A Proposal for a new type of media source: “True News”

The November 2016 election has made me think about democracy, government, and our society in new ways for the first time in my life. One topic that seems to keep coming up is this idea of truth in the media.

I think most people would say they’d rather read news they know to be true than live in a fantasy world where they read news they like but which they know to be false. It’s basically an alternate take on the famous thought experiment, the Experience Machine, and comes to the same conclusion: truth matters.

In fact, truth may be the single-most important attribute of the news we read. And if you really start to think about it, truth becomes a really slippery concept.

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Living on $1 / Day

This past weekend, I volunteered at a clinic in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (better known to Americans as “Rocky Point”).  The clinic was makeshift, conducted in a church in a local neighborhood.  It was completely free to the residents and funded with donations.

The surrounding residents would be considered low income by American standards, but I sat on many pre-visit interviews with them and most of them don’t think of themselves as struggling.  They’re really just living their lives.

The locals have differences in their lives that I simply haven’t experienced.  In my makeshift Spanish, I learned that one woman, Guadalupe, had been waiting at the free clinic for about 8 hours, not knowing when she would be seen.

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The Power of Frames

I recently read Pitch Anything by Mr. Oren Klaff and one of the coolest concepts in the book was the idea of “frames.”

A frame is basically the set of beliefs, contexts, and assumptions that implicitly sit behind everything you communicate.  The author argues that when two people meet, their frames eventually “clash” and that only one frame can win out.  This concept was also discussed in The Game by Neil Strauss, but it was presented there in the context of attracting girls, not clients.

Anyway, after I finished reading Pitch Anything, I have been blessed with a special insight into how I and others think, and to the social dynamics underlying most business transactions.

Take sales, for example.  When I first started out doing sales, my mentality was always about understanding what the client was saying as precisely as possible and, to the greatest extent possible, providing him with exactly what he requested.  But it turns out that’s not the best way to do business.  Often times, I’ve found, people respect when you challenge them because they see it as an opportunity for growth.  I realized one day that with myself, when someone challenges me head-on, I find them really interesting and then start engaging about why they disagree.

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Whew, it’s been a long time since I’ve written on this blog.  Nearly 4 months!

I feel like I have so many things I’d like to write about, but one thing in particular seems to keep popping up these days: the idea of being honest with people.

Maybe it’s my nature, maybe it’s my upbringing, but I just really feel uncomfortable when I’m not being forthright with someone.  If I feel like I’m withholding something or not disclosing something it makes me feel manipulative and uneasy.  I feel like I have to just come out with the truth, all of it.

So, basically any time I’m in any situation that presents an opportunity to tell a portion of the truth or the whole truth, I tend to tell the entire truth.  It just makes me feel good, i guess.  Frankly, I don’t really know.

But what I have noticed about being honest with everyone all the time is that it has all these wonderful, amazing benefits that are actually pretty hard to get with people:

  • People trust.
    Once people realize that I’m honest about just about everything all the time, they come to realize that if there’s anything going on I’ll say something about it so they learn to trust me.
  • People respect.
    Because people know I don’t BS, they respect what I say.
  • People want to do business.
    Yesterday I spoke with a client who asked me if he should get a content management application for this website.  From a financial perspective, this would have represented really easy money.  But the truth is this client would never really use it, and it’d be easy money for Omedix and wasted money for the client.

    “Honestly,” I told this client, “Just save your money.  If it becomes apparent over time that you would really benefit from this, we can always set it up for you then.”

    “Okay,” he said.  “Whatever you recommend sounds good to me.”

    I have to admit, I felt pretty good about that conversation.

    Tomorrow, I’m meeting with a client who wants to build a 12-week website in less than 4 weeks.  While theoretically that’s possible, it would require some serious wizardry on our end to make it happen.  I know it would be easier to win the business if I just said “Ok, I think we can do 4 weeks,” but I’ll be honest then, too.  It won’t guarantee a sale, but at least I’ll have shown that I won’t promise something I can’t deliver.

That last example actually brings up my last point:

Honesty means trading short-term gain today for long-term gain tomorrow.

People don’t usually lie or withhold details just arbitrarily.  They do it to gain something.  But lying is ALWAYS a short-term strategy.  Reputation is something that takes forever to build and minutes to ruin.  If someone finds out that you lied, or that you withheld important information to achieve short-term gain, their trust is evaporated and they’ll likely never want to deal with you again.

How do I know that?  Because I was on the “being lied to” end a few months ago.  A while ago I purchased a tire insurance policy for my car.  The idea is simple: if I have to replace a tire the insurance policy covers the full cost. The catch is that I have to go to a specific dealer to avoid being charged.  If I go to a different dealership, I have to submit a claim to be reimbursed.

So sure enough one day I got a flat tire.  I took my car over to a dealership near my home, and the service advisor I normally deal with told me that he could handle the tire replacement and I’d just have to submit a claim to get reimbursed.

“Is that a big deal?” I asked.

“No, not at all.  It takes 1-2 weeks to get your money back.  I’ll even help you fill out the claims.”

“Well, why don’t I just go up to the other dealer?”

“Well, we can just take care of it for you.”

I’ve worked with this guy in the past so I trusted him.

Well, it’s now been 8 weeks since I had that tire replaced and I submitted my claim (which was a complete pain, by the way) and I still haven’t received my reimbursement.  In retrospect, based on some other things he said, I’m led to believe that he knew how cumbersome this whole process is.

