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Juries, Courtrooms and Linear Thinking

Three years ago I filed a lawsuit. It was my first, and hopefully last, experience as a plaintiff.

I sued a professional—there’s no point in revealing the profession. I sued him for malpractice and negligence, with a specific damages calculation. He, of course, said it was my fault.

This week, after a four-day trial, it went to a jury.

I’m not a lawyer. Don’t even play one on TV, though I’ve done seminars and speeches for some.

So other than jury duty (always rejected), I hadn’t seen courts close up and personal before. Here’s what I learned—one data point, one person. For what it’s worth.

The treatment of jurors impressed me. The judge spoke seriously about gratitude for their civic responsibility. The parties rise and stand every time the jury enters and leaves (which is frequently).

But most of all, the judge admonished them, “If anyone approaches you about this case—call 911. Ask for the Sheriff, and have the Sheriff call me. Any time of day or night.”

The power of the judge scared and impressed me. He made an almost autocratic decision, unilaterally. Then he changed it the next day, calling himself out on his own potential fallibility—I was impressed. A powerful blend of brains, charm and the need to make more calls than an umpire; almost all very well done.

The rules of evidence are extreme, and powerful. Lots of very relevant material never made it in, because it didn’t pass several tests—hearsay, standing, expertise, etc. The intent is to limit the bases of decision to distilled-clean facts, precisely stated.

The presentation of data relied entirely on the cognitive skills of the jury. They listened to days of bland recitations of data, numbers and legal concepts, without physically seeing the documents being described. Data, abstraction, words, concepts. That’s what you’re fed as a juror.

The charges to the jury were complex; a tax-like form with “if yes to 2a, then go to 6; else, go to 3,” which covered several issues of liability, damages and mitigation.

Finally—to the jury. Both sides expected a decision in less than an hour. It went four hours, despite one juror postponing vacation, others their work.

The verdict? Breech of contract, not guilty—but malpractice, guilty. Was malpractice a proximate cause (not “the,” just “a”) of damages—no. Therefore no damages due.

Both sides found this a confusing, almost contradictory, verdict—at least,that is, from the point of view of the legal issues that had been so exquisitely, carefully crafted by the legal teams and the judge. And of course the jury doesn’t get the chance to share its thinking—just the results.

Yet I think there’s at least one explanation—an emotional, human, commonsense logic—that makes a lot of sense. It goes like this:

We’re not thrilled with any of you. We want our professionals to behave better. We’re also worried about excessively litigious behavior—and besides there’s blame enough to go around. Judge, lawyers and court system—we don’t like sitting for days on a case that should have settled; and we don’t like being fed abstractions.
So if your legal constructs don’t allow us to express these deeply held opinions, we will squeeze the constructs, not our opinions.

I have absolutely no way of knowing their thoughts, of course. Surely I could be wrong. But I could see myself thinking that way in their shoes, and I respect it.

It’s another arena of life where society wants us to be rational, cerebral people, solving life’s problems with our brains; while our human hearts drive us through to a clearly seen and desired end, ever-reminding us that we’re not just brains-in-bodies.

It was humbling—for both of us. But I now believe justice was served, and served well. It just wasn’t served on the same platter the system had provided.

Does Trust Drive the Dow?

Over at Room 8 , Larry Littlefield suggests that the history of bear and bull markets in the US is the history of consumers’ trust in business. That is, market forces are, at a macro-level, governed by the public’s view of business.

Littlefield walks through eras in US history—the Robber Barons, the Progressives, corporate leadership in WWII, the Great Depression, Reaganism, the dot-com boom and crash—and points out the correlation with public confidence and trust in business.

Now there’s an audacious view for you. Wish I’d thought of it.

Is it true? As with any grand scope theory, the concept of “proof” is not really applicable. The point is to make you think.

With such a sweeping thesis, there are bound to be problems of definition, and problems of cause vs. correlation. What caused what? What what is “confidence” anyway, and how does that relate to trust? And so on.

