As a college senior I remember sitting in my 400 level sales & marketing class, hearing the professor tell us how the internet is reshaping the field of professional sales because the consumer is becoming more intelligent as a result of easily obtaining information through the use of search engines. I enjoyed the thought that technology and knowledge could provide transparency to professionals sales – something the profession was in desperate need of.
I graduated from college in 2007. At that time Facebook was just getting off the ground, Twitter or LinkedIn were nowhere near mainstream, and the thought of iPhones and iPads were something from a sci-fi movie. It’s amazing to think that was only five years ago. Those were different times then, and we were different people.
If in the mid 2000‘s the internet made consumers more intelligent, the addition of social media and mobile technology has made today’s consumer impossibly busy and extremely difficult to reach from a professional sales standpoint. Technology provides a cheap, quick form of communication, but one that is not emotionally stirring enough to drive buying behavior.
A majority of B2B sales professionals struggle to get over these new-age, technological hurdles that keep them from their potential customers. And even when sales professionals meet with potential customers, most are not equipped to deal with someone who is busy, stressed, over-communicated, and is short on attention.
The solution for sales people is not to become as complicated as the environment that surrounds today’s customers, but rather to cut right through the clutter using simple, effective communication. Here are some tips and tricks that my help you in a sales process with a frazzled, busy customer.
Simple is effective.
The human brain loves simplicity. The principle of Cognitive Fluency teaches us that the easier it is to think about something, the easier it is to act upon something. If your message is complex your customer will hesitate to take action, and nothing is worse than a customer who continually drags their feet.
If you’re sending a message in text keep it at three sentences or under. It’s far more likely to be read. Keep in mind most people read emails on a mobile device, and the small screen could make a two paragraph introductory email look like a novel.
One of the questions I like to ask is “can you summarize your entire message in a tweet?” Seriously. Thinking about your message from this perspective will allow you to trim the fat of your presentation and make your message more likely to be understood.
Be relevant or get the hell out of my office.
Always keep the focus on the urgent and most immediate needs of your customer. Undoubtedly you will discover other areas that you can make a difference for your customer in the sales process, but you must keep your eye on the prize. It’s important you gauge the focus of your customer and don’t get off track.
If your customer has several urgent and immediate needs, deliver your message one at a time when you see the timing is best. Although your customer might have 4 major needs they can’t mentally process them all at once and on the initial. Spoon feed them how you can make a difference for them one issue at a time.
Be Salient and Different.
Don’t be surprised when customers don’t return your phone calls and emails. I have best friends who don’t call me back. It’s nothing personal, it just speaks to a busy lifestyle. If you want to reach your customer you need to stand out and that might be winding the clocks back to a time before emails and text messages.
If you have a customer that’s worth the time there’s a variety of ways to get their attention. Once you’ve crafted your simple, relevant initial message you can try some of the below strategies. It’s always nice when I mailed a hand-written note to a customer and they call me back when they get it. There’s actual a scientific reason behind it. Thanks for reading and I hope this wrinkled your brain.
My experience working with college classes has been that very few students actually want to pursue a career in sales. However, the rude awakening for most students is that as they approach graduation they’re going to accept a job in sales. I always open up a conversation at the beginning of class so I can find out what actually scares students about sales, and the most common answer I get is COLD CALLING.
In life and business you only get one chance to make a first impression, and a cold call is just that, a first impression. For many people, approaching someone you don’t know is stressful regardless of the situation and setting. For my college students I liken cold calling to dating. Yep, dating.
Think about the last time you were out and saw someone that you found attractive but didn’t know them. Now I want you to think about how terrified you probably were to go over and talk to that person. Sounds a lot like a cold call doesn’t it?
When you really think about it, you have nothing to lose by introducing yourself. At worst, the person is rude or mean. If that’s the case then they’re probably not a good fit for you anyway. For the sake of learning, let’s pretend that you decide to stride on over to talk to that person.
Your appearance and confidence are paramount to your introduction’s success. Always be self assured, but not cocky. Remember peoples’ brains can unconsciously detect if you’re nervous or scared. You’re standing in the person’s line of sight. You make eye contact with them, smile and open your mouth to speak… but what do you say?!
It’s not about you.
Dale Carnegie said it best, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people to become interested in you.” As introductions and cold calls go, the first words out of most people’s mouth are often about themselves and not the person they’re talking to. Fail.
Keeping with the dating example, imagine you’re a girl at a bar and a guy you’ve never met before walks up to you and says this:
As you can see the language of Rich’s introduction is all about himself. The majority of women out there would probably not be enticed to spend more time with him because all he did was drop details about himself during his introduction.
Like our college stud above, sales professionals often make the same mistake of talking too much about their own companies while introducing themselves. Here’s an example of common cold call introduction made by a sales professional:
As you can see from the above example all this sales professional did was talk about his company. And much like the girl at the bar, the customer is probably going to pass on spending more time with this sales professional.
WIIFM stands for What’s In It For Me. That is the question you need to ask yourself from the perspective of the other person you’re talking to. Life is an endless series of decisions, and all sales is helping influence decision making as it pertains to business. The best way to influence people is to put their needs, concerns, and goals before yours. Taking the WIIFM perspective of the person you’re talking with will make a world of difference in your initial interaction.
