Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Steven Lamb, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, ManageEngine IT Matters

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
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effi...
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, discussed how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved efficienc...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
"We view the cloud not really as a specific technology but as a way of doing business and that way of doing business is transforming the way software, infrastructure and services are being delivered to business," explained Matthew Rosen, CEO and Director at Fusion, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., and Logan Best, Infrastructure & Network Engineer at Webair, focused on real world deployments of DDoS mitigation strategies in every layer of the network. He gave an overview of methods to prevent these attacks and best practices on how to provide protection in complex cloud platforms. He also outlined what we have found in our experience managing and running thousands of Linux and Unix ...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
"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.
Continuous testing helps bridge the gap between developing quickly and maintaining high quality products. But to implement continuous testing, CTOs must take a strategic approach to building a testing infrastructure and toolset that empowers their team to move fast. Download our guide to laying the groundwork for a scalable continuous testing strategy.
With 15% of enterprises adopting a hybrid IT strategy, you need to set a plan to integrate hybrid cloud throughout your infrastructure. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steven Dreher, Director of Solutions Architecture at Green House Data, discussed how to plan for shifting resource requirements, overcome challenges, and implement hybrid IT alongside your existing data center assets. Highlights included anticipating workload, cost and resource calculations, integrating services on both sides...
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Yoseph Reuveni, Director of Software Engineering at Jet.com, will discuss Jet.com's journey into containerizing Microsoft-based technologies like C# and F# into Docker. He will talk about lessons learned and challenges faced, the Mono framework tryout and how they deployed everything into Azure cloud. Yoseph Reuveni is a technology leader with unique experience developing and running high throughput (over 1M tps) distributed systems with extre...
"We are a well-established player in the application life cycle management market and we also have a very strong version control product," stated Flint Brenton, CEO of CollabNet,, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Software-defined storage is a big problem in this industry because so many people have different definitions as they see fit to use it," stated Peter McCallum, VP of Datacenter Solutions at FalconStor Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Operations is sort of the maturation of cloud utilization and the move to the cloud," explained Steve Anderson, Product Manager for BMC’s Cloud Lifecycle Management, 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 b...
Unless your company can spend a lot of money on new technology, re-engineering your environment and hiring a comprehensive cybersecurity team, you will most likely move to the cloud or seek external service partnerships. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Darren Guccione, CEO of Keeper Security, revealed what you need to know when it comes to encryption in the cloud.
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
What are the successful IoT innovations from emerging markets? What are the unique challenges and opportunities from these markets? How did the constraints in connectivity among others lead to groundbreaking insights? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Carmen Feliciano, a Principal at AMDG, will answer all these questions and share how you can apply IoT best practices and frameworks from the emerging markets to your own business.