Still. At a certain macro-level, he is most assuredly right. Markets do depend, at the end of the day, on confidence. Confidence about the prospects of the future relative to the present. Confidence about the economic good that business will bring forth. Or lack thereof.

Confidence at that level is wholly dependent on the belief that things will work out, that people and institutions can be depended on to play certain roles, that their motives will be socially acceptable, that the social fabric will continue to be intact.

You could certainly call that trust.

And from that vantage point, it surely is enough to move markets, both up and down.

Trust isn’t just the stuff of personal relationships and surveys; it has real economic consequences, to societies, economies, pension funds and people. Trust is money.

But its economic currency depends on all the rest. Economic value, for all we in business like to talk about “hard” things, really does depend on mutual trust—the “softest’ of things.

Wall Street and “tough” managers would do well to remember it.

 

Call for Submissions for the August Carnival of Trust

Carnival of Trust Logo

The third Carnival of Trust is fast approaching and will go live on Monday August 6th. The deadline for entries is this coming Thursday, August 2nd. This edition will be hosted by the Editor of the Blawg Review. The mysterious Ed, as he’s known, was someone I asked for advice on how to set up a carnival, and I’m looking forward greatly to seeing his edition of the Carnival of Trust.

As I wrote when announcing the first Carnival of Trust my hope and ambition for the carnival is to begin establishing a home base, a center of gravity, for people who are interested in fostering greater trusted relationships in various realms of the world.

While my own material is primarily business-oriented, the Carnival of Trust will be explicitly more broad than business alone. Trust is heavily personal in nature, and I hope the submissions will reflect that—postings that deal with personal trust, business trust, and political trust are welcome, as well as pieces on the nature of trust.

I’ll be setting a hard limit of 10 postings per Carnival. The host will personally make the decisions about inclusion, in an inevitably subjective manner intended to push the thinking ahead in those broad areas of trust.

I invite, encourage and urge you to submit pieces for the Carnival. Send them to http://blogcarnival.com/bc/cprof_1693.html

The first and second carnivals of trust had some great articles I urge you to read if you haven’t already.

And I look forward to reading your articles in the August Carnival!

Transparency, News Media and the NBA

What do news media and the NBA have in common?

If you guessed a trust problem, go to the head of the class.

So it’s interesting to see two pieces within a day of each other, suggesting the same solution to the respective industries’ woes.

Henry Abbott, in What the NBA Needs: Transparency offers a radical suggestion:

the crisis is if all those people who love watching the NBA find themselves in the position of not trusting the referees. That’s an indictment of the game itself…

The NBA keeps telling us how many ways they assess their referees. They insinuate that if we knew what they know, we’d trust those referees, too. Maybe that’s true. But telling us so isn’t going to convince anyone.

NBA, you’re going to have to show us.

… Let us go online after every single game and see video of every single call, all neatly sliced and diced by player, by time of game, by type of call, by referee, and by a bunch of other things I haven’t thought of yet.

Henry makes an important point about transparency—it’s hard to be partly transparent, because being partly transparent immediately suggests you’re hiding something. Call that a negative feedback loop. Don’t tell us—show us.

Alicia Shepard at the Chicago Tribune writes For News Media, Transparency Is a Matter of Trust, saying:

Poll after poll, year after year, the message is the same: Journalists are ranked down with used-car salesmen and snake-oil peddlers when it comes to credibility.

Is it because reporters lie? Is it because reporters make so many mistakes? Or because reporters are biased?

No. It’s because the public does not understand what journalists do or how the news gets put together, whether it’s for TV, print, radio or the Internet.

… The news industry should work harder at exhibiting the same transparency about how it operates that it demands from public corporations and all levels of government.

…. "Transparency is essential because it’s inextricably tied to credibility," said Susan Moeller, director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda. "Transparency doesn’t ensure accuracy. But it does ensure that when a news outlet makes a mistake … its audience can be assured that the news outlet is going to admit to it and correct it and will have policies in place for following it up."