Let’s go back to our first dating example of the girl at the bar. How much different do you think the interaction would be if Rich lost the cigarette and came up and said this:
Before you criticize my game, please keep in mind this is just an example. What I wanted to convey in this second scenario is that Rich is taking an interest in the other person by anchoring to an interest of hers. Rich is still the same guy as in first scenario, he just doesn’t have to be in a rush to get that information out so quickly. If he can share a common interest with her and let her know she’ll have fun by spending time with him she might be more inclined to actually do so.
From the business perspective this is how a cold call would go from a WIIFM perspective:
It amazes me how many times I have made introductions to customers without ever mentioning who I work for and still got the meeting. This is because the mind of your customer is selfish and all the things they want to hear are about their business. The customer could care less about Company X being an industry leader or a Fortune 1000 member. All the customer cares about is What can Company X do for me? If you’re speaking to their interests, needs, and goals you’re going to make a great first impression as a result of your cold call.
The truth is if you’re going to be an effective communicator it’s all about taking an interest in the other person. If you’re trying to persuade or communicate a desire, keep the focus on the outcome or WIIFM for the other person. The best sales people aren’t talkers, they’re actually listeners. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If you’re a college kid reading this I hope you’re able to think twice about the introductions you make personally and professionally.
Like all cognitive behavior, our neural pathways for resiliency begin to take shape at a young age. Resiliency is a combination of a biological predisposition and the environment that you’re raised in. Because resiliency helps us manage our emotions and the emotions of others it is linked to social intelligence – which directly impacts performance later in life.
Alarmingly, a growing number of children today are raised in a manner that hinders resiliency and social intelligence. Many parents have subscribed to the false theory that the best way to raise a child is to ensure perpetual happiness and protect their children from any and all stressors. That’s why today children play sports where nobody keeps score and traditional gym class games like dodgeball are considered barbaric. Come on now!
Life is full of both good and bad experiences. The best way to raise children is not to protect them from the bad experiences, but rather to help our children understand how to navigate the negative experiences to return back to a positive mental state. If you don’t learn how to navigate difficult experiences in youth, it will only become more difficult as an adult.
Do you remember your first day of school? I bet you had butterflies in your stomach, and nothing is wrong with that because that is a common symptom of social stress.
Research has shown that at the start of the school year all children have increased stress hormone levels. As the school year goes on, children who are more socially adept show a decline in stress hormone levels to their normal state. For those children who have not had experience dealing with common stressors in life their stress hormones levels remain at a high level throughout the school year, hindering their social performance [Social Intelligence, Goleman]
Let’s flash forward 17 years from our first day of school to our first day work…
Resiliency at Work
Resiliency in professional settings grows from discomfort generated by the necessary pressures of work. We cannot control the stress we feel, but we can control the actions we take to deal with it. It amazes me the number of times I have seen adult professionals throw tantrums as a result of something not going their way. Don’t be that guy (or girl)!
Much of life and business is failure. You can’t hide from it, so you might as well embrace it – this is especially true for those of you who work in sales and marketing. That is why the best sales professionals and business leaders are those who are resilient, who see the bright side, and can “take the hits.”
The technological age we live in only makes the stressors of life and work that much more apparent. Good news travels fast, and worse news seems to travel faster through email and social media. Today, stress can spread faster than a plague started by a monkey bite. A hate email sent by a high ranking executive can derail an entire divisions motivation in seconds.
A message to the Managers
Great managers have to have an understanding of stress and resiliency. The best managers often serve as a buffer between unnecessary stress and their team. In my experience managing an 800 person field sales force I can tell you with great confidence that “happy sales professionals produce more results.”
The very nature of sales and marketing is stressful. So why would you add to that with unnecessary stress that will only hinder performance. As a manger I would absorb a lot of negative messages and mandates to keep my team positive and performing well. This also will have you gain the trust of your team, and that is a great feeling.
as business professionals we can learn a few things from this wartime social marketing. no matter how bad things seem at first they're gonna blow over or better yet, you'll find a way through it.
However, not all stress is bad. Much like a flu shot, stress in small doses can help make you stronger over time. I highly suggest taking the time to understand each of your team members and their resiliency. This will help you coach and manage them to reach their full potential. Sometimes your team needs to be protected and sometimes your team needs to be challenged. Quality managers will know when the time is appropriate for both.
I’ll leave you with this. It’s one of my favorite scenes from the Rocky movies. Rocky’s speech cuts right to the heart of why resiliency matters in everything that you do. Thanks for reading.
I wanted to share with you one of my favorite TED talks.
The term “value” is so ubiquitous (triple word score!) in business today that it runs the risk of losing its meaning. Most professionals know the importance of “value” but rarely spend time digging deep and understanding the elegance of the concept of value.
In this TED talk Rory Sutherland gives a very insightful and humorous survey of the history and conceptual complexity of value. He’s brilliant. Enjoy!
Speaking effectively to the deficiencies of your potential customers.
By: Kevin Torres and Jeff Sobieraj
In a recent HBR Blog article The Worst Question a Sales Person Can Ask, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson take a stance against the exploratory, question driven approach that dominates the sales landscape today. In the article Dixon and Adamson bring up a topic rarely covered in sales education and training, that most businesses don’t actually know what they’re doing wrong.
