Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Hollis Tibbetts, Vinod Mohan, Chris Colosimo, Jason Bloomberg

Blog Feed Post

Selling your ideas: Avoid making someone wrong

Have you ever been in a position where the right answer is immediately obvious to you and yet you cannot get the other party to come around? While we tend to ascribe poor outcomes to the other party’s incompetence, there is actually a very real psychological phenomenon behind the dynamic. Understanding the psychology can help you formulate different strategies in making progress.

So what is really going on these types of situations?

To make this post more effective, I am going to use a real example from an associate of mine. I will, of course, redact the names to protect the innocent. Recently, I was having a conversation with an executive from another company. We will call this particular individual Albert. Albert was commenting on the efficacy of the sales team that is responsible for peddling his product. In short, his thesis is that the sales team needs to be improved.

Albert has watched this particular sales team execute poorly over some time. Where relationships ought to reign supreme, this team is more interested in competing on price. They offer steep discounts to try to secure new business, which is both a perilous strategy and an unnecessarily costly one. Additionally, because they are always looking for an edge, they frequently take inside roadmap information and quickly leak it to would-be customers in an effort to secure new deals.

In listening to Albert talk about his sales team, honestly, it could have been just about anyone’s sales teams. The situation was not particularly uncommon, and the state of affairs was not uniquely bad.

I asked Albert what he thought ought to be done. Also not surprisingly, his answer was to shoot everyone in the head and start over with a more capable sales team. Now, whenever you hear that the answer is to terminate people, it means that there have been several levels of failure preceding. No one immediately concludes that letting people go is the plan. Rather, this reflects numerous failed attempts to make change.

So I asked Albert if he had ever tried to communicate ideas to the head of sales?

Of course! I put together a business plan and walked him through all the logic. The conclusion of Albert’s story was that the head of sales didn’t understand or didn’t agree with the plan. The logic was irrefutable, so either he was incompetent or obstinate. It almost doesn’t matter which is the culprit; in either case, the proper path forward is to replace the leader and then turn over the team.

But what if I told you that the outcome here was predetermined? It actually doesn’t really matter whether the individual is competent or not. The way that Albert had handled the situation was going to almost inevitably result in the kind of standoff that occurred. Now I am not suggesting that the head of sales was good (I have no way of knowing), but the way that Albert tried to sell his ideas ignored some very basic psychology.

In most of these types of situations, there is some existing state. Someone has made a set of decisions that have led everyone to where things are now. You believe that things ought to be different than the way they are. So you put together your plan, you surround it with flawless logic, and then you communicate that logic to the individual responsible in the hopes that he will conclude that your plan is correct.

The subtle point here is that there are actually two conclusions that the person usually has to reach. Yes, they have to identify that your path forward is the right one. But they must also conclude that the current way of doing things is the wrong way. Put differently, if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. Since you are suggesting a fix, then something has to be broken.

For most people, admitting you are wrong is emotional. I don’t mean that people will necessarily break down into tears, but the act of being wrong requires a bit of internal reconciliation.

So is it surprising that even though your logical argument is sound, the person on the receiving side doesn’t necessarily embrace the conclusion?

In fact, in many situations, the person you are talking to might even nod their head during the entire conversation. Every point is conceded. There is no real obstacle. Logically, you both agree that 1+1=2. And then right as you make your proud declaration, they shake their head and utter something that starts with “But…”

Right here, at the point of attack, most of us dig even deeper into our logic. We might start going over our points a second time. We might restate some of the same ideas in slightly different ways. If he doesn’t agree, he probably just didn’t understand what I was saying. Let me say it again in a different way! This is like talking to someone who doesn’t understand your language, and when they show confusion, you say it again – louder and slower.

The problem isn’t the volume or the speed anymore than it is the basic logic. People generally understand what we say. The real issue here is that you are trying to use logic to win an emotional battle. It’s the wrong tool at the wrong time, and failure in these situations is exceedingly likely.

But I am right! Once you slip into this mindset, you have lost. The objective is not to be right. In Albert’s case, the end goal is having a successful sales team. It doesn’t actually matter who is right and wrong. The debate isn’t the meaningful objective here. Put differently, you might be right, but would you rather be right or effective?

So what can you do differently?

First, you need to realize what kind of situation you are in. If you are engaging with the person responsible for the status quo, then take the issue of right and wrong off the table in the first exchange. When we started the sales team, we needed to get up to speed quickly with a product that was barely defined and in a market space that was still emerging. Given those conditions and our budget constraints, I think we can all agree that we have actually made the right choices.