Several other industries look at the same diagnosis—“the public does not understand us”—and conclude they have a PR problem, solvable by “getting the word out.”

NBA fans and media hounds know that won’t cut it. Transparency is not great spin—it’s a spin-free zone.

In our personal lives, the solution to mistrust is to “come clean,” “let it all hang out,” “just put it out there,” “tell the whole truth.” Be transparent.

At an industry level, the same dynamics are at play.

IQ, EQ and the Next Billion Banking Consumers

 

The Boston Consulting Group might house the world’s highest concentrations of brainpower per square foot.  BCG is to consulting what Goldman Sachs and Cravath are to banking and law.

When it comes to intelligence, they are tops.

In terms of IQ, that is.

EQ?  Well, that’s not so much what they’re aiming for.

Case in point—the most recent article from BCG’s Industry Insight series, The Next Billion Banking Consumers. (The piece shares two authors and whole paragraphs verbatim with a more general piece from BCG’s Perspectives article series, titled The Next Billion).

BCG’s article series—particularly Perspectives—have been the source of breakthrough thinking for several decades now, including the experience curve and the barnyard portfolio theory, and the general concept of strategy as the pursuit of sustainable competitive advantatage.

The article opens big:

The problem of financial exclusion—individuals’ limited access to or use of formal banking services—looms large around the world. It both reflects and contributes to the stark socioeconomic divide that pervades many emerging markets…

By embracing innovative business models, however, banks can upend the economics of reaching consumers long considered impossible or unattractive to serve.

Great—energizing the banking sector to help accomplish what microfinance suggested might be possible. Cutting-edge capitalism, bringing the next billion—“just above the poorest of the poor and just below those who are currently targeted by most banks”—into the mainstream of the global economy.

Indeed, much of the article addresses the need for changes in product development, distribution, marketing and organization structure, listing some exciting innovative practices.

Then there appears this paragraph:

Unfortunately, regulations sometimes make it difficult—if not impossible—to offer products that suit the financial means of the next billion consumers. Our analysis shows, for example, that Indian banks would need to charge a 32 percent interest rate just to break even on the kind of small, short-term personal loan that the next billion consumers would want.  Yet national regulations prohibit banks from charging interest rates to priority sectors that exceed the prime lending rate, which currently stands at about 12 percent.  This problem underscores the need for regulatory reform that complements initiatives to reach the next billion consumers.  (italics mine)

The need for regulatory reform?  Let me get this straight.  A banking industry in a country with 5% inflation and 6% one-year t-bill rates needs 32% interest rates to break even in a new market, and the problem is—the presence of usury laws?

How about—oh, I don’t know—a banking industry that can make money on less-than-32% interest rates?

Unless I am seriously missing something—always a possibility—the inclusion of this paragraph, alongside discussion of radical product and distribution redesign, is socially and politically tone-deaf.  Narrow.  Myopic.

It feels like a hammer seeing an all-nail world.  If your constant goal is the pursuit of corporate competitive strategic advantage, then of course regulatory “reform” is inconsequentially different from product innovation—it all adds to competitive advantage, right?  (Except of course for the poor schmoe trying to make a buck with his feet in plus-32% debt cement shoes). 

In an increasingly connected world, the view of competition as the be-all and end-all of business—even just of strategy—is antiquated.  Out of sync. Competition without commerce just doesn’t add up to much.

The world is connecting more.  And it isn’t about just the connections, or the connected.  It’s about the synergy in the combination.

Kind of like IQ and EQ.

 

Negotiation and the Short Term Performance Trap

Economists and psychologists love intellectual puzzles like The Prisoner’s Dilemma, a game that posits a 2-person bargaining or competition situation.

In The Prisoner’s Dilemma, one person goes free if he “rats out” the other prisoner and the other prisoner stays mum. Unfortunately, if both rat out each other, they each get life in prison.  If both stay mum, they each get off with just a year.

