...copyright Elena Yatzeck, 2010-2017

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Art of Pursuasion: A Helping Hand from Sales

I recently stumbled over this really great article from Steve Martin (not the comedian) in the Harvard Business Review on "Personality Traits of Top Sales People."  The article had some surprising revelations, most of which I realized could end up helping almost all of us in our daily lives one way or another.  It's a quick read, so do please run off and read it.  But I had a couple of thoughts about how Steve could help the rest of us out.
From Jeff Moore, http://topsuccesssite.com

Professional sales people are role models to all of us in at least one crucial thing:  the ability to pursuade.  Sales people get their targets to do two very hard things:  make a decision, and commit money to be spent on that decision.  In our lives, we may feel we have had a "big win" if a decision maker we work with tentatively agrees to go along with a suggestion we have made for a while on a trial basis (while planning to disclaim all knowledge if it goes south), so long as it doesn't cost anything.  Now picture that deal if it had been handled by a real professional:  the decision maker would have committed to the idea in the budget!  Perhaps a supportive email would have been sent!  Hands could have been shaken.  That's what I'm talking about!  How do we get there?

Surprisingly, to me (sorry, professional sales friends), it's not by being ostentatious or even friendly.  Top traits are:
  1. Modesty
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Achievement Orientation
  4. Curiosity
  5. Lack of Gregariousness
  6. Lack of Discouragement
  7. Lack of Self-Consciousness.
Actually, when I compared this list of traits to the personalities of people I know are top sales people in my company, I realized they are very true, but I hadn't recognized them before.  So thank you HBR!  Additionally, though, I had a couple of thoughts about this, in terms of persuasion you or I might need to do on a daily basis:

Develop a pursuasive persona:  it's not what you might think!

If you are a person who likes to get her way, (and who isn't?), then here is a behavior strategy to cultivate in a work setting:  internally, be a man or woman of steel:  determine your goals in a way you can measure (brush up on S.M.A.R.T. goals), and then pursue those goals doggedly, sloughing off discouragement and self-consciousness.  This advice encompasses traits 2, 3, 6, and 7, above.  But externally, be modest, quiet, and somewhat aloof, coming out of your shell only to ask a lot of questions (1, 4, and 5, if you're keeping track).  This combination of behaviors tracks remarkably well to rules of thumb given to consultants when dealing with clients anyway (see for example Rule 22 in "Rules to being Software Consultants," "Only speak 30% of the time.").  Or think of the Art of War, always a handy reference for software consultants:

It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order. (XI.35)

In particular, understand that self-deprecating humor may not be the thing here for you or for your client.

I don't mean to be sexist, but I think especially of my women friends with this point.  Any of us who try to be friendly and non-scary as our primary communications mode may want to rethink this strategy in a work environment where we hope to be persuasive.  If we are trying to achieve anything in particular, we need the respect of our clients (or coworkers), not their friendship.  Martin says that you need to keep your emotional distance to stay in control:  "Dominance is the ability to gain the willing obedience of customers such that the salesperson's recommendations and advice are followed. The results indicate that overly friendly salespeople are too close to their customers and have difficulty establishing dominance."

Lastly, be a Tigger:  don't be self-conscious, and learn to bounce.

As Woody Allen famously said, "80% of success is just showing up."  Stay focused on the goal, and don't let small setbacks get in your way.

...because selling is what Tiggers do best!  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Join our Agile 2011 Project Portfolio Simulation: "The Bubblesphere"

Hey, you say, is it true you're presenting at next week's Agile 2011 conference in Salt Lake City?  Yes indeed!  I've had the privilege of developing an agile project portfolio simulation with NAVTEQ/Nokia product manager Cory Hohs, and we're fairly enthusiastic about how it turned out.  Participating will be just the right way to spend a lazy summer afternoon at the conference, for sure!

Actual presentation information

We've been slated for Thursday, August 11, at 3:30pm.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Distributed Product Management with Innovation Games(TM)

My friends at Innovation Games have given me access to a set of really incredible online games that you can use for distributed "Iteration 0" or "Inception" activities, depending on what you call them. Try this one out, and let me know what you think! Cheers!

Bang for the Buck Prioritization:
Timing: 1 hour

  • A list of backlog items (epics / stories) to prioritize.
Players (5..8 recommended):
  • Product Manager / Product Owner
  • Development Team

Bang For the Buck

The goal of this game is to collaboratively rank a backlog based on estimated value and estimated cost. The y-axis is the value of an epic or story and the x-axis is the cost. Each axis is organized as a Fibonacci number. We typically use this game for release planning.

Clicking on this image, will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. You'll see this image as the "game board" and an icon of a light bulb in the top left corner of this window. The light bulb represents the backlog items you want to prioritize. To add a backlog item onto the game board, simply drag it from the top left and describe it.

Now the fun begins! While any player can move a light bulb at any time, the game works best when the product manager focuses on getting the light bulbs in the right place vertically, while the development team puts the items in the right place horizontally.

Use the integrated chat facility to negotiate about the items. And any player can edit the items to keep track of the agreements of the team. This means that items will move around during the game as the value of an item increases or decreases or the development team considers various ways of implementing an item.

To get the final results of the game, simply download the Excel spreadsheet. All of the items and their Fibonacci values will be available to you for post-processing, including all of the chats.

Key Points:
  • This is not a learning game. This is a "do work" game. When you're done with this game, you'll be able to get a much better sense about how to prioritize your backlog items by reviewing them in clockwise order.
  • Scott Selhorst explains this game with more detail here.