager – someone whose ripples are not pleasant. There is a better way.
The second lesson is that Nature, in any Eco-System, tries three models: the parasite, the host, the symbiont. Only one of the three is sustainable – the symbiont. Business is full of parasites. Usually they are discovered (often too late), and the cycle of host maintaining parasite continues. This can be as mundane as the office bully going unchallenged, right through to whole industries profiting at great cost to their host victims. Governments can all too easily slip into this trap. My personal belief that if there is no obvious return on my tax paid, the tax collected is tantamount to theft. This is why democracies must always challenge their leaders. Accountability is a part of the ecological model.
Symbiosis is the win-win collaborative style of the Natural World. Lichen is a classic example – a plant and a fungus living together in harmonious diversity. The plant gathers energy from the Sun in a way that the fungus cannot. The fungus gathers and releases water in a way that is beyond the abilities of the plant. They don’t compete, yet together, they are better – true synergy. What a wonderful model for marriage as well as less lofty ideals such as team-working.
So, can we evolve? I think choice is the mechanism for rapid social evolution. I can choose to collaborate. I can choose to contribute. I can choose to pursue balance. Only these pathways offer sustainability and long-term hope.
In future blogs, I will explore more the liberating concept of Organisational Ecology… until then, join my musing. How are you a part of your environment in which you live and move and have your being? How are you delivering win-win solutions, collaboratively? How are you evolving?
I loved “The Ten Commandments” with Yul Brynner as a moody Ramses. My favourite line is his seemingly final and defiant challenge to Moses, “So let it be written, so let it be done!”
I have been struck, recently, with the hidden power of the written word. The power of the spoken word has always impressed me, even though it seems to be fleeting (in most situations!) There is, however, a certain finality about the written word – an enduring, almost eternal permanence.
Could it be that the written word has a power all of its own? I can only speak of the evidence in my own life. Since writing down my goals and intentions, I have been enchanted by the seemingly magical results this frequently produces.
The great thing about this blog comment is that it is so easily put to the test. At the beginning of each morning, write down some of your grand visions for life, not just your ‘to do’ list for the day. Then track what happens over the coming week. You can comment on how well this worked for you.
Afterthought… I think what you write on and what you write with is almost as important to the ritual of writing as the words themselves. If you like Pinterest, and I hope you do, I’ll set up a board for writing instruments and gorgeous notebooks. My Pinterest can be found at http://pinterest.com/leximckee/
One of my favourite Fiona’s (and there are lot in my life – you know who you are…) taught me the value of learning from the Russians… the Americans (whom I love too!) invested heavily in the development of a pen that would write in zero gravity (Fisher Spacepen). This was not funded by NASA, but by the vision of the Fisher pen company themselves. It cost millions to develop. When challenged as to how the Russians would face the dilemma of writing in Zero G, the Russians declared they just gave their Cosmonauts a pencil!!! Fiona often used to send my cards written in pencil, and I found it particularly attractive.
[By the way, the Fisher Space Pen is actually a better solution. Leads can break in space and become a hazard. The wood of any pencil is also a hazard in the pure Oxygen environment. I don’t think this spoils the wit of the Russian’s cheaper solution to the same issue, but it does redress the balance to recognise the genius of Paul C Fisher.]