When the game is played with strangers—one time only—the most common result is the double-rat-out.  Oops.

The challenge to economists is to explain why people so frequently do not act “rationally.”

The answer shows up when you play it ten times in a row. With a friend. With eye contact.

But—especially—from playing it ten times in a row.

Then the players quickly learn to cooperate.  (Though sometimes they’ll turn vicious again the last round.  Or maybe not. Think reality TV shows.)

The point is: it’s smart to think collaboration, cooperation, medium to long term focus.  Not a one-time, zero-sum, confrontational me-vs.-you outcome.

The learning for managers, sales managers, brokers, etc. is clear: if you think you’ll never see this customer again, nor have to deal with this customer’s spouse, friend, or cousin, and you think no one will ever hear what you’re about to do, and you’ll gladly trade a good reputation for money—then go ahead, squeeze the customer, try to win the negotiation—treat it like a transaction.

All others: operate on the assumption of multiple transactions—which, for lack of a better term, let’s call relationships.

Assume you will have repeat customers; that your reputation matters, even in terms of simple self-interest; that what goes around comes around; that six degrees of separation in today’s world is a vast overstatement, and it’ll bite you if you don’t believe it.

It’s a simple enough answer. People in social situations routinely act as if they’re a member of an ongoing social group, even if they’re not. (See for example similar results regarding The Ultimatum Game).

That, however, is in social situations.  At the business level, particularly with customers, another belief system often gets in the way.  I hear it frequently.  It sounds like this:

You don’t understand, Charlie; around here, you get measured on short-term results. So there’s a lot of pressure. You have to be a lot tougher on customers—terms, pricing. Trust is nice and all that; but I’ve got a job and a bonus structure and I’ve got to make a living. Go tell it to my boss.

OK, let’s tell it to”your boss.”

Every time you treat a customer from a transactional point of view, you are hurting your long-term profitability. And the short term has a way of turning long-term very quickly. You run out of new customers to squeeze to get all you can in one deal.  And if you rat-out your customer, and your customer rats you out in return, you just bought yourself long-term low profit prison terms.

Put another way:

The best short-term performance does not come from short-term management—it comes from medium- and long-term management done well.

Management, that is, based on the presumption of a relationship, not a series of oppositional transactions. Management based on principles, not self-interest.  If you want to be in charge of your own long-term career, don’t let “your boss” ruin it with short-term management.  Your customers will remember your behavior, not your boss’s words.

Trust makes money.  Prisoners who rat each other out lose money.

Please tell “your boss.”

Trust, Conflicts of Interest and Death Bonds

You trust your brother- in-law, and tell him you want to buy a used car. He says his cousin knows cars. You talk to his cousin, who recommends you buy a Saab. He finds you one; you buy it. All is good.

Then you learn the cousin is a used car dealer, and the car came from his inventory. Next, you learn your brother-in-law received a referral payment from his cousin for your business.

Now there are at least two people you trust a lot less. And the phrase “conflict of interest” becomes personal. But how, exactly, are the two related?

When I wrote (with Maister and Galford) The Trusted Advisor, we introduced the Trust Equation:

T = (C+R+I) / S, where
C=credibility, R=reliabilty, I=Intimacy, and S=self-orientation.

(To be precise, it’s a formula not for trust, but for trustworthiness of the one who would be trusted.)

The numerator factors are pretty clear. It’s the denominator that gets most readers’ interest, and rightly so—it’s the most powerful.
On a personal level, we trust someone if their focus and interest is about us: we do not trust them if their focus and interest is about themselves.

It’s why we’re sceptical of used-car dealers, telemarketers, and other stereotypes of sellers—people who clearly want our money, but less clearly have our interests at heart.

Conflicts of interest are fuel for the fire of self-orientation. How we choose as a society to deal with them says a lot about our view of government, and of humanity.