If most businesses are blind to their own shortcomings, asking general questions would otherwise prove to be an ineffective approach for getting the customer to voice their concerns. At a certain point in the sales process it is a necessity to bring up the subject of your customer’s deficiencies to move the sales process forward because your customer may be unaware of their issues. The goal of your sales interactions should be to let the customer discover, in their own way, that he/she has an issue or area that could be improved. If questions aren’t working it might make sense to go at your problem head-on.
Breaching the topic of your customer’s deficiencies is much easier said that done. Incorrectly communicate your message, no matter how good your intentions, and you run the risk of offending your customer. Any kind of direct challenge will most likely result in one of two responses: defend or deny. But if you’re able to effectively speak to your customers deficiencies, the sales experience you’ve provided would be valued by your potential customer as you will have come off as insightful, informative, and respectful.
You would never think to call a baby ugly in front of its parents. With sales it’s the same concept. Just like you, your potential customers take pride and have an emotional investment with their job and their company. With that being said, most people don’t take kindly to unsolicited advice or insight. This is the mine field you travel through as you progress in the sales process. Seek to understand your customer and their roles and responsibilities before breaching the topic of their business deficiencies.
Focus on the solution
“If you’re focusing on the problem you can’t see the solution. Never focus on the problem.” – Arthur Mendleson [Patch Adams 1998]
This quote couldn’t be truer when you’re communicating with your customer about deficiencies in their business operations. Constantly speak to the obtainable outcomes of providing a meaningful solution for your customer’s problems. Keep the focus positive and give objective examples of businesses or people who were in the same situation and the solutions you provided. Sharing similar customer success stories takes the customer of the island and shows them it’s okay they’re deficient in certain areas so long as they can correct it moving forward.
Prime your customer for advice and insight
The use of brain imaging for social neuroscience teaches us that how you say something is actually more important that what you’re saying. Surprisingly, negative information delivered in a positive manner is better perceived by our brains than positive information delivered in a negative manner. Millions of years of evolution has primed our brains to respond better and faster to physical cues and mannerisms than to the use of words. So remain positive, upbeat and confident as you begin to discuss possible solutions to your customer’s deficiencies.
Would you perceive this as good news or bad news?
Although communication is overwhelmingly physical, your words still carry a lot of weight. So I enlisted the help of a good friend and top notch sales professional Jeff Sobieraj to help provide some good “ice-breakers” or softening statements for discussing your customer’s deficiencies head on. We’ll leave you with these:
“Do you mind if I share something with you…”
“Can I ask you a question off the record…”
“I have to tell you something here, and please don’t hold it against me…”
“I have to level with you here: you have to change this process/strategy/technology. Whether you’re working with me or another vendor it’s important for the sake of your business that this get fixed…”
“I know this isn’t your first rodeo. What is it that you think needs to change here…”
“I had a chance to research this issue and I actually found some areas where you can improve your effectiveness. Do you mind if I share them with you…”
“With all do respect, this is a problem area for you. The good news is there are things can be done to fix this issue and even improve upon it. I’d like to discuss it in more depth…”
Maybe you’ve seen this? You’re out at a bar enjoying the local nightlife on the weekend and suddenly you hear a group of cheers coupled with laughter. You turn your head to see what the commotion is about, and just then you see a young fellow take a knee and begin chugging a bottle of Smirnoff Ice while his friends taunt him because he was surprisingly handed this beverage. The frat boys in the bar cheer and the on-looking hipsters roll there eyes in disgust. What you’ve just witnessed is a ritual called “Icing” someone.
Surprisingly “Icing” has caught on in major way and doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down. As absurd and childish as this drinking game may appear it actually is no different than a lot of other rituals that surround some of America’s most beloved alcoholic beverages.
"Ritual and superstition can exert a potent influence on how and why we buy" - Martin Lindstrom, Author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy
Truth and Limes
I was at the bar with some of my closest friends last week and I ordered a round of Coronas to bring back to our table. I successfully brought all the beers to the table but in my haste forgot the limes on the napkin at the bar. The way my friends reacted when they realized that I brought back Coronas with no limes you would have thought I kicked a puppy.
You see, people are very ritualistic. We rely on our routines, our rituals and even our silly superstitions to get us through the day. What I had done when I was out at the bar with my friends was violate the ritual of drinking a Corona. Serve 99% of people with an ice cold Corona with no sliced fruit and their follow up question will always be “Where’s the lime?”
The interesting thing about the ritual surround drinking a Corona is that is was invented by a bartender on a slow night sometime in 1981. I always make it a point to ask my fellow beer drinkers why they think the lime goes in the bottle and they always give me one of two answers: something about sailors on a boat or the silence of thought followed by a defeated “I don’t know…”
No matter the reason for putting a slice of lime in your beer it had done something amazing for the Corona brand. The ritual of the lime separates Corona from every other import out there in the mind of the consumer. The lime ritual was attributed to helping Corona become the #1 selling imported beer. Could the same bright future be in store for Smirnoff Ice?
The Cognitive Psychology of Rituals
You might not realize it but every day in your life is made up of a series of rituals – many of which have become so ingrained in the fabric of your life that you don’t even consciously notice them.
Other rituals hold such importance that people set aside time to consciously work through them. The best example of this is religion. People from all denominations of religious groups set an hour or so a week to practice their faith in a conscious ritualistic fashion.
