It is common knowledge that mob mentality can make people do things outside of their normal belief system. The drunk college student throws rocks at a police car after his college team wins a championship. It’s irrational, and his parents can’t believe that their well behaved son would do such a thing. But he did.
It would be even more unbelievable if we were told our grandmother threw those rocks after her favorite baseball team won the World Series. Even though we see the college student’s behavior as seriously unusual, we find the grandmother’s behavior inconceivable.
That is because we all intuitively know what social scientists have long understood: we all have different thresholds of resistance to the behavior of those around us. Individuals all have differently held belief systems and different levels of adherence to them.
How Does This Matter in Sales?
Anthony Iannarino wrote a post recently called There are No Rules (and you have to know them all) where he illustrated the many different “rules” people have tried to create for the sales process. It’s not that these rules aren’t true, but they’re not always true in every individual sales situation, and in fact some of these rules are contradictory. Both of the opposing rules are right, in certain circumstances.
It is why there are really are no rules that are correct 100 percent of the time. It is why there is no one blueprint or playbook for how to work through the sales process with every single prospect. Every individual you deal with, and every group of individuals you deal with will have different thresholds of social courage – the point at which they will make a brave decision or a decision that is different than what they’ve always done.
What Social Courage Looks Like
My grandmother didn’t care a lick what anyone thought about her, and she was the freest person I ever met. She did what she thought was right no matter the circumstances. During the war, she saw a soldier walking along the road in a snowstorm. She stopped to pick him up and he was black. She drove him 2 hours home to upstate NY. Alone. A white woman in her late 30s from a rural community. Other people would have been scared to break social norms, but she didn’t care what anyone said or thought about her. That sort of behavior gave her freedom that others didn’t have. She earned a unique place in her community where she was allowed to do and say what she thought was right. Because she was going to anyway, and both she and her community knew it.
This American Life did a podcast episode on why people make choices they know are wrong. The episode tells the story of Wilt Chamberlain, one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game, but not a great foul shooter. If you understand basketball you know that not being a solid foul shooter isn’t simply about the baskets you miss when fouled, but about how opponents play against you, fouling you more in crucial situations where you might score because your foul shot is so unreliable.
Wilt was much more effective shooting his foul shot underhanded, but wouldn’t do it because he said he “felt like a sissy.” One of the greatest players of all time yet he wouldn’t make himself even better out of fear of ridicule. Then there is Rick Barry, the greatest foul shooter to ever play the game, who did shoot underhanded. Barry didn’t care about what people thought of him. He didn’t care about anything but perfection and being the best player he could be.
This an example of two individuals with totally different levels of social courage and tolerance. It is not important to know why they were as they were; what is important is to understand that individuals do have different levels of social courage.
Why the Sales Person Must Have the MOST Social Courage
The salesperson that cares about being the best that they can be needs to understand two things:
- Everyone you are dealing with has a different level of social courage. You will need to be attuned to this, and offer more encouragement, data, experience, or whatever it is that is needed to get some of your prospects past their own individual threshold in order to make the deal. It is why Anthony is right: there are lots of rules, you must know them all, but there are no rules as to how they should be applied. You need to be able to sense that threshold for every individual, and you do that by listening carefully to them.
- You must have extraordinary social courage. You will regularly need to say things that clients don’t want to hear or that make them uncomfortable. You will have to face your own fears of rejection and failure again and again. You must be like my grandmother and Rick Barry, and earn your unique place as the one who says the things that need to be said because they are true.
To be an extremely successful sales person you need social courage and the understanding that everyone’s threshold is different and the fears of your prospects must be respected. At the core of their threshold is always fear. It is your job to push past your fears – of rejection, and failure – and help them push past theirs.
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