This type of opening does two things. First, you are basically saying that nothing the other person did is particularly wrong. This immediately defuses the emotional side of your logical argument. You are only asking the person to conclude that there is a different path forward. Second, the subtle casting of the situation in terms of “we” and “our” removes the us vs. them dynamic that frequently accompanies these types of situations. Essentially, the dynamic you really want is you and me vs. The Problem. Our common enemy is the budget or the market or whatever. We are not actually enemies.

From here, you need to establish that while whatever decisions have been made were fine given a set of circumstances, those circumstances have materially changed. Now that the market is a bit more established and our product is better understood, there might be different ways of approaching sales.

Again, there are two points here. First, the argument is that circumstances are different. It could be that things have materially changed, or it might simply be that you now have better information about what works and doesn’t. Either way, something is different. And second, you aren’t being prescriptive so much as you are opening up a conversation. A more collaborative approach helps to keep people engaged.

Ultimately, the goal here is not to prescribe some action. The real goal is to change the outcome. As you engage in discussion, if you keep the conversation centered around the outcome, you might even find that the individual has other ideas to help drive to a positive conclusion. Remember: this is less about right and wrong and more about getting better end results.

While the example that I have used is somewhat organizational, this situation is actually far more common than you might realize. As a networking industry, we are in the midst of a major architectural transition. Those who are advocating SDN, NFV, network virtualization, and other technologies frequently fall back to assailing existing architectures.

Unintentionally, we marketers and salespeople are putting an awful lot of people into a position where we are asking them to admit they are wrong. We explain the technology, we highlight the benefits, and we produce immaculate graphs and charts as evidence, and then we are shocked when the conclusion is not to move forward.

A more interesting approach might be to acknowledge that the decisions that have been made to date were exactly the right ones given the technology and constraints. But those conditions are different now, and maybe there is a different path forward.

By understanding the underlying psychology and being clear about the objective, we might be able to avoid the painful right and wrong dynamic that is all too common in all our lives.

[Today’s fun fact: The longest recorded flight of a chicken is thirteen seconds. I wonder if this reflects chicken flight times or our collective interest in recording them.]

The post Selling your ideas: Avoid making someone wrong appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@CloudExpo Stories
Everywhere we turn in our industry we can find strong opinions about the direction, type and nature of cloud’s impact on computing and business. Another word that is used in every context in our industry is “hybrid.” In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Alvaro Gonzalez, Director of Technical, Partner and Field Marketing at Peak 10, will use a combination of a few conceptual props and some research recently commissioned by Peak 10 to offer a real-world consideration of how the various categories of...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, will motivate why realizing the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insigh...
When NSA's digital armory was leaked, it was only a matter of time before the code was morphed into a ransom seeking worm. This talk, designed for C-level attendees, demonstrates a Live Hack of a virtual environment to show the ease in which any average user can leverage these tools and infiltrate their network environment. This session will include an overview of the Shadbrokers NSA leak situation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
As enterprise cloud becomes the norm, businesses and government programs must address compounded regulatory compliance related to data privacy and information protection. The most recent, Controlled Unclassified Information and the EU’s GDPR have board level implications and companies still struggle with demonstrating due diligence. Developers and DevOps leaders, as part of the pre-planning process and the associated supply chain, could benefit from updating their code libraries and design by in...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that EARP Integration will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EARP Integration is a passionate software house. Since its inception in 2009 the company successfully delivers smart solutions for cities and factories that start their digital transformation. EARP provides bespoke solutions like, for example, advanced enterprise portals, business intelligence systems an...
SYS-CON Events announced today that WineSOFT will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Based in Seoul and Irvine, WineSOFT is an innovative software house focusing on internet infrastructure solutions. The venture started as a bootstrap start-up in 2010 by focusing on making the internet faster and more powerful. WineSOFT’s knowledge is based on the expertise of TCP/IP, VPN, SSL, peer-to-peer, mob...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Carbonite will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Carbonite protects your entire IT footprint with the right level of protection for each workload, ensuring lower costs and dependable solutions with DoubleTake and Evault.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs oft...
One of the biggest challenges with adopting a DevOps mentality is: new applications are easily adapted to cloud-native, microservice-based, or containerized architectures - they can be built for them - but old applications need complex refactoring. On the other hand, these new technologies can require relearning or adapting new, oftentimes more complex, methodologies and tools to be ready for production. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, Solutions Marketi...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud computing technologies. Ge...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outscale's technology makes an automated and adaptable Cloud available to businesses, supporting them in the most complex IT projects while controlling their operational aspects. You boost your IT infrastructure's reactivity, with request responses that only take a few seconds.
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today's global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.