Rituals are cognitively pleasing and ease our daily interactions providing us with a flow to otherwise mundane activities. However, recent research is shedding new light on why rituals, both conscious and unconscious, are so important to humans.
We live in a stressful world. Wars, fluttering economies, and disease are just some of the concerns that people face every day. Like most grave concerns they often reside out of our control. It’s now believed rituals are so important to humans because our ritualistic behavior allows us to have a sense of control in an otherwise hectic life.
“If you remove the appearance that they are in control, both humans and animals become stressed. During the Gulf War in 1991, in areas that were attacked by Scud missiles, there was a rise in superstitious and ritualistic behavior.” – Dr. Bruce Hood, University of Bristol
Humans have been susceptible to stress over the entire course of our evolution. Today we fear war and our economy. Thousands of years ago we feared getting eaten and things as simple as thunder storms. Take a look back through time and realize every single culture before us has had its rituals. No wonder putting a lime in your beer just makes sense for most people.
The future of Icing
Icing is a ritual that has caught on in the short term. It has a shared set of understood rules, actions, and for some “bros”, very passionate beliefs. Smirnoff has denied any marketing effort in creating the ritual of icing, and I believe this to be true because it’s too simple and effective for any marketing mind. But for now bros will keep icing bros and that leads to six packs of Smirnoff Ice flying off the shelves.
My gut feeling is that the Icing trend will wear itself out by the end of the summer. The key to any ritual is that it is relevant, and this is where Icing lacks the proper horsepower to sustain itself for months or even years to come.
Corona has and always will ride the wave of the ritual of the lime, because flavor is the relevance of their ritual, and that is universal to all beer drinkers. Like Smirnoff, Corona didn’t invent the lime ritual, but I’ll be damned if they don’t embrace it. Look no further than their marketing for proof of lime branding.
Smirnoff Ice has gained notoriety because the ritual of Icing. How long they choose to sustain this notoriety is up to Smirnoff’s marketing dept. One thing remains certain in this game of rituals and marketing – they work, and in different capacities at influencing our behavior to buy.
Motivation is one of those dangerous buzz words in business. Everyone knows they’re supposed to have it, but very few actually understand what it truly means and how it truly works. As professionals we come face-to-face with motivation every single day. Motivation permeates our work environments because through our social interactions we are either trying to motivate others or others are trying to motivate us to accomplish tasks. Ask any manager and they’ll tell you that effectively motivating people is no easy task. Ask a really good manager and they’ll tell you it’s the most demanding, yet rewarding task there is.
Outdated and Harmful!
Unfortunately, genuine, sustained motivation is rarely achieved in most business cultures today. Some managers have found momentary success by using carrots and sticks to motivate their employee like financial rewards and incentives. Worst of all some managers use negative reinforcement in attempt to motivate. Although they might work briefly, in the long run neither of these tactics will lead to genuine sustained motivation and quality work. People are smart. They’ll catch on and after a while they become insulted by those tactics.
As I type this article our economy is trying to recover from a near fatal blow suffered at the hands of our own device. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the way we do business? This isn’t your run of the mill article on intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, in fact, it’s much more than that. This article is a culmination of lessons learned from social neuroscience, neuroeconomics, social intelligence and case studies regarding management strategy. Let’s dive in.
The Negative Effects of Financial Rewards
James Heyman, a professor at St. Thomas, wanted to find out if paying people more money to perform a task actually led to greater productivity. His task was simple: using a computer mouse, click and drag a circle from the right side of the computer into the box that was positioned on the left hand side of the screen. Once the circle was successfully inside the box it disappeared and reappeared in its original position for the subject to do all over again. The subjects would have five minutes to drag circles into boxes.
The subjects were split into three groups: Group 1 was paid $5.00 before beginning their work, Group 2 was paid $0.50 (50 cents) before beginning their work, and Group 3 was asked to do the work with no mention of money at all. The subjects were oblivious to the amount paid to other subjects. So how did the groups perform for five minutes of work? Group 1 dragged an average of 159 circles. Group 2 dragged an average of 101 circles. What about our group that didn’t get paid anything? They must have done the least, right? Well, no. Group 3 dragged an average 168 circles – more than the highest compensated group.
Evaluating Your Tasks: Market Norms & Social Norms
Heyman’s study demonstrates how people in our society view specific tasks. There are two ways to look at the circle dragging task: from a market norm standpoint and from a social norm standpoint. More often than not people are willing to help another person out irregardless of financial compensation, but make mention of money and people evaluate their task from completely different perspective. This is best illustrated with the social norm of helping a friend move.
If I asked my friends to help me move knowing that at the end of it all they’d get pizza and cold beer they’d be more than willing to help me. However, if I offered my friends to help me move and I would pay them $10 (estimated cost of pizza and beer) each they would probably tell me to go to hell. The mention of money to my friends, and all people, changes their thought process from helping a friend to what they will get in return for their work. In general money can significantly change our thought process and shift our focus from task completion to self compensation or reward.
The Negative Social Effects of Financial Rewards
No one person is their own corporation. We all work with people in varying capacities, and we have to remember that our social interactions are the fuel for true motivation. Researchers Kathleen Vohs, Nicole Mead, and Miranda Goode explored how simply just thinking about financial compensation can affect social interactions while completing a task. In this experiment subjects were split into two groups and asked to perform two tasks in succession. The first task was to unscramble easy sentences. The second task was then to complete a complicated shape puzzle.
