A core function of quality leadership is building the case of quality and raising the level of awareness and adoption through the organization. As we work to mature our quality system we build commitment. This is the salesperson aspect of our role where we go out and sell quality and the improvements we are advocating for.
Understand what the customer is buying
You first need to understand what the customer is buying. A person selling a food processor is really selling the ability to easily make tasty food. A person selling a car is selling a whole lot of cultural assumptions about mobility, and power, and the dream of success. Similarly, our stakeholders are not buying specific quality methodologies and tools (e.g. process management, knowledge management, risk management), they are buying something wider, which quality methodologies can deliver to them, and you need to understand what that is. Two of the more wider things that the customer wants that quality usually promises are protection and opportunity.
Quality at heart offers protection against deficiencies and risks. Quality protects against loss of capability.
Quality is also an opportunity – gaining more value from our resources.
Segmenting your audience
Every salesperson needs to know their market and their customer base which we can think of in terms of three market segments:
- Those who ‘get’ the quality improvement and become immediately enthused, moving rapidly from first contact to positive perception and trial. These are your allies, supporters, and early adopters.
- The folks who just do not care about maturing quality. They will engage with quality if they must, if it is part of the job, or if everyone ese is doing it. If the improvement is voluntary, or unusual, they will not bother. Moving them to the trial phase of buy-in will require a range of influencing tactics.
- Those who do not like quality, seeing it as a threat to their way of working, or even as a personal threat. These people will resist everything unless it is embedded into the very structure of the organization. They can be exceedingly difficult to move to the positive perception state, let alone higher than that. Here your primary tools are peer pressure, social proof, appeals to authority and compulsion.
Think through the types of quality initiatives you are working on. Those that are voluntary will only reach the first third, and that is the best place to start. Or you need more inescapable methods. I usually find for any set of improvements it is a mixture of experiment with early adopters, build social proof and introduce a few critical compulsions.
In their book Mind Gym Sebastian Bailey and Octavius Black outlined nine influencing tactics you can select from, based on the character and situation of the ‘buyer’.
To add context to these, I am going to provide an example of implementing Gemba Walks for leaders, managers, and floor level employees, with standard work that emphasizes pushing to a learning culture.
|Reasoning||Using logical argument to make a case. Reasoning is necessary to support your case with all stakeholder, even if other influencing techniques will create the closing sell. You need to create a compelling logical case for quality improvement, and it needs to be a case for the individual was well as the company.||Presenting case studies and evidence on how this is successful.|
|Inspiring||Appealing to emotions and creating the vision. Inspiring people generates an emotional commitment to the vision. Being inspiring demands conviction, energy and passion but is especially effective with the early adopters.||A vision of a gemba walk being the hallmark of quality culture and building a culture of inclusivity.|
|Asking questions||Leading the other person to make their own discovery of the value of the quality improvement.||Drawing out examples of an individuals own experience of the value of observation and good coaching.|
|Ingratiating(Be a buddy)||Your stakeholder will almost feel positive toward someone who makes them feel good about themselves. This is not a great approach for people more senior than you, it comes across as sucking up. You also need to be sincere – people always detect insincerity.||Friends helping friends get things done|
|Deal making||When you give another person something in return for their agreement with you. Your ability to use this approach depends very much on your confidence and ability to offer something in return. To keep trust, make sure you deliver on any promises made.||Through introducing the Gemba walk we will see a reduction of human error deviations and we will be able to close minor deviations in three days.|
|Favor asking||Simply asking for something because you want or need it. This works well only when the other person cares about you or their relationship with you. If used sparingly, it is hard to resist, but be prepared to pay back that favor!||If you can support the Gemba Walk, then we will be able to free up the time for that important project of yours as a result.|
|Using silent allies (aka social proof)||Using the fact that others are getting value from the quality improvement as an argument in its favor. Social proof is sharing the stories of people as like your ‘buyer’ as possible. This really gets to that big middle of uncertain individuals. Each success, no matter how small, is an opportunity to gather social proof. Hold lessons learned, don’t be afraid to capture good feedback on video!||Listen to Nancy here as she discusses how much Gemba Walks have changed the work in her team.|
|Invoking authority||Appealing to a rule is one you use late in the roll-out program to convince the laggards once the quality improvement has become a clear expectation.||Your boss tells you to do Gemba Walks and enforces them happening (report a metric of how many Gemba Walks)|
|Forcing (“do it or else”)||Bringing senior management in to demonstrate clear requirements with clear ramifications that can include temporary or permanent removal of the individual. This is a tactic of last resort.||Do this or else|
Be prepared to spend a lot of time in “Yes…but…and” territory, especially in the Strategy Phase.
9 thoughts on “Being a Quality Salesperson”
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