Arrayed in increasing order of social involvement:

Seven Responses to Conflicts of Interest: 

    by Level of Social Involvement

  1. Level one is caveat emptor. Society doesn’t have an interest compelling enough to create a solution beyond “deal with it.”
  2. Level two is ethical. Rely on collective shame heaped on used-car dealers to enforce behavior.
  3. A third is professional. The Association of Used Car Dealers should develop and enforce guidelines. (The Association for Brothers-in-Law is a less likely candidate for this approach).
  4. A fourth is enforcement. Vote for whatever district attorney will prosecute the hell out of the guilty parties using whatever laws are on the books.
  5. A fifth is required disclosure. As long as your brother in law and his cousin tell you their interests, the problem reverts to level 1.
  6. A sixth is regulatory. The National Used Car and Brother-in-Law Exchange Commission will do what the industry failed to do.
  7. Finally, there is structural reform. Separate the evil-doers so that they are not only free from temptation, but can never conspire to develop their nefarious schemes.

Society evolves. Big Tobacco went from level 1 to level 7 in mere decades. Sarbanes-Oxley was a level seven solution after many years at level three. Elliot Spitzer got elected governor of New York because of his activity at level four. Glass-Steagall’s repeal went from level seven back to levels five and lower.

Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin has been holding hearings about the pharmaceutical industry’s role in medical research; many researchers are funded by pharmaceutical industry money. The question is: what to do about it?

Kohl is inclined to recommend level five—disclosure. The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association says leave it at level three. Doubtless there are other views covering the others.

The July 30 2007 cover story in BusinessWeek is about Death Bonds—securitized life insurance policies, the same thing we’ve seen with mortgage-backed securities. The idea is individuals can cash in their life insurance policies to investors, and benefit. Along with the investors. The sooner the insured dies, the faster the investor makes money.

Right now, 26 states require professional licensing for "life settlement brokers"—level six.  Several investment banks have founded the Institutional Life Markets Association to lobby for appropriate regulation—level three. New York is prosecuting Coventry First—level four.  (Data from the BW article.)

What is the right role of society in mitigating conflicts of interest to foster greater trust?

Trusted Professions

Consultants’ News and the Institute of Management Consultants USA report on a survey about how much clients trust consultants.

Say CN and IMC:

Survey results…reveal that the consulting profession is viewed as trustworthy. When respondents were asked to rank a list of 10 representative professions from most trustworthy to least trustworthy, they ranked consulting as the 5th most trustworthy profession, behind nurses, doctors, teachers and accountants. Rounding out the list of professions were sales representatives, corporate executives, attorneys, journalists and politicians.

Hmmm. If you’re ranked fifth out of ten, you’re “viewed as trustworthy.” Presumably, sixth place gets you “untrustworthy.” There but for grace of sales representatives and journalists…

Want to know why nurses consistently rank #1 on these kinds of lists? Meet the President of the American Nursing Association. She could sell me a used car. Why? Because she virtually bleeds low self-orientation. You’d have a hard time finding less than six degrees of separation between her and anyone with a selfish bone in their body.

Similar results come from an Australian survey of trusted professions done annually since 1970. Tops are nurses, pharmacists and doctors; the bottom four—numbers 26 – 29—are various salespersons. Just above them, at 24 and 25 (out of 29) are TV reporters and newspaper journalists.

In Australia, unlike the CN poll, politicians barely outrank journalists. Pretty scary, for both countries, if you ask me.

In neighboring New Zealand, the top three trusted professions are fire fighters, ambulance officers, and—you guessed it—nurses. The bottom three (of 30) are psychics, car salesmen, and politicians. Wow—below psychics.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer , in 2006, reported:

Global opinion leaders say their most credible source of information about a company is now “a person like me,” which has risen dramatically to surpass doctors and academic experts for the first time, according to the seventh annual Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey of nearly 2,000 opinion leaders in 11 countries. In the U.S., trust in “a person like me” increased from 20% in 2003 to 68% today. Opinion leaders also consider rank-and-file employees more credible spokespersons than corporate CEOs (42% vs. 28% in the U.S.).