The two groups differed only in the types of sentences they unscrambled. Group 1 unscrambled neutral sentences (for example “It’s cold outside”). Group 2 unscrambled sentences that were related to money (for example “high paying salary”). This unknowingly primed the subjects in Group 2 to think about money. After the word scramble tasks were completed the subjects in both groups were asked to complete a particularly challenging shape puzzle. Every subject was told they may ask for help if they needed it.
As it turns out Group 1 asked for help after an average of three minutes of work on the puzzle. Group 2, the “money” group, struggled with the puzzle and asked for help after five and half minutes on average. Thinking about money made the “money” group more self-reliant and less willing to ask for help. It doesn’t end there, however. In a continuation of experimental social interactions the “money” group was less willing to help the researcher enter data, and less likely to assist a “stranger” pick up a box of pencils that he dropped and spilled in the hallway. Thinking about money makes us selfish and self-reliant, and that can seriously negatively affect success in professional situations.
Increase Social Consciousness, don’t destroy it
Studies have shown that the most successful employees are not the employees who had the highest GPAs in college or the employees who graduated from the top colleges and universities. What the numerous studies have show is that the most successful employees are the people who are best at managing their own emotions and more importantly, the emotions of others they work with. These emotions govern our social interactions in the work place and while completing tasks. To get people’s best work you need to play to the needs of their social development. Many financial reward systems are actually undermining the success of socially intelligent employees by unconsciously promoting selfish behavior in place of socially conscious behavior while performing tasks.
When we think socially we use the part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex (green area), but when we're thinking in terms of ourselves we make our decisions with our reptilian brain (pink area). the very nature of the reptilian brain is to be primarily concerned with our own health and safety aka wealth.
Princeton professor Sam Glucksberg looked at how motivation works in complex tasks that involve incentives – like the tasks that most professionals do today. He used the famous “Candle Problem” to time people to see how fast they could solve the problem. The goal of the task is to attach the candle to the wall so that the candle does not drip on the table. The key to solving the problem is to use the box of tacks as a holder for the candle, a rather creative and ingenious solution to the task. He had two groups of people try to solve the candle problem. One group he told he was just timing them for norms. The other group he told if they finished in the top 25% of times they would get $5 and if they finished fastest overall they would get $20.
So what happened? The group that was promised rewards for the fastest times actually took longer to complete the task. In fact, they took and average of three and half minutes longer than the group that was not promised incentives. How does this happen? It’s simple. Rewards and motivation can serve as blinders for our vision. A lot of the solutions to our problems are out on the periphery however through rewards promised for complex tasks we can only see right in front of our faces and there in lies the problem. Rewards and incentives distract us from true solutions to our problems.
Throw Away Your Carrots and Sticks
If-then motivational tactics remain in business because they worked well in the past. Like most business/management cultures today motivation is rooted in the industrial revolution. Motivating people was easier then because people’s tasks revolved around pushing a button and pulling a lever. Back then their tasks were simple and well defined, and for that reason the worker could be evaluated and rewarded for their work. That was then. This is now.
Today’s business tasks are far from clear cut and well defined. We work in the conceptual age – an age of business that requires us as employees to be critical thinkers and problem solvers drawing from multiple sources. Long ago we left the industrial revolution behind, yet for some reason we’re still using outdated motivators in attempt to get the most out of our employees today. There’s a clear mismatch here. In the past you could motivate by saying “If you do this, then you get that.” That simply will not do any longer.
There’s a Mismatch between what Science Knows and What Business Does
In his TED Talk best selling author Dan Pink drove this very point home that if-then rewards and higher incentives lead to worse performances in the work place. He maintains that our management systems today are rooted more in folklore than science. We can’t continue to go down his path and make the same mistakes in regards to motivation. Outdated if-then motivation systems applied to today’s complex business tasks either do not work, or worse, they do more harm. The reason I showed you three different motivational experiments was to demonstrate the variety of ways that poorly planned motivational systems can do harm. Dan Pink offers hope in this wonderful talk. Check it out.
Dan Pink’s newest book, Drive, comes out in just a few weeks. It will provide an in depth look into motivation in business today. Personally, I can’t wait to read it.
This is Dan Pink reading his new book Drive. He is also the author of the national best seller A Whole New Mind.
What’s the right way to Motivate?
Just last week I sat around a table with my team of eight for a sales meeting. The sales manager was trying to “motivate” by using articles and talk of money and rewards. As he spoke of money and incentives I looked around the room and at my team’s faces. It was clear they were uninterested in what he had to say. If the sales manager only knew what actually and personally motivated each employee his message might have been better received.
I am far from having all the answers in regards to motivation, but I understand these certain ideas to be true:
Understand the Motivations and Skills of Others: you’ll be surprised what people what drives most people to do great work, and then you’ll be able to connect with them to genuinely motivate them. Take it one step further and make sure your team does their best to understand the motivations of others as well, and remember, Passion + Talent = Unparalleled Success.
Promote Positive Social Behavior: encourage your employees to do work that benefits the group and follow up with them to ensure they’re asking for help and likewise helping others. Dedicate yourself to the success of others around you and you’ll find that they’ll start doing the same.
