Many years ago, before I began working in my current industry, I was a Regional Sales Director of a chain of business to consumer stores. Each evening, the Sales Managers called me with their daily sales numbers. After a few months of these exchanges, I began to notice a trend. Many calls were beginning with a heavy *sigh* followed by all of the reasons they had a less than stellar day. When this happens ten times each and every day, it begins to wear on the psyche of a person. So I changed things up a bit. I began to pre-empt them calling me. I proactively called each of them. I began every phone call with the same greeting. I would sing to them the famous words of Rufus and Chaka Khan. "Tell me somethin' good.....".This tactic was initially implemented as a sanity-saving measure for myself. The downtrodden messages were not the way that I preferred to end every single day. The unexpected result? At first, I was met with laughter, then increasingly better messages from the Managers. If there was a relapse back to the dark side of "negative information first", I would stop them and sing once again. I began to hear the positive, the success stories. Now we were getting somewhere. Each of them strove to have at least one great story to share at the end of the day. My psyche was spared and business was getting better!
Flash forward. Over the past few weeks, I have noticed something disturbing happening right here on LinkedIn. I use this particular example, but the behavior is not limited to this scenario. I have seen post after post, reposts and shares, all blasting the recent Chapter 11 filing of Avaya. Many of these posts simply share an article. There is no explanation as to why they are sharing. Somewhat of a "I'll just set this down here and walk away" post. Just this morning, I saw the volume turned up on this Avaya story. I, unfortunately, saw some of my connections, or their network connections, sharing a letter written to Avaya customers. If valid, it is a cloud-based IP voice provider proactively informing Avaya customers of Avaya's recent filing and telling them why they are better. The heading of the post simply said "We Won!". Yikes. It struck me as so unbelievable (not to mention uncomfortable to read) that a reputable company would employ such tactics, that I truly hope it is not true. My genuine question is "What does this accomplish?". I'll tell you, in two words, how this made me feel as a business owner who works with phone providers on behalf of my customers each and every day....turned off. I'm not turned off to Avaya. In fact, I truly believe that this is just a breather, a chance to reorganize. Much like other companies such as Marvel Entertainment, Six Flags, Chrysler, Sbarro and many many others, Avaya will work through Chapter 11 and be back on their feet. Let me be clear, I have not one horse in that race, and wish them the best.
I was turned off by the increasing volume of negative messages being circulated about, regarding perceived competition. How many times have you actually chosen to do business with a company simply because they disparaged another marketplace competitor? My number is a round one...zero.
Let's take a hypothetical situation, let's say that the earth was flat, the Cleveland Browns were the Super Bowl Champions and we all sold exactly the same product or service at the exact same price point. Your competition never "messed up". The question is, how the heck do you sell against them now? That's right! You have to sell what is Good about doing business with you, not what is bad about the competition. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that we should live in a bubble of hearts and flowers. We still need to know exactly what we are up against. Do your research, find out what your competition is doing. Find out what they are doing well. Find out where they could be doing better. Then stop and breathe. Don't take the negative message to market. Take your positive message! Tell Me Something Good! Customers are very smart. If something is amiss, they will figure it out. If for some reason, they do not, do not dwell. Another opportunity will reveal itself. Therein lies the beauty of sales.
There is enough negativity, and quite frankly, it has no place in my business. Let's not exploit the struggles and challenges of others. We are all susceptible to the same pitfalls. I don't know about you, but if my business were in a tough place, I would hope that I would be given the chance to turn it around without having to worry about opportunistic exploitation.
I feel inspired to start a new trend. I always say that if you hear someone say something positive about someone behind their back, encourage them to say it to their face. It changes dynamics in a powerful way. You look much more professional when there are positive messages being exchanged. Tell me something good. Who is with me?