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A Better Way to Sell

What’s the secret to communicating effectively when you’ve got something to sell?

In survival mode, it’s about persuasion, using whatever language and tactics that can best convince your “prospect” to buy. This is a competition model based on scarcity. The ruling assumption is that there’s a finite pie and we’re all fighting for a piece of it; success means getting the biggest piece for ourselves or our company.

Harvard researchers and authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne introduced a thriving alternative in their 2005 bestselling book, Blue Ocean Strategy – How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant.

The inside flap of the hardcover edition explains, “Kim and Mauborgne argue that tomorrow’s leading companies will succeed not by battling competitors, but by creating “blue oceans” of uncontested market space ripe for growth. Such strategic moves – termed “value innovation” – create powerful leaps in value for both the firm and its buyers, rendering rivals obsolete and unleashing new demand.”

We tell a story about this in our book. Back in the day, Chris was working his way up in the television and film industry. He recalls a meeting with colleagues who reported on a successful pitch they’d just delivered to Twentieth Century Fox.

They’d taken a seasoned producer with them who knew a key secret to effective communication in a situation like this – to assess the situation. And, to do that well before meeting the potential client. This meant that they thoroughly researched the studio to learn what they were looking for. Then they carefully aligned what they had learned that their potential customer wanted with what they had to offer. They matched assessment with vision.

As we wrote in our book Thriving in Business and LIfe, “Assess the situation so that you can adapt the vision you create to coincide with the reality you’ll be stepping into.” This is a sound principle across the board, in life as well as in business. There’s never a situation where effective communication isn’t a powerful asset but all too often we are so involved with our vision – what we want – that we simply don’t know what our “prospect” wants. We try to impose our will, to convince and persuade them. We might make the sale but we don’t build a relationship, which is the key to long term associations.

Blue ocean strategies are ways of doing business and living life where we function inside a different assumption, cooperation rather than competition. We understand that our customers or family/friends have unique needs. We take the time to find out what they are. We assess both what they need and what we are offering to determine if there’s a match. If there is, we show up with a confidence that is fundamentally different than anything the purely “selling” mindset can offer.

Most people can tell the difference between someone who genuinely wants to help them and someone who wants to get something from them. In Chris’s story, his colleagues inked a deal. In the Blue Ocean Strategy book the authors chronicle scores of success stories in thirty industries over the span of a hundred years. In our Thriving program we help individuals and companies learn this skill of marrying assessment to vision. It works in business and in life to develop a kind of sustainable success, because we’re not just making a single sale, we’re forging trusting relationships for the long term.

Here’s your Thriving tip for the week:

“Develop and maintain a high level of situational awareness in order to understand how to provide the most effective communication in every situation.”

Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson

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