Create a Leadership Pipeline: find ways for your employees to have sense of self worth and leadership, even if it’s just for a single task. If you expect the best from your employees and communicate that to them you’ll be surprised at what you’ll get it.
Don’t Make Money an Issue: Pay people fairly and take the issue of money off the table. Money makes us selfish. It’s a fact.
Don’t Give Up: If you’re a manager be prepared to work harder and smarter than you ever have. You’re supposed to work for your staff to ensure their success. You’ll have to put others before yourself. Successful motivation is not a destination, it’s a journey. Be prepared to give and accept feed back. Be patient with others as they grow but all the while never stop giving them your best. Above all avoid carrots and sticks. You’re better than that 🙂
A little over a month ago I was driving down I-55 heading back home after a meeting in downtown Chicago when I saw something that almost caused me to crash my car. I saw a billboard that was red in color and featured tacos as its centerpiece. As I got closer to the billboard I realized that it was Chipotle’s new marketing campaign. I was heart broken, I was devastated, and most of all I was confused. Why had Chipotle done away with their highly successful and recognizable marketing campaign for this red colored disaster?
this sign nearly caused me to crash my car. who are you?
I’ll start by saying that I have a profound respect for all things Chipotle. Aside from working with them on a national level for their in-store operations I had extensively researched Chipotle for my marketing classes in college. I love Chipotle from their delicious burritos all the way to their unique marketing style. I was quick to notice the change in their advertisements, but what I had also noticed is that the people around me noticed the change as well, and they weren’t too happy about it.
So Simple it’s Genius
Chipotle does not advertise in mainstream media. They do not run nationally televised commercials and they reluctantly dabble in radio spots. They don’t have to because Chipotle does hundreds of millions dollar in business each year without foolishly wasting money on mainstream media advertising. Chipotle’s marketing is so simple it is genius. They rely on word of mouth, free burritos, and billboard advertisements that truly stand out.
These billboards stand out because they are salient from most marketing advertisements that you see today. We are visually over stimulated with colors, images, and a barrage of designs. Chipotle’s answer to advertisement overload was to produce a simplistic style of marketing for their ads, and it worked. There is barely anything to this ad. You have a witty phrase written in “Confidential” font, a picture of a burrito and the Chipotle logo. William Epsy, Creative Director for Chipotle, said it best, “In a world of advertising, who wants to read more? Simplicity is they key.”
Burritos on the Brain
Neuromarketing studies of branding have shown that the most powerful aspects of advertisements aren’t logos as previously thought, but rather they are the environmental design aspects of an ad. That is to say people respond more favorably to consistent design than a Logo. For example when I showed people just the confidential type font and asked them what it reminded them of over 85% said Chipotle. That was just the font. When I showed them a picture of the foil wrapped Burrito an even greater percentage knew it was synonymous with Chipotle.
The truth is that Chipotle’s Marketing is so strong and recognizable they could completely remove their Logo from their advertisements and people would still know its Chipotle. Marin Lindstrom, author of Buyology, calls this marketing phenomenon “Breakable” meaning that if I were to take a Chipotle billboard and break it into pieces you could look at the pieces and still recognize it as Chipotle. That’s some pretty strong marketing. The interesting thing is that Chipotle has been tinkering with their logo over time (you probably didn’t even notice), and they’ve been able to get away with it because their marketing design hasn’t changed that much, until now.
These are various logos that Chipotle has used in chronological order.
Breakable Marketing: Here is another prime example of a brand that relies on it's design more than it's logo. The Burberry logo (on left) is weak in terms of neuromarketing compared to the classic Burberry plaid design. This plaid design is versatile and can be woven into the fabric of the clothes to create a concrete perception that moves beyond logos. Break the plaid design into pieces and you've still got something that is recognizably Buberry.
Comparing Marketing Ads
Old vs. New Marketing Designs of Chipotle
Here is a side by side comparison of Chipotle’s advertisements. The one of the left holds a heavy neuromarketing presence in your brain: The recognizable font, the focus on Chipotle’s core product – the burrito, and the stand out simplicity. The advertisement on the left features tacos – something that Chipotle offers but not its specialty. The font is boring and non-recognizable because hundreds of companies use that font in their advertising and the same can be said for the deep red color and text bubble design. Although both adds are emotionally appealing because of the witty phrase content the traditional marketing ad is just designed better to stick.
Back to Good
Three weeks after I had first spotted the new Chipotle advertisement on I-55 it was gone. In its place was Chipotle’s traditional marketing advertisement that we all know and love. I guess Chipotle was wise to the fact people weren’t too happy with the change. I did notice that the traditional billboard featured a new Chipotle logo, but I was okay with that because the design was the same as in the past. A nearly perfect marketing campaign was restored to its former glory. Our brains love consistency and recognition. Chipotle’s traditional marketing has both.
As marketers we are highly creative and sometimes we think we need change when we actually do not. This was a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, in this failed attempt at change we were able to discover that you can change and evolve a logo of a successful brand so long as you don’t overhaul the design of the marketing itself. Neuromarketing was right this time around in pointing out that our perception is keener to consistent marketing design rather than a single logo.
