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Going round in circles: Problem Solving Simplicity

There are some business books I refer to again and again.  Often they are also (no coincidence) those that are recommended by many people I know as part of your essential business bookshelf.

Getting to YesFor general negotiating skills, I am yet to be persuaded that any book has overtaken ‘Getting to Yes’ by Roger Fisher and William Ury.  It is one of those books where ideas are densely packed and none are laboured.  So despite being a short book, it has more in it than many twice its size.

The lowest review on Amazon UK gives it 3 stars – saying there’s not much new in it.  A triumph for a book that is 30 years old and has therefore been imitated and borrowed from heavily over the years.  I am fairly sure it was Ury and Fisher who first introduced negotiators to the BATNA.

Not about Negotiation

However, I am not writing this Pocketblog about negotiation and you can learn more in Patrick Forsyth’s excellent Negotiator’s Pocketbook (one of my personal favourites).

Sitting among the many gems in Getting to Yes (at page 70 of my 1986 hardback edition) is the circle chart.  This is presented as a tool to help negotiators ‘invent options for mutual gain’.  I see it as one of the best generic problem solving tools – and also, by the way, as a pretty good model for the consulting process.

The Circle Chart

image

What a wonderfully simple model for problem solving this is.

  1. Problem
    We ask what is wrong and gather the facts
  2. Analysis
    We diagnose the problem, seeking to understand causation
  3. Approaches
    We generate multiple options to resolve the problem
  4. Action ideas
    We evaluate the options and develop plans

All things are connected…

‘It’s the circle of life, Simba’

The Circle Chart has always reminded me how simplicity and robustness come from a few great insights, and the model-maker’s skill is in presenting them in new and relevant ways.  In particular, this model is a close relative of another, designed for a very different purpose: Bernice McCarthy’s 4MAT method for instructional design.

Although the sequence is slightly different, the four questions that McCarthy argued that we need to answer are all here:

  1. Problem – ‘what?’
  2. Analysis – ‘why?’
  3. Approaches – ‘how?’
  4. Action ideas – ‘what if?’

So here’s the deal

The circle chart may not be the most sophisticated problem solving model available, but it covers all of the basis for me.  A great resource for managers, project teams, consultants and trainers.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

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Reciprocity and Expectation

I got a phone call out of the blue yesterday.  I have noticed that this kind of call can either be a complete waste of time (’do you want to save money on your toner cartridges/wine/mortgage/pet insurance?’) or thought-provoking.  This one was most certainly the latter.

Tip of the day

You may have noticed on the main Management Pocketbooks website (you can get to it by clicking the logo at the top of the right hand column next to this blog) the Tip of the Day function.

SeeOurTipoftheDayTipoftheDay29Apr2011

If you click on it, you will get a different tip each day.  This caller had done just that, and got one of mine.

Keeping Promises

‘If I keep my promise, will you keep yours?
If I don’t believe you will, why should I bother?
Vroom’s model of motivation!

This tip came from the Management Models Pocketbook, where I describe Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory.  This is the section in the free extract you can view on the Management Models Pocketbook page, by clicking on ‘view extract’.

The tip was about the way that we can fail to motivate others if we get a reputation for not delivering on promised rewards.  But the tip had resonated with my caller in another way.

Honesty and Reciprocation

In her job, Alison had been thinking about the importance of truth and honesty.  She had read the quote and thought about the reciprocation of honesty, which got us into an interesting discussion about the nature of truth.

Reciprocation appears to be a fundamental part of human nature.  It is the basis of a large part of our society:

  • Trade, commerce and negotiation
  • Moral philosophy (do unto others… – the so-called ‘golden rule’)
  • Community and the trading of favours
  • Criminal justice (punishment fitting the crime – an eye for an eye)
  • Diplomatic exchange and warfare

Of course pure reciprocity is not always seen as the ideal in all of these cases.  In negotiation, a win-win goes beyond pure exchange of fair value and in moral philosophy, alternative approaches have developed and extended the golden rule, starting with Kant’s categorical imperative.  In community, the concept of paying forward, rather than paying back emerged in the 1950s and hit its peak of popular awareness in the 1990s with the film ‘Pay it Forward’.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPcwQi-AnWI]

There is no need to analyse the failings of tit-for-tat reciprocity in the criminal justice and diplomatic arenas!

In the world of influence, reciprocity is king

As Richard Storey points out in the Influencing Pocketbook, appeal to self interest is a powerful influencer.  But what is equally powerful is to appeal to our innate instinct to reciprocate a gift or a concession.  It is as if, your self interest served, you feel a need to express your gratitude with a reciprocal action.

