Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rocks and Mountains

And so one skilled at battle
Seeks it in energy and does not demand it of people.
Thus one can dispense with people and employ energy.

One who uses energy sets people to battle as if rolling trees and rocks.
As for the nature of trees and rocks--
When still, they are at rest.
When agitated, they move.
When square, they stop.
When round, they go.
Thus the energy of one skilled at setting people to battle is like rolling
round rocks from a mountain one thousand miles high.
This is energy.
~Sun Tzu

What in the world do rocks, and mountains have to do with sales, relationships, or motivating people generally? The reason that military and business leaders, and leaders of people in all spheres of life have found the Sun Tzu a source of wisdom and inspiration for over 2,500 years, is that it articulates universal principles applicable to situations of conflict and chaos. The images contained in this work depict basic universal patterns and strategies leading to effective action in any arena. Central to this material's staying power and effectiveness is the fact that is not a book of cookbook strategies. Rather, it is collection of images, that when reflected on in a contemplative manner yield insights valuable in whatever specific context they are being viewed.

The word "motivate" means to "place in motion." To motivate someone is to create movement. In sales, we are looking to move the person we are dealing with from the position of prospect to the position of customer or client. But according to the text quoted above, the first step we need to take in working with a "rock" is to evaluate it's shape, and present state. And for the purpose of this posting - think "large boulder" rather than "small stone."

  • "When still, they are at rest, when agitated, they move" ~~~ If we are making cold-calls to prospects, we need to find out where they are in relation to the product or service we have to to sell. We need to find out whether or not they have ever used our product or service before, or are they currently working with a competitor? If not, are they dealing with a problem for which our product or service is a solution? If so, how big of a problem is this for them? The level of emotional content they express relating to this problem is a sign of how likely they are to move. Note the relationship between the words "emotion" and "motion." In the end, if there is no emotional content, the "rock" is at rest, and it takes various degrees of energy on our part to create movement, depending on how big the "rock" is, and how far we need it to move (large sales require large movement). If leads are warm, or the prospect has contacted us, we can assume at least a minimum degree of agitation. But we should be cautious about this, as large rocks with small agitation do not move very far.
  • "When square, they stop, when round, they go" ~~~ Square edges are like the objections that prospects express. In sales, we encounter "square rocks" all of the time, and we must deal with them. If the world were filled only with round rocks, there would be little need for sales professionals. In a sense, we can think of ourselves as people engaged in the task of smoothing the way for the sale. But this is another area in which we must work with an effective strategy, or else we risk failure. So, picture yourself in the following situation: You are faced with a boulder as large as yourself, heavy, massive, solid, like granite. This boulder has plenty of sharp square edges. How would you go about moving it? Well, you could get a bulldozer, but for the sake of this thought exercise, you will have to use lower tech tools. You could get out some dynamite or a jack-hammer and try to eliminate the rough edges, but the results would be very unpredictable, and would probably do great damage to the boulder. Since the boulder is equivalent to our prospect, this would be very undesirable, and most likely unsuccessful. We could get out a hammer and chisel and pretend we are Michaelangelo. This would be very time-consuming, and, therefore, probably also unsuccessful. At this point we might feel very discouraged with this task, but it is important to remember two things:
  • There are many more than only this one boulder to choose, to start with, but before we discard this boulder we should check carefully to see if:
  • What looks like a square boulder, may in reality be a round one. We must investigate carefully, asking probing questions again and again to see if what looks like a sharp edge is, in fact a sharp edge. Many apparently square rocks turn out, on further investigation to be round ones.
  • The softest thing in the world (water) overcomes the strongest substance in the world.

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