We did a lot of interesting exercises in the two-day intensive sales and negotiation class I just took. I liked them, because not only were they fun, they provided good insights into our strengths and weaknesses as communicators. I already wrote about the “sell a book to a stranger” challenge, as did Russell. Another member of the class also has promised to share her story soon. Today I’ll share what I learned in the “who gets voted off the boat” exercise.
For this one, each of the eight people at our table was assigned a profession. We were given a scenario where we were in a plane crash and had a lifeboat that only held six people. Each of us had to make a short presentation on why someone with our profession should make it on the lifeboat. There were landscapers, lawyers, janitors, an airline pilot, and such. I was the librarian.
I figured the librarian, with the ability to research anything, and all the knowledge of books she had read, would be a cinch to get on the boat, so I wasn’t really worried. When my turn came, I said that with me on board (with my trusty solar-powered cell phone), anything we needed to figure out I could help with. I also made the point that, on those long and lonely days and nights floating around in the ocean, I could tell stories to distract the others, pass the time, and preserve their mental state.
Others made very good cases for themselves, as well, some better than others. Some resorted to making up new skills, like the lawyer who happened to be a former Navy SEAL. Convenient. When we voted, we voted for one to be sure to keep, and one to vote off. I voted to keep my partner, Russell, who, in his trainer presentation mode, had made a very good case for his profession of teacher, and I voted to leave the landscaper, whose skills I just didn’t see were helpful.
I was surprised at the results. It turned out that the airline pilot won. Apparently, they have leadership skills and survival training. The pilot won in lots of groups, but almost every profession (other than lawyer) won at least one competition.
As for me I was left off the boat. One of the team members said I did a great job, but that they thought the bit about telling stories was not helpful at all. A couple others agreed. After we talked about some of the others, another team member piped up that they thought I was right, that the psychological needs of people stranded in the ocean were important, and that the stories could be very useful for maintaining sanity. Well, yeah, that’s why I said that. But, I was shivering on the shore by that point.
What did I learn from this? The experience really drove home something that was mentioned often in the training. When you are trying to sell something to someone, you need to focus on what they believe they need, not what you think is a selling point of a product. In selling a house, a great playscape in the back yard is not a desired feature to a retired couple, so you’d focus on the lack of stairs, instead. It’s really important to figure out what the other person desires BEFORE launching into any sales pitch.
If I’d been able to talk to the team about what they felt was important about someone to include on the boat, I’d have focused more on my data retrieval skills and less on story-telling. Just because I was right didn’t mean the others were interested in that set of skills.
This is why it’s important to build rapport with the person you are selling to or negotiating with. You need to find out what they are interested in or care about, and most important, what THEIR desired outcome for the transaction is. Then you figure out how to make getting them what they want fit in with what YOU want, so you both win.
I felt better knowing that our instructor, Than, had been voted off the first time he did the exercise. He and I agree that you can learn more from being voted off than from being voted on. I was persuasive, but I didn’t meet the needs of my audience. Lesson learned!
I have another exercise that I learned from to share in the next few days, so check back in soon, or subscribe via email, so you won’t miss a post. Want to chat more? Phone 512-807-8777!