I might have mentioned this before, but from time to time (like most of you) I’ll get these flashes of insight — my so-called epiphanies. Unfortunately when I get one I tend to run excitedly to tell someone about my latest burst of brilliance — and when I do they’ll often look at me dumbfounded and say, “Well, duh — you mean you only just figured that out?!” I seem to have a flair for rediscovering the obvious.
For that reason I have come to refer to these insightful bursts as my WDE’s — my “Well, Duh” Epiphanies. Some years ago I had a WDE which went like this: I suddenly realized that not everyone thinks like me.
I’m told that I am a highly relational person, reasonably intuitive, and quick to establish rapport. I tend to trust people quickly and I feel people tend to trust me equally quickly. And when I was newer in sales I was convinced I could connect with just about anyone. So it came as a shock when I began running across prospects with whom I seemed to lack any ability to get to relational first base. I could not for the life of me establish rapport with these individuals at all — and usually the harder I tried (using my arsenal of winsome relational techniques) the worse it became. More than once I walked away with my ego severely bruised. My vaunted relational skills had apparently failed me, and I was baffled and frustrated!
Then I began to discover that not everybody takes in information and processes it like I do. This discovery of Learning Styles (thank you to author, speaker and friend Cynthia Tobias — www.applest.com) was a revelation. Turns out the people I was having the hardest time with are the Analytics, those men and women for whom proof is everything — and proof means data. In approaching these prospects I was placing all the emphasis on my so-called interpersonal skills, trying to get these tough clients to believe me because they trusted me and to trust me because they liked me. What I had failed to realize was that Analytics only trust you if they think you know what you’re talking about. You have to prove your credibility with facts. You earn their trust through competence and knowledge — not with your winsome smile and your engaging manner. And if they ask for the data to back up your claims, you had better have those data readily at hand. The same spreadsheets and reports that make a Relational person’s eyes glaze over are bread and butter to the Analytic. They’re essential.
In time I learned (the hard way) to temper my approach with the prospects I came to recognize as Analytic. I learned to have the data handy in my briefcase so I could prove my point with facts. I learned not to behave in ways my Analytic clients believed to be untrustworthy but to back off and to be uncharacteristically businesslike and subdued — hardly my natural bent. And I started having some success with the very type of client that had formerly frustrated me so.
We’ll talk more about Learning Styles later. For now, if you’re in sales or fundraising and you’re having a hard time building trust with certain prospective clients or donors, maybe the approach you’re taking — even though it makes perfect sense to you! — is somehow undermining their trust in you, and not building it up. Here’s a handy “Well, Duh” Epiphany: when it comes to establishing interpersonal connections, we’re not all the same!