Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Jim Hansen, Carl J. Levine, Greg Schulz

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
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex softw...
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.
Interoute has announced the integration of its Global Cloud Infrastructure platform with Rancher Labs’ container management platform, Rancher. This approach enables enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation and infrastructure investments. Matthew Finnie, Interoute CTO commented “Enterprises developing and building apps in the cloud and those on a path to Digital Transformation need Digital ICT Infrastructure that allows them to build, test and deploy faster than ever before. The int...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The cloud competition for database hosts is fierce. How do you evaluate a cloud provider for your database platform? In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Chris Presley, a Solutions Architect at Pythian, gave users a checklist of considerations when choosing a provider. Chris Presley is a Solutions Architect at Pythian. He loves order – making him a premier Microsoft SQL Server expert. Not only has he programmed and administered SQL Server, but he has also shared his expertise and passion with budd...
Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, represent...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will 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. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
In his session at DevOps Summit, Tapabrata Pal, Director of Enterprise Architecture at Capital One, will tell a story about how Capital One has embraced Agile and DevOps Security practices across the Enterprise – driven by Enterprise Architecture; bringing in Development, Operations and Information Security organizations together. Capital Ones DevOpsSec practice is based upon three "pillars" – Shift-Left, Automate Everything, Dashboard Everything. Within about three years, from 100% waterfall, C...
Adding public cloud resources to an existing application can be a daunting process. The tools that you currently use to manage the software and hardware outside the cloud aren’t always the best tools to efficiently grow into the cloud. All of the major configuration management tools have cloud orchestration plugins that can be leveraged, but there are also cloud-native tools that can dramatically improve the efficiency of managing your application lifecycle.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), an industry leader in automated, scalable and secure networks, 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. Juniper Networks challenges the status quo with products, solutions and services that transform the economics of networking. The company co-innovates with customers and partners to deliver automated, scalable and secure network...
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...
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.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, 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. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
Some people worry that OpenStack is more flash then substance; however, for many customers this could not be farther from the truth. No other technology equalizes the playing field between vendors while giving your internal teams better access than ever to infrastructure when they need it. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will talk through some real-world OpenStack deployments and look into the ways this can benefit customers of all sizes....
Deep learning has been very successful in social sciences and specially areas where there is a lot of data. Trading is another field that can be viewed as social science with a lot of data. With the advent of Deep Learning and Big Data technologies for efficient computation, we are finally able to use the same methods in investment management as we would in face recognition or in making chat-bots. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Gaurav Chakravorty, co-founder and Head of Strategy Development ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum 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, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems 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. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...