Granny Shots and Selling Great Ideas

I am a sucker for minority reports. I love anything that questions the conventional wisdom. As soon as everybody starts to think the same way or have the same perspective, I begin to wonder if we’ve got it all wrong.

rickbarryIt’s for this reason that when I heard that one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, was going to be doing a podcast called Revisionist History in which he was going to reinterpret something from the past, I knew I would be in. It’s a 10 part podcast, and my favorite episode has been #3 – The Big Man Can’t Shoot.

The Big Man Can’t Shoot is about taking granny shots – underhanded free throws. They look silly but they are far more effective than overhand shooting from the line. With two notable exceptions – Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain (especially in his 100 point game) – nobody shoots this way. Even though it’s better.

In the podcast, Gladwell talks to a sociologist named Mark Granovetter about the Threshold Model of Collective Behavior. The basic idea is that we are all influenced by the behavior of others, but we have different thresholds at which we’re willing to change our behavior. Some people won’t try something new until everyone else is doing it. Other people are early adopters who’s threshold for change is very low. Most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle.

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It’s high thresholds that keep good ideas from catching on. 

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In sales, we’re trying to get people to change their behavior, to try something new, to adopt a new idea. It might be a new brand or a new strategy or a new system. For us to be effective, we need to figure out the threshold for change that our buyers have.

Some buyers have a low threshold. They want to be innovative. Appeal to how you can put them on the cutting edge, far outpacing their competitors.

Some buyers have a high threshold. They’re going to need to see case studies, proven results, and examples. For these risk averse buyers, you’re going to need to mitigate the fear of change.

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To determine a buyer’s threshold, you’ll need to be direct. Here are some questions you can ask to help determine your buyer’s threshold for trying a new idea:

Tell me about a time that you tried something new. How did it go?

Generally speaking, do you (or the company) tend to be open to trying new things?

What holds you back from making a big change in your strategy?

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Your idea, your product, your solution is a great one. It’s what everybody should be doing. It works. Just like a granny shot. But it’s not going to catch on until you figure out the thresholds of your buyers and customize your approach to meet them where they are.

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