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Strong words!

A black-and-white photo of a hand holding scalpel

“You will die unless you have this operation.” – boy, that’s got to bring in some high % results for doctors. Talk about sales tactics! When you have truth on your side, it’s easy to be a salesperson. The doctor isn’t saying it motivated by sales, they’re 99.99% of the time motivated by risk management and avoiding blame, malpractice, or other professional consequences.

Unfortunately, not all professional services command that kind of customer attention when they make recommendations. But there are some steps you can take to improve the likelihood of getting customers to do the right thing.

IT people are mild by nature. They’ll say phrases such as:

“You might want to…” “If it were me, I’d…” “I recommend you…” “it’s generally a good idea…” “You really should listen to this, I’ve seen this before” “Most of the people I know do…” “You may experience problems unless…”

These phrases are more effective:

“If you don’t do this, here’s what’s going to happen sooner or later:” “You need to do this” “This is putting your data at risk, you’re aware of that?” “If we don’t act, here’s the sequence of events that will transpire” “I will make more money fixing this mess if you don’t take my advice” “As long as we agree you won’t blame us when this fails, then you can proceed, but it’s against our advice”

But you’re saying, “hey, that’s not my personality, I can’t just say those phrases, it’s not how I like to talk to or with people. I don’t want them to think I’m being aggressive or pushy.”

We understand. Do you want them to like you or do you want them to do the right thing? If the techniques to achieve those goals are in conflict, you may need to pick. Risk management often requires you push for results rather than amicable interactions. Nothing will drive this point home faster than a client who likes you that turns on you when the results aren’t good. Suddenly they’re angry, and blaming you for not saying something. Then you respond with “but I TOLD you” and they say “no, you didn’t” or “you didn’t say it would mean ____ “(insert negative outcome here)

Doctors and lawyers have this process down pat. They are too aware of the liability of letting their clients do the wrong thing. IT people don’t operate that way, they’re more trusting, optimistic, mild, gentle, pleasant. If I had to pick a group to socialize with for an evening, I’d pick IT people over a roomful of attorneys. But attorneys get more results with less risk. And they make more money. No, it’s not all about money. But nothing makes you focus on money faster than a lawsuit whose judgment could cause complete financial ruin. That’s why attorneys and doctors act the way they do.

If you disagree with a doctor in the hospital, in some cases they make you sign a form called “AMA”, which stands for “against medical advice”. We routinely have clients ignore our recommendations. When they do it and we have a document that explains all the repercussions, guess how smart we look when the stuff hits the fan later? We look much smarter. Just avoid the “I told you so” grin. They don’t like that part.


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