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Easing The Pain Of Loss
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My current comments about this article:

Easing The Pain Of Personal Loss

 

All change creates a feeling of loss to varying degrees for the people affected by it. In fact, people can experience a feeling of loss even when there is change that results in apositive result.

And for us marketers, who sell the gain of future benefits, the sooner we comprehend the dimension of this loss, the better we will become in selling andimplementing ther benefical change.

The loss which is being referenced above has nothing to do with that loss which we commonly associate with the old marketing wisdom; people acquire products or services toobtain a gain, or prevent a loss. This loss is utlimately economic and/or physical. No, the loss being addressed in this article has to do purely with the emotional; i.e.FEELINGS of detachment, displacement, loneliness, or helplessness that occur whenever we, as change agents, enterthe picture and sell the promise of future benefits.

Now, I'm not talking about a degree of emotions that necessitates valium twice a day, or whatever. B-U-T, I am talking about a degree of emotions that will block the acceptance of a new idea even though it is superior to a prospect's present way of doing business.

SQUINTED EYES, LOVINGLY

To serve as an easy warm-up example, let me illustrate loss by asking you to recall the compromising, bargaining, negotiating and stalling that you did with yourself beforetrading in your old car. (By that time, you might have even affectionately named the pig!)  Okay, so you had to hold the shift lever with the left hand while the right turned the key.... precisely after the accelerator had been pumped four times and then depressed exactly 5/8th of an inch. Still, you looked through squinted eyes, lovingly, as yourationalized why the beast should have just one more $200.00 repair. That car had become a part of you and inturn you a part of it. Giving it up was going to create a loss through detachment.

So it is that people are the same with their own self image and esteem around their occupations. Ask anyone to describe they are (you know how it starts, "Tell me about

yourself.") and I'll bet nine of ten will tell you

they

are. I'm a Vice President; or, I'm a chef, etc. And that's

just the tip of the iceberg which represents how much self

worth we all have invested in our jobs/careers.

 

AS VENDORS OF CHANGE, THAT'S THE HALLOWED GROUND ON WHICH WE TREAD IN SELLING A BETTER WAY.

For in essence, what we are really asking people to do is to re-examine the way they relate to themselves in their own self-described catergories.

(People actually have three selves: The REAL SELF -- i.e. who they really are which is easiest described in terms of observable behaviors... often hidden from the perception ofthe person themselves; the SELF IMAGE -- i.e. who they think that they are; and the IDEAL SELF -- i.e who we would like to become. SELF ESTEEM is really the by-product that a personends up with after comparing their SELF IMAGE against their IDEAL SELF. THOUGH PEOPLE HOLD THESE POSITIONS IN GUARDED FASHION THEY ARE PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO THE IMPACT OF CHANGE WHICH "FORCES" BOTH A CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS RE- EVALUATION AND OPTIONAL REALIGNMENT.)

CONFRONTATIONAL SELLING/MARKETING

Consequently, the marketing and selling of change is confrontational in that it threatens the structure around which people orient their self image and self esteem. And confronting people is one of the most critical interpersonalskills which a marketer must develop in order to succeed.

That we receive a cool, defensive reaction shouldn't be discouraging to our effort, but indicative that we are on the hallowed iceberg of the S-E-L-F and that Confrontational Marketing/Selling is required. Oddly, this method is anything but what the word indicates.

Step 1

It starts with the acceptance that most all changes bring some degree of loss depending on the nature of the change and the persons involved.  Accepting this premise, our next step in any marketing/selling campaign is to perform a side by side comparison of the future benefits with the future losses -- real, imagined or created.

Getting the benefits listed will be easy ... it is the self- serving exercise that rationalizes the wonderment of our own offering (How can people exist without them?).  However, listing the losses that others might feel requires research ranging from cause-and-effect analysis to focused interviews with potential prospects regarding ways in which they perceive that this change or breakthrough will threaten or displace their life, job, or relationship and hence, self worth.

In an different reference, Harry Levinson in his early '70s Harvard Business Review article on "Easing the Pain of Personal Loss" listed four major precipitants of the feelingsof loss. Upon reading, I took the liberty to reorient his points for marketing change. Having served me well over the years, I offer them in hope that you will find them as usefulin undertanding this article and in your future marketing efforts:

.

Example:

One can still find some highly trained and skilled secretaries who are down on word processing even today. Like the gun, it has become the great equalizer which blurs thedistinction between a good and a bad secretary. Hence, word processing has "robbed" them of their distinctive competency.

Example: Ask senior upper management about their feelings on the proliferation of personal computers and the resulting "collapse" (meaning in terms of layers being removed) of their internal information structure... and resultant weakening of "power" based on knowledge.

.

Example: Remember the negative feelings and the resultant productivity drop when the noiseless micro- switched keyboards were first marketed. Notice today how they click once again. Apparently this is just one sensory loss that people cannot overcome!

.

Example: Though "expert" decision systems are just beginning to emerge, it's already time to wonder about the feelings of worthlessness that people may experience if they are forced to use them instead of their own thinking and expertise.

Step 2

The next step in Confrontational Marketing/Selling is to construct effective communication vehicles that will create opportunites to legitmatize this feeling of loss. Whether it happens implicitly through advertising and colateral pieces to build self-awareness, or explicitly through one-on-one selling and in team presentations is of little issue. That it happens BY DESIGN is key to accelerating the marketing ofchange.

Certainly the deliverance of facts provides a focal point for discussion. These must be VERIFIABLE facts and must be clearly distinguished from "leading" interpretations designed to sell your offer.

FACT: PC sales are growing geometrically...mainframe growth is declining.

FACT: X% of this nation's colleges have mandatory PC requirements for coursework.

INTERPRETATION: When all of these young adults enter the job market, the s--t is going to hit the fan for those companies not prepared to meet their demands for access to computing resources and data..... or they'll go work elsewhere.

QUESTION: Prospect X, have you considered the facts above; do you then accept the interpretation; and if so, how will you accommodate the change.

A second successful technique is to present change in parallel in both a corporate and personal problem solving basis. Corporations are their own legal entity with theirown goals and growth rates. Their rate of growth and those of the individuals within it will surely vary causing disruption, dislocations, dispair and departures... of whichsome will be very costly. Reconciling these difference will require adaptation of job skills on the part of theindividual if they are to remain with their image of self worth intact.

Orthodontist move well anchored teeth delicately. Why shouldn't marketers in selling change and corporations in implementing it do the same?  Therefore, high change should be introduced in segments that can not only be implemented but assimilated in terms of loss for thoseinvolved. (NOTE: delicately is not necessarily the same as slowly.)

CONCLUSION

A prospect's feelings of loss are universal; and they all have different and effective ways to compensate for them. But this restitution all happens over time, which in turn,translates into money, windows of opportunity etc. Therefore the successful marketing of change requires an anticipation of the lead time to close and a simultaneous strategy that is designed to chisel away at at a true component of that lead time....the prospect's subtle coming to grips with change andthe resultant loss that it produces. Cutting off aprospect's objections in the meantime with pro forma sales techniques is not the way to win their hearts, minds and/or money. Listening to their losses and structuring a sales and marketing support strategy around these inevitable feelings

Sottile's Winning Action Team
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                                                                   John Sottile