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Give & take: selling generously.

I just finished reading Give and Take by Adam Grant, and there’s one insight in his research that made me think of you.

It has to do with being real while inviting people to work with you (or buy from you).

For context, the book posits that different people have different reciprocity styles. Some are takers (looking to get the most from an exchange), some are matchers (they want to make sure it’s an equal exchange), and some are givers (their main interest is to, well, give – ideally more than they get). Then he goes on to explore why givers are some of the most successful people in business, and also some of the least successful, while the takers and matchers make up most of the middle strata.

In short: set boundaries around your own well-being so you don’t wear yourself out while you’re being generous. And then be generous! Got it.

Now, on to the specific chapter that I think is interesting to you and me.

It’s about being authentic and successful in communication.

Common theories tell us that in order to be seen as competent, to impact people, to make the sale, we have to communicate in an assertive way. No ums, no I thinks, no what do you think, no I don’t knows.

But I know for myself and for many of the stellar people in holistic healthcare with whom I work that doesn’t always feel right. Not just slightly uncomfortable (which could be a sign that you’re challenging yourself, in a good way) but just – out of sync.

Because while we have our shit together (i.e. are competent in our area of expertise), we don’t have the illusion that we have reached the ultimate pinnacle of knowledge and wisdom, and we also don’t want to just dish out prescriptions.

We want this to be a collaborative relationship from the start.

In Give and Take, Adam Grant suggests that givers tend to use more of that tentative, open communication style – and that actually, the questions and caveats that signal that we are still open to suggestions and insights make our communication more impactful when we’re in a collaborative setting, and when people are skeptical.

You’re more likely to sell, that is.

People are more compelled to get on board with what you’re suggestion when they feel like their opinion was valued, and that they had a chance to make their own decision about it. And, just as important, they are then more committed to the way forward.

Grant finds that when you emphasize asking questions, and showing openness to the other side, you get more information about what actually matters to your prospective clients – and then you can speak to that rather than offer a script that may or may not resonate (see how I keep saying no elevator pitch required?).

I’m sure you already know that from certain types of conversations with your clients – especially those that are to inspire them to making changes.

This is another reminder that it also applies to the type of conversations at the very beginning of a relationship, when you’re making your initial invitation.

Sure, you could be super persuasive and aim to convince people to sign up for your cleanse. Scratch that. Not worth it. Let’s go with what comes naturally, and what aligns with the way we want to relate with other humans.

And know that what feels right is also likely to bring success.

One more connection comes to mind: In one of the meditations she led a couple months ago, Susan Piver (author, buddhist teacher, founder of the Open Heart Project) talked about an approach to business negotiations that a by all counts very successful person had shared with her. It’s this:

Seek to maximize the other person’s position.

Many layers to that, one of them being that when you do that, you actually take on a position of power.

Power, to me, means being able to make an impact, to bring forth change. And it’s awesome to know that you can be your very real own self in the process.

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