In 1990, 73 of 148 passengers died aboard an Avianca Columbian Airline Flight on approach to John F. Kennedy Airport, in New York. They died, as documented by Malcolm Gladwell in his remarkable new book, "The Outliers," because of the culturally inherited reticence on the part of the co-Pilot to fearlessly and honestly communicate to his superior, the Pilot/Captain. According to Gladwell, a lower social or professional status in Columbian society calls for subservient carriage including what linguists call "mitigated communication." A practitioner of mitigated communication, in effect offers sugar coated pronouncements, even in time of peril, to another of a higher status. It's as if the co-pilot might say within seconds of a potentially calamitous crash landing, "excuse me, sorry to disturb you, Captain, but if you've a mind to, you may want to consider pulling up, and starting our approach over." There's more to this particular story and it's a fascinating book, well worth pushing up near the top of your "to read" list, but suffice to repeat that many people died for lack of a fearless and honest communication from the first officer to the captain of that flight.
At the risk of appearing to trivialize this horrific event, most businesses, careers and sellers fail to maximize the opportunities before them for the same reason. Absolute honesty and the average seller are perfect strangers. The average sales executive is highly focused on closing the sale, every sale of everything he represents to anyone that can pay for it. Ergo, the necessity for the dictum, caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. And he is!
Because the number of average sellers by definition is multitudinous most buyers walk around "caveating" all the time. They are trained to smell polished, slick closers, and if the odor is strong enough, they are going to "pass" much more often than not.
Among the key attributes however, of the extraordinary seller, manager, COO and CEO is a core value of "the truth as I see it come H--- or high water". The uncommon and remarkable seller labors to connect his product or service to the suspected needs of well researched, targeted customers. In his early meeting(s) with the customer he seeks to affirm to himself, well before he attempts to make the case to the customer that his need-assumption was correct. When that is found to be the case he uses every artful technique he's developed to lower the buyer-seller barrier and to serve that new customer well. The cornerstone of the relationship becomes the trust, based upon his commitment and honesty, accorded to him by his new partner.
The crown jewel of the fearless and honest communicator is bestowed by customers, colleagues and employers, and in business, there's no more valuable a jewel.
Bob Sherman has 40 years experience managing relationships between media companies and advertisers in old and new media from radio, cable and TV to the Internet, and from sales executive to chief executive and from the biggest media corporations to his own entrepreneurial companies. He is currently in partnership with Pilot Group, LLC. Bob can be reached at email@example.com.
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