In 2004, the Public Broadcasting System was “the most trusted institution on a list of nationally known organizations in the country…” Hey, I’m a fan too. But shouldn’t the most trusted institution tell us who was second, how many there were, and who was in last place? Come on PBS, dish a little—you’ve got your credibility to defend here!

In India, media is the most trusted institution. In the Ukraine—at least in 2004—it’s the church.

While polling about trust in Serbia, there were problems:

"Concerning trust in Milosevic", Bogosavljevic continues, "it is notable that many people simply didn’t want to answer questions about him. For years ordinary people were taught that Milosevic was the greatest, and now they are told that they are supposed to be against him. Many of them simply can’t do this, so their response is simply to say ‘I don’t know’ or refuse to answer."

What’s it all mean?

Sometimes trust stays the same for a long time—part of our trust for nurses is that we’ve always trusted nurses. When trust changes rapidly, it can be disorienting to us.

There are few surprises in surveys—they almost always “make sense” when we hear results.

Most of all, trust touches our lives broadly—people, professions, and institutions are only a handful of arenas in which trust plays out in our lives. It’s neither simple, nor one-dimensional. And it’s all very human.

Is Neuroleadership More Than Reinventing Wheels?

The man was dining alone. He looked up from his menu and asked the waiter, “What’s the soup du jour?”

Beaming with pride, the young waiter answered, “Soup of the day!”

Something like that joke is playing out in the buzzy new field of “neuroleadership.”

Business Week, July 28, “The Business Brain in Close-Up,” introduces David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, who are using EEGs and MRI scans to “explain” how leaders think.

One cited example: ethical dilemmas get weighed in parts of the brain associated with early memories, suggesting that moral thinking is formed early in life. Now there’s a surprise!

(In a related story, just-convicted Conrad Black, at age 14, was expelled from a private school for stealing exams and selling them to students. Thanks to neuroscience, we’re able to divine a pattern).

Another insight: to change, focus on the to-be state, not the as-is. Are you listening, change managers? Got that, personal growth teachers? Or did you already get that from, say, Buddhism, or Gandhi?

Final insight: focus on a few key ideas, not on too many. Wow.

See, here’s the thing. In our opening joke, the waiter thought he was offering new information—an explanation—to the customer. Of course, he added absolutely nothing. So it often is when “science” gets hyped as an “explanation.”

Take Strategy + Business’s most-downloaded-article-of-2006—surprise, it’s Rock and Schwartz’s “The Neuroscience of Leadership.” A direct quote:

“Cognitive scientists are finding that people’s mental maps, their theories, expectations, and attitudes, play a more central role in human perception than was previously understood… This can be well demonstrated by the placebo effect… the mental expectation of pain relief accounts for the change in pain perception… Dr Price and Dr Schwartz are currently working to demonstrate that the Quantum Zeno Effect explains these findings. [italics mine]

Since the placebo effect was named back in 1955, the power of mind over matter was pretty well known by the Greeks milennia ago, and probably by witch doctors for longer than that—this doesn’t strike me as a news flash.

Back to the waiter and the soup. Drs. Price and Schwartz’s "explanation" does not explain.

A valid "explanation" is more than translation. It may add context, suggest a cause, offer an exegesis, or give a definition.

Telling me that emotional distress or ethical thinking is associated with particular brain wave patterns is the exact equivalent of "soup of the day." It replaces a useful, common-sensical emotional vocabulary with one based in chemicals. Nothing good or bad about that—but certainly nothing new.

For anyone who’s ever done management or leadership training, Rock and Schwartz do get one thing right. They say that change must come from within, and it comes only when one pays attention. Bingo on both counts. That raises the question—whence cometh attention?

Trainers know it means you’ve got to create compelling experiences.  But I’m not sure the neuroleadership crowd gets it.

