Sunday, May 9, 2010

Note to Self...

"Everyone is a prisoner of his own experience. No one can eliminate prejudices--just recognize them."
                                                                               -Edward R. Murrow

Anytime you start off a sentence with, "I don't mean to sound..." or, "you can take this anyway you want, but..." you're better off at that point just stopping and keeping your opinion to yourself.

But why spoil such a great opportunity to step in it and learn a valuable lesson about your jaded bitter self?

After seven plus years of working in an industry where a fair amount of the people you encounter just assume you're trying to screw them and then tell you one thing but do another strictly to secure them selves a better situation regardless of the effort you've already put forth and without giving you the last opportunity... you tend to form some opinions.

Being in sales is also being in the people business. It is also part psychologist. To be successful, it is important to understand how people make decisions, when and why. Why is it that one person can walk into a store, pick an item and buy it without a second thought? Whereas another person will walk in(same item), see it, want it, and then go to 5 or 6 other stores to compare prices, shop online, call a few places and invest 3 to 4 weeks (sometimes months) before they can feel as comfortable as the first guy did when he purchased right away?

Neither one is wrong and neither one is right. It is simply the process of the individual. What is consistent is that a person will not buy until the item in question is worth more than the money in their pocket.

That is where nature and nurture come into play.  It as also where one gets to walk a fine line between stereotyping a group, race, or culture with understanding the reality of how a group or culture views money (for the most part). Now, if you're going to be engaging in business with a person from a said group or culture, wouldn't the knowledge of how that group/culture buys, shops, and makes a decision be valuable? Or is that taboo?

What about when the two cultural views on money and value clash? What happens when one's view of being frugal conflicts with an other's view of service and selling?  For example, in the world of sales, it is customary to shop around and it is almost expected. Any sales professional worth his salt understands that a majority of his clients and buyers are going to look around before making a final decision. For sales people reading this, this does not mean you don't go for the close on the first meeting. It means that if you don't close, odds are pretty good, they're going to look around especially if you talked about price. There is, in this, an unspoken rule of ethics that has arisen and a few opinions which can create a circular mess.

How does a buyer know they have a good deal? Should the buyer be obligated to give the originating salesperson the last shot at the deal? Is it OK to buy strictly on price alone? Should the value of the service rendered to deliver and implement the product play a role in the presumed value and consequently price of the product in question? Is it possible that some will wind up spending more (gas, labor, maintenance, and the most valuable of all commodities time) in their quest for a better deal? What if that better deal means sitting in traffic all day, renegotiating, settling for a different color, type or model, not getting exactly what you want, etc? For some it's worth it. I hear it and experience it almost everyday.

Through out all of this, one thing remains the same, a person will not buy until the product or service is worth more to them than the money in their pocket.

So where am I going with this? What's the point of this expose into decision making and cultural buying habits?

I made an inappropriate comment. It was said in frustration. I knew it was inappropriate as I was saying it and knew for sure after I said it. Strangely, I don't even know if the person who I said it too even recognized it as inappropriate. So if the audience didn't see it, it didn't happen, right? Wrong. I know. I said it. I shouldn't have and it was wrong of me to allow myself to go there. That's not the kind of person I am or want to be.

I will not repeat what was said or go into the details of the actual offensive statement. I'd rather let your own inner prejudices fill that in.

I broke a personal cardinal principle from my own life. That principle is to stay here, in the now. I allowed and used past experiences to make a judgment on something in the present. This isn't necessarily wrong, but it certainly can limit possibilities. When you slip out of the now and regress to an explanation based on an individuals culture or race, it is you (me) making myself feel better for not having built enough value in my product to make it worth more than the money in said individual's pocket.

Some people/cultures have some behaviors that are fairly consistent. When I was a waiter, there were certain groups that consistently did not tip well. As a salesperson, there are some groups that will typically try to buy your product for below your cost. This is just information. It is not however a constant nor is it a reason to jump to any conclusions about how the individual in front of me is going to act or behave.

Staying in the now means staying fresh and approaching each situation from a position of service. It means honoring what you've learned in the past, yet remaining open to the possibility of now.

Rising above what I would view as an instinctual response is part of the challenge and mystery of being human. From early on you learn and form opinions and judgments. Mostly to protect yourself. From as simple and as obvious as touching a hot stove, to getting cheated on by a lover, or loaning money to someone. When you get burned, you tend to think differently the next time the situation arises.

Another wonderful aspect of humanity is the ability to recognize when you're wrong and learn from your mistakes.  Within and between the stimulus, lies the ability to respond.  And when you recognize it, you can change it and respond differently than you did the last time.

Me? I blew it. Insensitive, inappropriate, unacceptable. I made an assumption. And we all know what happens when you assume. In this case, the only ass was me. I am grateful for having recognized it and would like to sincerely apologize to the parties involved. I am truly sorry.

Looks like I have more work to do. Hopefully to those of you reading this slice of humble pie you will gain something from this and we as the human race can get a little closer to accepting our differences while embracing our similarities.

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