Note: this has been re-posted from the Inc. 5000 conference blog.
While Michael Port was busy on stage this afternoon at the annual Inc. 5000 conference in Washington DC, his co-author Elizabeth Marshall took a few minutes to do a Q & A with me.
Michael and Liz have just published The Contrarian Effect.
Q: Is it true that you and Michael considered titling the book The Costanza Effect? I’m a huge Seinfeld fan so that might have worked for me.
A: Yes, that’s right. Michael initially thought of The Constanza Effect after seeing a Seinfeld rerun called “The Opposite.” George Costanza (Jason Alexander) laments being kind of a loser – an unemployed shmuck who can’t get a date and who lives with his parents.
During the episode, he comes to the conclusion that the reason he’s had failure after failure is because he’s been doing the wrong thing, so he immediately vows to do the exact opposite. As a result, he not only gets the girl, but experiences great success.
While the Seinfeld episode pokes fun at George’s logic, we really do want anyone who sells for a living to take what they’ve been told to do – or think they should do – and try doing the opposite instead. As for the title, although we loved The Constanza Effect, we felt that readers who didn’t love Seinfeld wouldn’t get it or appreciate it.
Q: I hate getting cold calls so I love the premise of the book. Give us your top 3 specific examples of contrarian selling that works.
A: One specific reason that cold calling and many of the other typical sales tactics don’t work is that they are out of sync with today’s customers. Many of the typical tactics had their beginnings around 1887, which is evidenced by the NCR Primer, a training and sales manual for the salesmen of National Cash Register. In contrast today’s customer can not only screen out unwanted calls, emails or junk mail, but they know that they control the buying process.
So three examples:
1. Business software company Softrax more than doubled its sales (from $12 million to $27 million) after they implemented a free, monthly “Always Have Something To Invite People To” offer – an Executive Webcast Series. Instead of calling and asking for the sale, Softrax positioned itself as a trusted advisor.
2. Apple offers value; they don’t sell. Their sales associates create a low-pressure, fun and stimulating environment – a place to spend Sunday afternoon – that invites customers to buy when they are ready. As a result, Apple doesn’t have to ask for the sale.
3. By taking steps to understand their customer’s interests and preferences, Amazon makes relevant and customized offers. Every time you log in they serve up recommendations and suggestions in sync with previous purchases. We know we all succumb to this.
Ed. note: As Tom Peters put it earlier today in a discussion about online customer service, “To my great irritation, I like five out of six of (Amazon’s) offers… and I buy them all!”
Q: Any advice for Inc. 5000 companies who want to keep growing even as Wall Street and the economy are in a nosedive?
A: Absolutely! Adopt the Contrarian Effect. Regardless of the stock prices or the economic outlook, human nature stays the same. Which means that people (and companies) will buy to express their values and priorities. Inc. 5000 companies have an incredible opportunity to tap into what potential clients are looking for and to build trust and credibility with them over time.
Q: So it’s really about value and trust, not about selling.
A. Yup, you got it.