Michael Rennie,  a McKinsey Organization Practice leader, apparently thinks this is leading edge stuff.  As he puts it in the BW article:

"When you start talking about things like behavior change and psychology, executives’ eyes glaze over. What helps them change their behavior is a cognitive frame."

I am honestly not clear here.  Does Rennie mean the new vocabulary of neuroleadership is itself a "cognitive frame?"

If so—trainers, back me up on this—the last thing that changes behavior is a cognitive frame. What changes behavior is an epiphany, a moment of insight, a recognition, a shock, a surprise.  A theory of epiphanies is not a substitute for ephipanies themselves.  Describing epiphanies in terms of neurons activities adds little to explanation, and even less to real change.

In my experience, Rennie is right in one respect—the more uptight and Type-A and left-brain the audience, the more likely they are to demand a cognitive model, and to claim that cognitively "understanding" the model equals change. They are deluding themselves.  (A colleague described one audience of lawyers: he was told by the client, "don’t try to engage them; just talk, they’ll decide what’s important.")

Leadership guru Warren Bennis, in the BW article, says neuroleadership has potential but is "filled with banalities."  I like his instincts.

What would actually make neuroscience interesting to leadership?  To get beyond mere translation, it would have to show us something new or interesting, beyond things like "focus more."  Here are some themes that would make me sit up and take note:

* a taxonomy of leadership "moments" of differing types, distinguishable by brain waves
* linking of specific leadership moments to parts of the brain that deal with poetry
* linking of specific leadership moments to other parts of the brain that deal with deductive logic
* linkage of selfish vs. altruistic behaviors to other aspects of cognition
* more detailed description of some general concepts like "self-awareness" or "self-actualization"

Until then, to paraphrase Kierkegaard:

It is like seeing a sign in the store that says Sale: you go in to buy, but find it is only the sign that is for sale.

FUD – Why Sell Is Still a Four Letter Word

Greg Milliken tells us about the origin of FUD—Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.  Think “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.”

In other words, it’s selling by spreading FUD  about your competitor, rather than by focusing on helping the customer.

FUD-based selling, as Milliken eloquently points out, rots the soul.  And while I ultimately think that trust-based selling is more powerful, let’s give the devil his due—appealing to fear is a pretty powerful drug.

FUD is one manifestation of why “sell” is still considered a four-letter word in many parts.  Why don’t people trust a whole lot of salesmen?  Because a whole lot of salesmen aren’t trustworthy!  And many of them use FUD.  But FUD is just a subset of a larger category.

The biggest reason for not trusting a salesperson boils down to this: if they’re in it for themselves, they are not in it for you. And if they’re not in it for you, then you are perfectly right not to trust them.

Great salespeople live with a great paradox:  IF you are able to focus on other people and get them what they want, then—paradoxically—you get what you wanted all along too.  But—here’s the key part—as a side effect, not as a goal.

The modern corporate ethos is almost diabolically designed to thwart this kind of good sales thinking.  It tells us, over and over, in a million ways, to figure out what we want, then figure out how to get it.  Break it down.  Design a process.  Do a needs analysis.  Do competency modeling.  Define metrics.  Measure.  Reward.  Tweak, fine-tune, and repeat. 

Problem is, this way of thinking destroys other-focus from the outset. You will never be hugely successful at selling if you believe the modern corporate litany, because it can only, and always, be about you and your objectives.  That logic leaves no room for the paradox of caring about others.

FUD, of course, fits very well with a goal-oriented, self-aggrandizing methodology.  If the purpose is to gain sustainable competitive advantage over a competitor, then the customer becomes simply a metric, a vehicle, a means to an end.  FUD is a straight line that bypasses any genuine concern for a customer.

FUD fits the unexamined approach to corporate selling.  Which is why sell is still such a four-letter word.

Except, that is, for the exceptional salespeople, who recognize an eternal verity—the best way to get what you want is to focus first on helping others.