This offers me a powerful way to influence your thinking or your behaviour.  If I meet your need or give you something you want, then you will feel an urge to give me something in return.  If I give you an honest answer, then you are more likely to be honest with me.

Game theory

But here is where the problem lies.  If I deal honestly with you, can I expect you to deal honestly with me?  If I do trust you and you reciprocate, we can get the best possible collective results, but if you cheat on  me, you optimise your gain, while I lose out.  So what should I do?

This is the domain of ‘game theory’ – the mathematical study of sequences of plays within a set of rules, where the players have some choice.  It turns out that tit-for-tat is a pretty good strategy…

… but not the best.  Constant cheating and constant trusting are both poor strategies, but one strategy stands out.

I am wondering whether I should share this.  What are the ethics of sharing a strategy that must mean some cheating, some trusting and some tit-for-tat behaviour?  Hmmm, that is something to think about.

So here’s the deal

The optimum strategy  in part depends on the strategy of your counter-party – your ‘opponent’ in the game.  But one of the most successful strategies seems to be ‘modified tit-for-tat’.  This means you start by reciprocating, to build trust, but every now and then, take advantage of the situation by cheating.  Then, revert to tit-for-tat behaviour to rebuild trust… and so on.

Does that sound familiar?  I have encountered it a number of times and it hurts.  For those of us who believe we act fairly and with integrity, encountering it in someone we trust is unpleasant.  It leaves us with a difficult choice: one I faced recently.

Should I reciprocate the cheating behaviour?  That was my instinct.  But maybe pure reciprocity is not the ideal strategy.  I relented and resorted to a tactic designed to rebuild trust.  Does this make me a gullible mark, ready to be fleeced the next time?  I don’t think so, because there is always one strategy I have not yet rolled out: not cheating, not trusting, not tit-for-tat.

You can always stop playing the game.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Negotiator’s Pocketbook

The Influencing Pocketbook

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook

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Handling Sales Objections

In last week’s Pocketblog, we looked at one way to make a sale.  But often it isn’t the selling that defeats us: it’s the objections.

CIPD HRD Exhibition

Resistance gets us every time and this is the topic of the Management Pocketbooks Learning Arena Session at the CIPD HRD Exhibition on 6 April.

At that session, I will be speaking on:

‘How to Understand Resistance and Handle it Effectively’

I will speak at 10am, and then return to the Management Pocketbooks stand (Number 571) to meet readers and answer questions.  As well as being the editor and principal author of the Management Pocketblog,  I am also the author of the Handling Resistance Pocketbook.

At the stand, you can get all of the Pocketbooks at the special exhibition rate of £1 off, and if you buy five, you can get a sixth one free – that’s six pocketbooks for £34.95.

Resistance to Sales

I will be speaking about resistance to change at HRD, but to follow from last week’s blog, let’s take a look at how my ‘Onion Model of Resistance’ applies to objections to sales.

OnionModelSalesResistanceL4

The Onion Model

The Onion Model sets out the layers of resistance we encounter – whether to our ideas, to change, or to our sales proposals.  As an example, here is a video of me talking about the fourth layer of resistance to a sale; when the potential customer says something like:

‘I don’t like your proposal.’

In this short video, I am talking about this level of resistance, and illustrating it with an example.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmEMdscBpR0]

So here’s the deal

Your job, when you encounter resistance, is to engage with it in a positive way.  Identify what level the resistance is at, then deal with it appropriately.  When you handle resistance effectively, it will often just melt away.

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook, by Mike Clayton

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook covers:

  • How to understand resistance
  • The importance of a sound process
  • Ways to start persuading
  • The power of language and questioning
  • Resistance to change
  • Sales objections
  • Conflict
  • The psychology of resistance

My Handling Resistance blog is at HandlingResistance.com

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Sell like your doctor

There is an awful lot that business people can learn from doctors, and I once sketched out a keynote talk: ‘What medical doctors can teach us about business’.  If the UK Government gets its way with National Health Service reforms, I might dust it off, re-title it: ‘What medical practice can teach us about business’ and take it on the road to GP groups around the country.

Let’s look at pain

Take Your MedicineDoctors rarely have any problems convincing a patient to take their medicine or have their operation.  Most people who do resist their doctor’s advice do so because they also have conflicting advice – often from another doctor.