Let’s begin with this brain fact: our brains unconsciously perceive people by actively scanning their mannerisms at speeds that are so fast they are undetectable to our conscious thought. None-the-less, our unconscious perceptions of people plays a vital role in governing our social interactions because more often than not these split second perceptions are spot on. For anyone who has ever muttered the phrase, “I don’t know, I just had a bad feeling about him/her.” you know exactly what I’m talking about because your unconscious processes were trying to tip you off that something, or someone, wasn’t right. Off all the things your brain unconsciously scans for facial expressions are by far the most important and telling.
This Blog Post is inspired by the book, Blink, written by Malcom Gladwell, a personal hero of mine.
What’s In a Face?
Our faces are canvases of emotion. In most situations a person doesn’t even have to speak to convey their feelings. Happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, etc. these feelings are painted all over our faces as we work through these emotions. This is a distinctly human trait. Babies, for example, when confused with a task, will look to the facial expressions of their parents for guidance. There is actually a wealth of information to suggest that facial cues played a major role in the successful development and evolution of our species, and it continues to.
Social Intelligence, Communication, and Facial Cues
Conversation and communication is 90% non-verbal. An overwhelming majority of the human brain is dedicated to vision and perception. Taking that into account the ability to accurately detect facial cues is vital to communicating. Studies have been conducted where subjects were shown different pictures of people’s facial expressions and the subject had to guess the proper emotion. The people who scored highest in accuracy correlated with a higher level of social intelligence.
Looking at autism, this takes to the other side of the spectrum in regards to social interaction. Most children that are autistic suffer from an inability to successfully navigate social interactions and communicate because their brains have been rewired in a way that doesn’t allow them focus on facial cues. Autism is often linked with Asperger Syndrome, which is when children lack nonverbal communication skills and demonstrate limited empathy with their peers. If you can’t read a face, you can’t detect emotion, and that severely limits your ability to form an emotional bond and understanding with a peer.
The Naked Face
No two researchers have done more for the field of emotional psychology that Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman. Tomkins was among the first researchers to focus on the link between facial cues and emotion. Ekman was the researcher who traveled the world to find out if facial expressions were universal to all humans. Ekman traveled from Europe to Asia and even met with remote tribes of the Middle East and the jungles of Africa. To crudely sum up his research: Facial expressions are the same all over the world and convey universal emotional cues. When these two minds got together they did some powerful work and completely reshaped how we look at nonverbal communication with facial expressions.
The first thing they did was strip the face down to examine the muscles that allow us to make our facial expressions. The result is that we have five muscle groups in our face that allow, in combination, for over 10,000 different facial expressions. However, only about 3,000 of the potential 10,000 facial expressions are actually meaningful. The other 7,000 are the kind of faces you made as a kid when you were being silly. These works allowed Tomkins and Ekman to catalogue the range and meaning of nearly 3,000 facial expressions and link them with emotion.
Mind Reading and Facial Expressions
Today, Paul Ekman is in his late 60’s, but over the years of research he has developed a unique ability to pick up people’s facial expressions at speeds that most people would miss. These are referred to as micro expressions. The face cannot hide emotion. At some point in conversation a person’s facial cues will tip their true intentions or emotions even if their words suggest otherwise. Ekman often video records a speech and rewatches it in slow motion to help him detect a micro expression. In fact the first time he saw former president, Bill Clinton, speak in the 1992 Democratic Primaries he detected a facial cue that to him suggested that Clinton was a “bad boy” and a guy who “wants to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar and have us love him for it anyway.” [Bilnk, Gladwell 2005]. All these years later it looks like Ekman was pretty accurate.
Most of our facial expressions can be made voluntarily. If you want to make a face right now odds are you can make it. However, our facial expressions are also governed by an involuntary system that we have no control over and detecting those expressions is a gold mind for actively communicating and reading people on a deeper level. It has been said that a person’s eyes are a window to their soul. I maintain that a person’s face is a billboard for their brain. Take the time to attune to others in social interactions by examining their facial expressions; it can only benefit you by enriching your interactions.
The Difference between Fake and Real Emotions
This is a facial comparison of two smiles from the same night. As you can see the one on the right is me smiling in laughter, a genuine emotion.
Here is an example of how facial expressions can convey the difference between faking an emotion and actually experiencing an emotion. Here are two pictures on the same night of me smiling. The one on the left is me “fake smiling” for a picture with a friend. The other picture on the right is a picture someone took while I was in the middle of a laugh – an honest emotion for joy. Smiling is a facial expression everyone can do on a whim. If I asked you to smile right now you could do it, and you would do it by flexing your zygomatic major (cheek area muscles around the mouth). However if you were to genuinely laugh or smile you would flex your zygomatic major, but you would also tighten your orbicularis oculi, pars orbitalis, which is the muscle that circles the eye.
Voluntary tightening your orbicularis oculi, pars orbitalis, is almost impossible, and that is the tell sign for a genuine facial expression, or a lack there of. I circled the wrinkle next to my eye (post orbital bar area) in the photo on the right to show you that it’s only present in a genuine smile. If you look at the photo on the left you will see the skin is smooth and not wrinkled suggesting a face smile. We have two smiles here – one is fake and one is real, but either way I am still really ridiculously good looking (kidding). This is an example in still frame. Can you imagining detecting this in real time as you’re speaking with someone? Your brain can probably do it and you are not even consciously aware of it.