Short-term gain? His commission on the tire replacement.

Long-term loss? I’ll never go to him again, so he loses all future commissions.

To sum up, honesty — and not just honesty, but complete honesty — is an awesome way to go for the long-term.  It might be more challenging in the short-term, but the long-term benefits of trust, respect, and people who want to do business with you are awesome.

Strange Lessons in Learning How to Sell Well

I’ve never really thought of myself as a salesperson.

I remember when I was younger I interned for GE and they had some career fair at the end of the summer where you met people in all the different ‘early talent identification’ programs. When I got to the sales people, they all just seemed so smooth. I didn’t trust them, and I certainly didn’t want to buy anything from them. I just couldn’t picture myself joining that table over some of the others.

Well, fast forward a few years after I started Omedix and reality struck – I had inadvertently positioned myself as the sole salesperson for our company. Either I sold our product or we didn’t do business; it was that simple. And so I had to start learning how to sell.

I remember my very first sales experience. We were going to build a custom site for a heart surgeon group. I must have met with these doctors 4 times, but because I didn’t understand that it was my responsibility to walk everyone through the sales process, the process stalled and each meeting ended with me looking to the doctors to see what they wanted to do next. One of the doctors was particularly kind, and invited me over to his home for dinner and then to discuss the website stuff.

I was so insecure about our product at the time that I felt uncomfortable trying to promote what I was selling. A friend had recommended a few sales tips to me and I tried to force those in to the conversation, looking very much like a complete tool in the process. I was so conscious of the ‘sales importance’ of meeting the doctor that I wasn’t able to lay back and relax and enjoy the evening as a fun social experience. By the end, I didn’t know what the next steps were, so I just walked the doctor through the contract and asked him to let me know. He never did let me know, and we never even really received an official response from that client.

Omedix - Harnessing the Power of the WebFast forward to today, and I realize that everything about what I was doing was just plain wrong. By contrast, a few weeks ago, I was in discussion with a practice manager (usually the decision maker for our product) about what kind of site would be a good fit for him. First and foremost, I felt good about what I was offering, I felt proud that it was quality, and I felt confident that whatever he bought from us, it would be a good value. I mean, honestly, as the President of Omedix, I have complete control over these things so I should hope I feel that way!

So right off the bat, I didn’t feel like I was ‘selling to earn money’; I felt like I was doing this gentleman a service by professionally advising him about a service he needed.

With that as my foundation of confidence, I also realized that, as strange as it sounds, it’s really not about the product. I mean, sure, this practice was interested in a website and so it made sense to talk to us, but my focus when I first began speaking was one thing – to establish a rapport. We talked at length about his career history, and interests, and you know what, I loved it! It was fun because talking to people and getting to know them and liking them is fun. It made me want to work with him because now I liked him.

Maybe not so surprisingly, it apparently made him want to work with me too. Based on this practice’s situation, I made a recommendation about what I thought they should use. It’s a higher-end practice and so they were really going to be best-served by a higher-end site. I recommended accordingly, and I quickly found out that because this person and I now had a mutual trust of one another, he didn’t really care to hear the particular details from me. He basically said, “Tell me what I need, and let’s do it.”

What a truly wonderful gesture of trust, and you know what, not only would I be very uneasy if I violated that trust, it would be terrible for business if I violated it too. So sure enough I made a professional recommendation to him about what he needed – one I would feel comfortable making to my own mother – and told it like it was. I recently learned the initial payment to begin is already on its way.

What’s so striking to me about this is how remarkably little it had to do with the particular features of our product. Sure, I’ve put a ton of time and energy into making sure we have a great product, and sure I feel like we’re going to deliver a spectacularwebsite for this practice, but I never had to sell that. Instead I offered trust, they accepted, I got excited about working with them, they got excited about working with me, and the rest is relegated to the trust factor.

Earlier today, I was in another sales situation. It was interesting because what the practice wanted and what I would recommend – again my litmus test; what I would recommend to my own mother – were a bit off-synch. I had the choice either to capitulate and say “Sure, what you’re asking we can do”, or I could take the higher ground, stand up for my beliefs and say, “You know what, if I were you, here’s what I would do.” What I proposed to them did cost more money, and it involved some things they were visibly uncomfortable with. To be honest, I really don’t know if they’ll decide to go for it.

But the truth is I feel good about the professional recommendation I made, and I stand behind my decision to recommend what I did.

I’ve started realizing that if you want to make more money in this world, the way to do it is not by learning tricks for manipulating people or slick sales techniques; it’s about finding out how to add more value to the world, and then making a genuine, informed, professional recommendation to people who trust you that if they use a service you developed they will benefit far more than what it costs them.

That, to me, is capitalism at its best. My company invests time and money developing a service that provides value to our clients, and when our clients come to us with the problems I know they have (I’m starting to see the same ones again and again) I can confidently say “I have a solution to your problems.” and make an honest, friendly recommendation about why I think this will improve their life in some capacity.

And that’s something else I’ve realized. If I have to try too hard in a sale, it’s not a good fit. For whatever reason, this client does not value our product as much and it is unlikely to be much different if they wind up purchasing it. That used to make me insecure, but now I realize you just can’t be all things to everyone.

So, the take-away from all of this for me is: selling is not about ‘sales’ at all, trust is far and away the most valuable thing you can build, and great selling should come from confidently knowing you offer a valuable service and being proud that you are helping people improve their lives.