Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Stefan Bernbo, Michel Courtoy, Amitabh Sinha, Mike Wood, Liz McMillan

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
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...
"We focus on SAP workloads because they are among the most powerful but somewhat challenging workloads out there to take into public cloud," explained Swen Conrad, CEO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Outscale was founded in 2010, is based in France, is a strategic partner to Dassault Systémes and has done quite a bit of work with divisions of Dassault," explained Jackie Funk, Digital Marketing exec at Outscale, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I think DevOps is now a rambunctious teenager – it’s starting to get a mind of its own, wanting to get its own things but it still needs some adult supervision," explained Thomas Hooker, VP of marketing at CollabNet, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We are still a relatively small software house and we are focusing on certain industries like FinTech, med tech, energy and utilities. We help our customers with their digital transformation," noted Piotr Stawinski, Founder and CEO of EARP Integration, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We've been engaging with a lot of customers including Panasonic, we've been involved with Cisco and now we're working with the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We're here to tell the world about our cloud-scale infrastructure that we have at Juniper combined with the world-class security that we put into the cloud," explained Lisa Guess, VP of Systems Engineering at Juniper Networks, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
"With Digital Experience Monitoring what used to be a simple visit to a web page has exploded into app on phones, data from social media feeds, competitive benchmarking - these are all components that are only available because of some type of digital asset," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, provided a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services with...
"We want to show that our solution is far less expensive with a much better total cost of ownership so we announced several key features. One is called geo-distributed erasure coding, another is support for KVM and we introduced a new capability called Multi-Part," explained Tim Desai, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Hitachi Data Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I'm here to leverage my secret sauce, which is using outsourced development and the company that I utilize is delaPlex Software and they've basically allowed me to win Fortune 500 companies," noted Justin Witz, CTO of FRA and PlanTools, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"As we've gone out into the public cloud we've seen that over time we may have lost a few things - we've lost control, we've given up cost to a certain extent, and then security, flexibility," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics,in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We are an IT services solution provider and we sell software to support those solutions. Our focus and key areas are around security, enterprise monitoring, and continuous delivery optimization," noted John Balsavage, President of A&I Solutions, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
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...
"Peak 10 is a hybrid infrastructure provider across the nation. We are in the thick of things when it comes to hybrid IT," explained Michael Fuhrman, Chief Technology Officer at Peak 10, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.