Friday, March 8, 2013

Peter Bregman was attuned to Dan's problem. That's why Peter failed.

Peter Bregman recently wrote a post about a sale gone bad. Bregman described how he got a very good lead to a potential client, referred to as "Dan" in the story. Bregman devoted himself to understanding the problem that Dan was facing.

Sounds like a good thing to do. The oft-recommended strategy is to work at understanding a customer's problems and needs, and then showing how the customer's issues can be solved by you.

In at least this one instance, that was the wrong strategy. Bregman lists six things that happened before and during the meeting which seemed correct at the time, but which in retrospect were the wrong things to do.

What's wrong with taking the time to understand Dan's needs, and then being prepared to offer a solution? Bregman explains:

I was operating from my perspective. But Dan wasn't. He was operating from his perspective. And from his perspective, the fact that I was operating from my perspective was a deal-breaker.

The problem? I wasn't attuned.

But of course Bregman was attuned, wasn't he? Sort of.

I might have been attuned to the challenges Dan was facing — but everything I did and said indicated that I wasn't attuned to Dan.

Bregman emphasizes the point:

What Dan was really looking to figure out — what most people are looking to figure out — is what it would feel like to work together. And what I showed him in our brief conversation is that it would feel like some expert coming in and telling him what he should do.

If I were Dan, I wouldn't hire me either.

In Bregman's article, he makes reference to the ideas of Daniel Pink. Pink talks about attunement:

JUSTIN FOX: Another key attribute for being effective in sales, and persuasion in generally, that you talk about is being attuned to whoever you're talking to. And one of the things that really struck me was how big an impact it can have if you just mimic what the other person is doing.

DANIEL PINK: It's unbelievable. This research is frightening. And I've sort of been wrestling with it, turning it over my head. One of the things about mimicry, the word mimicry, is that it sounds duplicitous on its face. And the more I've kind of reflected about this, is it's what human beings do.

Pink provides an example.

[L]et's say that you are my server at a restaurant. And I make an order. So what do you want? Or, can I take your order-- probably not, what do you want. Can I take your order? I say, I would like a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, mustard on the side, and salad, not fries. Now if you say to me, OK, so you want a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, mustard on the side, and salad, not fries, repeat back, exactly, you're mimicking....

Tips are 70% higher than if you said, OK, got it, great, got it. And as we puzzle through that, we think, OK, why is that the case? Well, you're heard. First of all, you have some assurance they're going to get it right. They took your perspective. They understood what you were saying. They heard what you were going to say. And all these things are very effective.

And it's also, the other thing is, there's an impact on the mimicker, not only the mimickee. It's not only that the mimickee likes to see him or herself reflected back. It's that, remember, the whole point of attunement is to take someone's perspective, to understand their position.

Does this mean that expertise doesn't count? Not necessarily - it means that the customer's expertise is more important than the provider's expertise...
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