Does music just entertain us, or does it actually help us survive?
A doctor, with a guitar strapped over his shoulder, enters the room of a stroke patient in a neurological clinic in up state New York. Bertha, who recently suffered a stroke to the left hemisphere of her brain, sits in silence in her wheel chair facing the window. The doctor greets her with a “good morning”, but there is no response from Bertha. She has lost the ability to speak as a result of her stroke, so she sits there silently, yet her eyes indicate she has so much to say. Silence continues to fill the room as doctor settles his things and adjusts his guitar so he can begin to play. As he begins to strum the guitar an interesting thing happens – the room comes to life. He sings out “Hello,how are you today?” and the Bertha sings back, “I am feeling fine, thank you. It’s good to see you again.” As soon as Bertha realized she could sing, she realized that she could communicate again, something that she was unable to do just a few seconds ago. [Power Pop, Glausiusz. 2008]
The Meaning of Music
Much about music and our brains sill remains a mystery to neuroscience. We are still uncertain about the purpose of music. Some psychologists hypothesize that music is rooted in our evolution and is a differentiating factor in helping us procreate. Others theorize that music has healing powers, like witnessed with Bertha, and that it plays a vital role in stress regulation. And some cognitive psychologists believe that music is nothing more than beats and notes that serve no major roll than simply to just entertain us. As a musician (don’t beat me up, I play the violin) and a neuroscientist I have a profound respect for the entire spectrum of the musical experience. In my experiences with people and music there is something powerful, emotional, and deeply unconscious that links music, the brain, and people together.
School of Rock
To investigate the mystery of music researcher Sandra Trehub has set up a lab that focuses primarily how babies perceive music. The reason being is that if there is some innate musical ability in our brains a baby can perhaps shed some light on this phenomenon. Interestingly enough in tests babies were able to acknowledge the incorrect notes played in a major scale, and what’s more impressive they were able to do this better than adults. It’s as if they were better attuned to the building blocks of music. Music is vital to caring for children. It helps them learn and can be extremely resourceful in daily tasks like helping the child fall asleep. Maybe we were born to rock?
It would seem that corporate America has caught on to power that music has over consumers. Millions are spent each year to brand specific types of music for specific stores. Businesses like Starbucks, Banana Republic, and Urban Outfitters are among some of the major names to brand a style of music to their stores. Some major corporations have evolved their old jingles into a specific musical scale that is not only catchy, but also is consistent with their marketing message. Jewel Osco has been testing a pentatonic scale that plays twice in ads; once at the beginning and once at the end. Rush Healthcare also does the same thing using the famed classical piece Cello Suite No. 1 by Bach.
Music affects each of us in unique ways. Aside from hearing the music, you can feel the music, and even become entranced by the music as you lose yourself completely. Music has the ability to connect with us on several levels at the same time, and it’s because of that we form strong connections with certain songs. Music has the ability to remind us of certain people, a certain time in our life, or a certain feeling. Most artists will pour themselves and their emotions into their work and when it all comes together it can form an emotional link to the listener. And as we’ve discussed a few times on this website if you can bring an emotional element to an experience or a memory it stands a better chance of being recalled in the long term. Studies have shown a link between music and recalling past memories in elderly patients.
Music In, Stress Out
I will always remember coming back to my room my sophomore year of college to find my roommate, Adam, laying on the couch in complete darkness listening to a live Dave Matthews Band concert that way playing loudly on the stereo. Puzzled, I asked him if everything was okay. He said he said this was his stress relief when he feels really overwhelmed. So I closed the door and left to finish my studying at the coffee shop. Little did I know that Adam was on to something.
Research supports that music does in fact lower stress, both in listening to music and creating music. In one study cortisol, a hormone that is linked to stress, was shown to decrease in test subjects that spent time playing a drum along with music in a group setting. In other studies the same effect was reached with just listening to music. When cortisol levels remain high over time people run the risk of becoming ill because their immunes systems are weakened. If music helps keep cortisol levels low it may help keep us healthy in the long run.
Maybe it's the music? Maybe it's the rose petal bath? Either way she looks pretty stress free...
The Mix Tape Connection
I have several friendships that were started on the basis of music. Creating music with people is another creative outlet to understand and connect with one or more people. After all, conversation is 90% non verbal. When you “jam” with other people you’re forced to speak a new language and to create something completely unique. In keeping with the theme of social intelligence you are forced to listen to others before you play, which is key to forming mutually beneficial relationships. However, simply just sharing music (legally, of course) can improve relationships as well. We’ve all made a mix tape for a special someone at some point in our youth. Sometimes music can emotionally express what we simply cannot or are scared to express. In some cases music is the bridge over a relationship gap.
Behold the mix tape. The muscial vessel of emotions and feelings of repressed teenage love.
Though I have provided some facts on how music is beneficial to our brains the jury still remains out on the purpose of music. I firmly believe with all this information it is impossible that music is just simply for our entertainment. Music is pumped through the loud speakers of our sports stadiums to get the fans excited. Music is used to praise god, rouse armies, and bury the dead. Music reaches us in ways that no other experience can and it can help us get through difficult experiences in our lives. Although we are just beginning to understand the link between music and our brains it’s safe to say that we might never completely unravel the mystery of music. Some things, however, are better left to mystery.