Early in my working life I figured out that I would never make an exemplary sales person. My problem is that I am either passionate about an issue or I fall asleep from boredom. So collaboration being in the former category, I do not tire easy. Some of my colleagues have even given me friendly advice to tone it down a little as I can come over as an evangelist. I think I am more like a new mother with her first born, excited about every detail.
So when I describe the benefits of collaboration to someone, I know to expect a range of responses. Some are intrigued. Some listen with their eyes firmly focused on my shoulder as if there’s a deadly spider crawling on it. There are some who listen with intent and try to make sense of some seemingly illogical arguments, such as the idea that two businesses can compete and collaborate simultaneously. Then there are people who really get into it and feel relieved that their own interest in collaboration as a discipline is not isolated. And on and on it goes.
Each of the responses requires a different way of replying. I make different decisions on how to respond, and how much and what kind of effort to invest, depending on what the listener says. For example, it is not necessarily the prospect of a business deal that will guide me but the prospect that the person may ‘get’ what I’m saying about collaboration. I think it is important to help people see what collaboration can do for their business, regardless of the degree to which I may or may not get involved. What I find most frustrating is when people seem resigned to an unfeasible situation and give up on an alternative idea altogether.
There’s nothing more disheartening than hearing a business executive simply accepting a bad situation as if little or nothing can be done about. Frankly speaking, while many may not say things out loud, they give enough cues to that effect. A recent report on collaboration in Australia showed that there is a huge demand for more collaboration amongst workers internally. The benefit to the economy can run into billions, and research also indicates that the overwhelming benefits to businesses that embrace collaboration translate into the business being more competitive. And yet, many senior business leaders are simply too preoccupied with being ‘defenders’ and avoiders of any disruption, including collaboration.
Selling collaboration to some then is not a matter of logic alone; which in fact is the case with every product or a service. I would not plead for special circumstances here. The key, I think, is to continue on the path of making collaboration the standout strategy for growth, competition, and innovation. It is vital to do it superbly. Making collaboration an obvious way of doing better business is what will, in the end, lead to a demand that it is simply not possible to ignore.
So, when I select my customers I hope that they can challenge me to do better, and I can walk away knowing that, after the job is done (be it a workshop, a collaboration strategy or advice etc), their bottom line will be better. The rest is easy.