Defensive conversations leave no winnersWritten by Tom Richard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Children have a sneaky way of getting what they want. My son asks, “Would you rather I have a snack now, or should I have a snack just before I go to bed?”
Whether you call this a trick question, a “choice close,” or a manipulative way of getting a snack, we all hear questions like this every day. There are two different ways to respond to one-sided questions like these, and when you understand the different methods of responding, you discover some easy ways to improve your conversations and your customer service.
If your child asks if he should have a snack now or later, what is your first reaction? The most natural reaction is to say, “Hold on, who says you’re getting a snack?”
No matter where you take the conversation from this point, you will be fully engaged in a debate of whether or not the kid is going to get a snack; you are on the defensive. When you get defensive and adopt the original language, one of you will lose. Either you lose by giving into the request, or the child loses by having his request denied.
Every question represents a person’s desire for something. To discover what this desire is, start by questioning the language. Ask, “Why do you want a snack?”
This clear-headed approach allows you to find out if the child is actually hungry or just wants a snack for some other unimportant reason.
When you seek to find the root of the question, you engage in a real conversation between two people. Instead of having both parties trying to defend positions they do not even understand, they are actually communicating and finding a mutually beneficial conclusion.
An example of this type of defensive conversation can be seen in the advertising war taking place between Verizon and AT&T. Verizon is controlling the language by running ads showing their map of wireless 3G coverage next to a sparse map of AT&T’s 3G coverage. AT&T took the bait and has spent millions of dollars defending their puny little map while trying to convince the world that their coverage is somehow better.
Now, I’m not one to take sides in this entertaining advertising battle, but we all can learn something from AT&T’s public advertising failures. When you look into the situation, you will find that AT&T and Verizon both have nearly identical maps for their wireless coverage. Verizon changed the language and is only showing their 3G coverage. The company that controls the language, controls the conversation.
AT&T has millions of customers, some of which love spending money with the company. You will not hear about these happy customers because AT&T is not talking about them. Instead of finding out why their customers like them, they are spending their money trying to win a war fought on somebody else’s front lawn. AT&T needs to neutralize the bad press coverage it is receiving by showing the map that shows the areas they cover, then it needs to put happy customers in its advertising.
You too have things that people love. You also have things that are not your strongest talking points. Embrace both, then focus on articulating, demonstrating, and illustrating the things that people love about you, your products and your company.
Strong communicators do not hide their weaknesses; they also do not spend the entire conversation talking about their weaknesses. There is plenty of business out there for everybody because we all provide something a little bit different. Know your unique differences and spend your time being positive, adding value and clearly communicating who you serve.
When you focus on your strengths, you are allowing other people to see what you see. Instead of getting defensive when a child asks you a trick question, seek to understand the desire behind the question. Redraw the map so everybody wins.
To read my candid evaluation of the wireless advertising war, go to www.boltfromtheblue.com and enter the word COVERAGE in the blueprint box.
Tom Richard is a Toledo-based sales trainer, gives seminars, runs sales meetings and provides coaching for salespeople. For more information, visit www.boltfromtheblue.com, call (419) 441-1005 or e-mail him at email@example.com.