Why Your Team Isn’t Buying What You’re Selling

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Do you ever wonder why your team isn’t as excited about that bold, new project as you are? Have you ever been disappointed when your motivating pep talk (the one you practiced for hours) falls on deaf ears? It may be that you’re trying to sell them on features and benefits about which they care not a whit.

Are you trying to sell your team something they’re just not buying? #leadership Share on X

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Yesterday my sister bought a new car, a Mazda 3. It’s a cool little car, with great reviews from Car and Driver. And, of course, it’s loaded with electronic goodies. Radar-assisted blind spot monitoring and collision avoidance. Bluetooth connectivity with her iPhone. Full GPS navigation (with traffic alerts) and HD audio. A flip-up display that shows speed and other information directly in front of the windshield so she doesn’t have to take her eyes off the road.

Like I said, it’s loaded with electronic goodies. I find that very cool!

And my sister couldn’t care less.

To her, a car is something to get her from point A to point B. The technology is fine if it truly helps her. Otherwise, it’s just a series of distracting beeps and flashing lights.

On the other hand, she’s a fabulous cook, and revels in the multi-sensory experience of good food, prepared elegantly. But I have a friend named Brian for whom food is nothing more than a necessary fuel source. For him, dining in a fine restaurant holds no more emotional appeal than pulling into Texaco to fill up the car. In his mind, they are the same thing.

Why This Matters to You

As a leader, it’s important to remember that your team members may not get excited by the same things that excite you. “Coming in under budget” may be your equivalent of “radar-assisted blind spot monitoring,” but to your team members, it could be just another annoying beep. My sister’s Mazda dealer knew that he had to sell her on the things that were important to her, no matter what floated his own personal boat. You need to do the same with your team.

Simply put, you can’t always motivate your team with the same things that motivate you. So if you want to be truly effective as a team leader, you have to talk about the team goals and visions in terms that appeal the team, not to you. If I want to have lunch with my friend Brian, I’ll get better results by telling him, “You’ll love this place; it’s fast and uncrowded; we’ll be in and out of there in no time,” than by saying, “Mark Bittman raved about this place in the Times, and they make a salt-cured duck that’ll knock your socks off!” Never mind that “in and out in no time” may actually be a turn-off for me; that’s not the point. I’m trying to sell Brian, so I need to talk about benefits that matter to him.

You can’t always motivate your team with the same things that motivate you. #leadership Share on X

Like many things in leadership, the process is a simple one:

  1. Find out what matters to your team members. (Hint: you may have to ask them.)
  2. Find the intersection between what you want the team to accomplish and what matters to them (see step 1).
  3. Target your communications to live in that intersection.

And if you want a decently-priced, highly-rated car with some cool bells and whistles, check out the Mazda 3!


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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