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Of course, the stakes can be very high at a doctor’s surgery: you may be in pain, concerned for your long-term health or even facing terminal illness.  Your doctor can diagnose what is causing this and offer ways to remove or reduce the pain, enhance your long-term health prospects and even, perhaps, cure a life-threatening illness.

How does this relate to sales?

Nobody buys anything without a reason, and there are only four reasons why anybody does anything:

  1. Duty – they feel they ‘must’
  2. Curiosity – they need to ‘scratch an itch’
  3. Pleasure – they want something that will ‘feel good’
  4. Pain – they want to ‘stop the pain’

What doctors can do is offer the promise of stopping the pain.  As a salesperson, this is a phenomenally effective way to sell.  If you can identify what hurts for your customer, then you are on your way.

Selling like a doctor

Here’s how

  1. Discover their pain
  2. Make sure they are aware of it
  3. Demonstrate that you understand what’s causing it
  4. Suggest your product or service can heal it
  5. Let the potential customer ask you questions
  6. Provide evidence that your medicine works
  7. Discuss the perfect prescription for them

So here’s the deal

Next time you are trying to sell, take some time to diagnose your potential customer’s discomfort.  The more pain they have, the keener they will be for the right medicine.  If they also believe that you have that medicine, they’ll bite off your hand to get a fix.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might like

Selling is an essential skill for anyone in business, so it’s a great time to polish up you skills and remind yourself of the basics.

The Sales Excellence Pocketbook The Sales Person's Pocketbook

The Sales Excellence Pocketbook

The Salesperson’s Pocketbook

The Negotiator’s Pocketbook

The Key Account Manager’s Pocketbook

The Telesales pocketbook

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Marketing is an Ethos

I think Neil Russell-Jones strikes the nail perfectly in his introduction to the Marketing Pocketbook:

‘Marketing is not a department or a group of people.It is an ethos, that is a type of thinking that must flow throughout an organisation and permeate every aspect of its operations.’

What he means is that we should not leave marketing to ‘the marketers’ and we should not consider it a distinct activity from any other aspect of running our business.  Every aspect of every organisation from a multi-million-mega-corp to a sole-trader; and from the biggest Government department to the smallest cog in the Big Society machine needs to reflect the need to get a positive message out.

The game has changed: the rules are the same

SocialMediaThe game of marketing has changed out of all recognition in the last ten years.  The web and social media marketing channels have taken over and present us all with a huge amount to learn about how to use them effectively.  Luckily, for the moment, the rules are the same – in the sense that they are defined by human psychology.

 

Continue reading Marketing is an Ethos

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If it sounds too good to be true …

The old saying goes: ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’.  But there is another possibility: ‘if it sounds to good to be true, then you haven’t done your homework’.

Catching out the best negotiators

Sometimes in negotiations, you will be caught off guard by an unanticipated comment, statement or offer.  There is very little that is more disconcerting than an offer that is better than you were expecting.  This is because even the best negotiators rarely prepare for this scenario.

The cautious response is to ask yourself: ‘where’s the catch?’ and proceed delicately.  But there may be no catch; the offer may be genuine.  So whatever you do, don’t risk giving offence by challenging the offer.  Unfortunately, when we get caught out, we often respond in an unguarded manner.

What else could be going on?

If there is no catch, then there are two further possibilities:

  1. the offer is a fair one
  2. they know something you don’t and the value is higher than you thought

What should you do?

Obviously, the lesson from this example is to prepare for even this scenario.  As Patrick Forsyth says in The Negotiator’s Pocketbook, ‘successful negotiators do their homework’.

But if you are unprepared, then you certainly don’t want to just jump on the offer.  So, do what you would do with any offer: make a counter offer, by asking for a little more.  What you do not want to do is quickly accept the offer and leave the other person wondering if they have over bid.  If they do that, it can lead to buyer’s remorse – a sense of disappointment with the deal that they have struck, which can lead to them later reneging on the deal or not doing further business with you.  Worse still, you don’t want to accept a great offer that you could have improved still further.

If you sense the offer is a fair one – just a little better than you had anticipated, then your counter offer can be a little higher.  If, on the other hand, you think they know something more about the value than you do, either go considerably higher or, if you can, take a time out to do some more research.

So here’s the deal

There is no substitute for being prepared before you go into a negotiation: both in command of the facts, and mentally prepared to deal with the unexpected.

What are your tips for negotiating, from your own experiences.  Let us and our readers know, by contributing your own comment.

