Subtle Motivation

Selling Your Point of View

By Barry Maher
I‘ve done a bit of expert witnessing. When you appear in court as an expert witness, you have a point of view and you express it. Then you get cross-examined. During the cross-examination, you quickly see what the opposing attorney is trying to get you to say, and the tendency as an expert is to contest every one of the points he’s trying to make. After all, you’re the expert, you’ve staked out your position, and he’s attacking it. By extension, he’s attacking you.

But the first thing the attorneys on your side will tell you is that if you do that, if you contest every one of his points, you lose all credibility as an impartial expert. Now it’s hardly a secret that you’re being paid big bucks by the side you’re testifying for, and that the reason you’re getting that money is that—at least for the most part—you agree with their position. The jury understands that. And if they don’t, the opposing attorney will be sure to point it out. You need to make your best possible case; you can be certain the other side will be making their best case. But the more you appear to be an instrument of objective truth, granting the other side their legitimate points, the more the points you make for your own side will be believed.

As a salesperson—and at times each of us is a salesperson—you should always present yourself as an expert witness. First, you make your best possible case. If you are an advocate, you don’t have to pretend not to be. When I was selling, I’d go so far as to say, “Hey, I don’t want you to forget I work on commission. The more you spend the more I make. Now I’m going explain why you need to be spending more and making me more money.”

“Hey, I know it’s in my self interest to support the restructuring,” you might imply or even say. “But that doesn’t mean, this isn’t the best possible option for the corporation. And here’s why.”

You make your case, then you grant the opposition—the doubting Thomas within the mind of each potential buyer—grant that doubting Thomas his legitimate points. His legitimate points. Once again, even as an advocate, the more you appear to be acting as an instrument of objective truth, the more effective your points—the points you need to make to make your case—will be.

Tip: In a non-selling situation—when you’re not an advocate—as matter of common courtesy, effective people-skills and simply helping the other person get what he or she wants, this expert witnessing technique works equally well.


The Abraham Lincoln Syndrome: Motivating the Psychological Bully

Marshall Feinstein is a department head for a large direct mail operation. His problem wasn’t with his boss but with another department head. “Barry, you talk about making you best case by telling—selling—the whole story, making sure we get in all your most effective points during a discussion. I’d like to see anyone try to do that with our director of marketing. This guy is obviously too busy and too important to listen to anybody else: and he has to make sure everybody knows that. I don’t push him; he starts pushing the minute I open my mouth. I never get the chance to make my points. All I can do is push back or get run over.”

“Does pushing back work?” I asked.

“Not really.”

“It’s the Abraham Lincoln Syndrome,” I said.

“The what?”

The Abraham Lincoln Syndrome gets its name from an incident that occurred off the coast of Newfoundland in October of 1995. Here’s an actual transcript of a communication between the aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln and Canadian authorities.

AMERICANS: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

CANADIANS: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid collision.

AMERICANS: This is the captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.

CANADIANS: No, I say again, you divert your course.

AMERICANS: This is the aircraft carrier, USS Lincoln, the second largest aircraft carrier in the United States Atlantic Fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.

CANADIANS: This is a lighthouse . . . your call.

When the person you’re dealing with refuses to let you go where you want to go, divert your course. Start talking about whatever he insists on talking about. Be the expert witness and grant him his legitimate points. Then come back around and make your point a different way. In the course of the conversation you can usually work in the information you need to deliver, making all the points you need to make. You do need to tell—sell—the whole story. You need to make sure none of your most important selling points are left out. But smashing into lighthouses is not a successful navigational strategy—no matter how pushy those lighthouses might be.

“My supervisor is the ultimate bully,” an accountant complained. “Management to him is intimidation. It’s either fight back or let him treat you like something he needs to scrape off his shoe. Any psychologists who wants to understand why workers go postal should spend a few days working for this guy.”

Expert witnessing is a particularly effective strategy for dealing with bullying bosses. Don’t argue, expert witness. Grant his legitimate points, then make yours. You’ll not only maintain your self respect, ultimately you’ll probably earn his as well.

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Find out more about Barry’s ground breaking book, No Lie: Truth Is the Ultimate Sales Tool.  
Barry Maher speaks, consults and writes on increasing productivity AND job satisfaction, as well as motivation, management and sales. His book, Filling the Glass: The Skeptic’s Guide to Positive Thinking in Business was cited by Today’s Librarian magazine as “[One of] The Seven Essential Popular Business Books.”

Barry Maher, © Copyright 2013, 2009 Las Vegas, Nevada


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