The Negotiator’s Pocketbook

In The Negotiator’s Pocketbook, Patrick Forsyth sets out a seven step process for your negotiation preparation.  This Pocketbook really is full of fabulous insights and tips.

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook

Okay, so we’ve not been talking about resistance but in the forthcoming Handling Resistance Pocketbook (due in the autumn), you’ll learn a great process, called ‘SCOPE the resistance’ to deal with the kind of surprise this blog talks about.

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Read the Handling Resistance Blog at www.handlingresistance.com

Other Management Pocketbooks you might Enjoy

The Influencing Pocketbook

The NLP Pocketbook

The Salesperson’s Pocketbook

The Positive Mental Attitude Pocketbook

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The Pocketblog Guide to Exhibitions and Conferences

On 21 and 22 April 2010, Management Pocketbooks will be on stand 571 at Olympia, for the annual CIPD HRD Conference and Exhibition.

We hope to see you there.  If you are coming to this one or going to another; whether you are attending an exhibition, an exhibition and conference, or are exhibiting, here are our top tips for making the best of your networking and learning opportunities.

Tip 1: Use your time effectively

Exhibitions and conferences are exhausting and time consuming. Your reason for going may be pleasure but for most of us, it is business.  So make sure you plan to capitalise on business opportunities.

  1. Research who will be there. Are there any of your clients, suppliers or prospects? If there are, check where they will be and go prepared.
  2. If you can do so, arrange to meet people at the exhibition. You’ll both be there and both be in need of a cuppa from time to time.
  3. Tour the exhibition hall systematically. Talk to people on stands that interest you – regardless of whether you sense a business opportunity. Let random connections create unexpected opportunities from time to time.
  4. Allow time to stop and have a break. You’ll need it and it will give you the time for an unexpected conversation.
  5. Schedule any conference events into your organiser to ensure you don’t miss them.

Tip 2: Practise the art of influence

A simple way to be more influential is to be seen as an expert. To speak with real authority, find something specific you can really specialise in. Ironically, the narrower your specialism, the more you will be seen as an expert. Try it:

  • ‘I specialise in training’
  • ‘I specialise in leadership training’
  • ‘I specialise in leadership of change training’
  • ‘I specialise in leadership of change training for SMEs’
  • ‘I specialise in leadership of change training for high tech SMEs’

While we are on the subject of authority; remember to dress the part. Rightly or wrongly, we judge each other by the clothes we wear. Dress to impress – let your clothes reinforce your authority; not undermine it.  And don’t forget a big stack of business cards – not just for the fishbowl competitions: for doing business too.

Tip 3: Make your exhibit count

Make sure you let people know in advance that you will be there, and where you will be (we’ll be on stand 571).  On your stand, it makes good sense to appoint someone to co-ordinate your activities and also direct good practice.  For example:

  • Take an interest in the people who take an interest in your stand.  Playing it cool and chatting nonchalantly with your colleagues will not impress and may intimidate.
  • Ask people question when they come onto your stand.  If you bombard them with your pitch, you have a one in a thousand chance of saying the right thing.  Questions will help you figure out what they want to know about.
  • Don’t use your mobile on the stand.  If you need to make or take a call, step away from the stand.
  • Don’t put your freebies and brochures on the edge of the stand.  If a delegate is just ‘stamp collecting’ then the give-away has no value to them or you.  If they really want what you have, making them ask will give you a chance to engage with them.

Tip 4: Get the most from the Conference

Three colleagues went to a conference.

  1. Chris thought it was just as expected: all either familiar ideas or irrelevant rubbish
  2. Vic thought it was just as expected: all the talks were interesting and everything was brilliant
  3. Sam thought it was just as expected: a lot of the speakers had one or two real nuggets to take away and think about, with a few surprising insights from unexpected places

Who got the most from the conference?

So here’s the deal

Plan your time, prepare your personal pitch, use your stand well, and tune your radar for unexpected nuggets of insight and opportunity

The Essential Conference-goers Management Pocketbook Collection

There is no Conference-goer’s Pocketbook or Exhibitor’s Pocketbook – yet.  So in the meantime, take a look at the following Pocketbooks to prepare yourself:

  1. The Influencing Pocketbook
  2. The Networking Pocketbook
  3. The Negotiator’s Pocketbook
  4. The Customer Service Pocketbook
  5. The Learner’s Pocketbook

If you don’t own any of these, you can buy them at a £1 discount on stand 571 and, if you buy five Pocketbooks you can get one free.  How about:

….…6.  The Positive Mental Attitude Pocketbook

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