Overcoming OCD in Sales Efforts

If not the top topic’ it must be one of top discussion points; behavioral mechanics or a more common word habits. In fact, one of my top podcasts last year was Habit Forming Products with Nir Eyal the author of Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products. In fact, most marketers are all running around trying to change customer habits and internally all organizations are investing resources in change management. I actually think it is somewhat obsessive compulsive behavior. Salesperson

I could not help thinking that this area might shed some light on how to manage all this. What I found was a simple 4-step Self-Treatment Method prescribed by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and documented in the book,You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life. To cut to the chase, these 4-steps from the 1st edition of the book are Relabel, Reattribute, Refocus, Revalue. After reviewing the material, in a quirky sort of way I found the method to be very familiar with other sales methods.

The Four Steps work together:

First, you RELABEL: You train yourself to identify what’s real and what isn’t and refuse to be misled by intrusive, destructive thoughts and urges.

Second, you RE-ATTRIBUTE: You understand that those thoughts and urges are merely mental noise, false signals being sent from your brain.

Third, you REFOCUS: You learn to respond to those false signals in a new and much more constructive way, working around the false signals by refocusing your attention on more constructive behavior to the best of your ability- at that moment. This is where the hardest work is done and where the change in brain chemistry takes place. By expending the effort it takes to Refocus, you will actually be changing how your brain works in an extremely healthy and wholesome way.

Finally, the real beauty of the Four-Step Method is seen in the REVALUE step, when the whole process becomes smooth and efficient, and the desire to act on unwanted thoughts and urges has been overcome to a significant degree. You will have learned to view those troublesome thoughts and urges as having little or no value and, therefore, your obsessions and compulsions will have much less impact on you. Things come together very quickly, resulting in an almost automatic response: “That’s just a senseless obsession. It’s a false message. I’m going to focus my attention on something else.” At this point, the automatic transmission in your brain begins to start working properly again.

Once people learn to perform the Four Steps on a regular basis, two very positive things happen. First, they gain better control over their behavioral responses to their thoughts and feelings, which, in turn, makes day-to-day living much happier and healthier. Second, by altering their behavioral responses, they change the faulty brain chemistry that was causing the intense discomfort of their OCD symptoms. Since it has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain chemistry in this serious psychiatric condition is changed through the practice of the Four Steps, it is likely that one could also change one’s brain chemistry by altering responses to any number of other behaviors or bad habits through using the Four Steps. The result could be a lessening of the intensity and intrusiveness of these unwanted habits and behaviors, making them easier to break.

When I equate to this sales and even somewhat to marketing, I think often we have a long way to go in understanding our customer’s behaviors.

Relabel: Seldom, do I see in most sales processes an accurate description of a customer needs and wants. We focus on how our product will benefit the customer and reinforce our own behavior by sales managers, end of the month, quarter incentives, etc. to get the customer on board. Little thought is given to an accurate portrayal of what we may want to call current state.

Re-Attribute: In the book, they use the terms anticipate and accept in the context that we must recognize or anticipate this particular behavior and accept it for what it is, a medical problem. In the sales process, I can see similarity where we must do a better job of anticipating our customer needs and reflecting upon them. We need to stop being so solution focused. We also need to recognize it is not necessarily a reflection on our company or ourselves, it is a perception on how our customer views the world at this moment in time.

Re-focus: If we recognize that maybe it is not our customer that needs to change but us. What if we re-focused our attention to the present moment and seek to understand the customer’s job they are trying to do versus the solution that we can provide. In the book, they emphasize activity and effort at this step. As they say no pain, no gain. Well, this could be the deciding factor. Also, this may be where you find out that you are not providing the solution needed. However, I believe that is you Re-focus to the customer, you may see more opportunity than you did before. When purchase decisions are being made by multiple parties, you are typical there for a reason. Accepting that and understand the other reasons may be your strongest asset. (Blog Post: How to See the Other Side of a Conversation)

Re-Value: This is the step we reflect on the entire process and make adjustments accordingly. If we practice this method, we will get better at seeing reality from other points of view (Re-label) and recognize when they happen and accept that they are going to happen (Re-attribute). At that time, we can Re-Focus and prepare to do the cycle again.

Even if you don’t agree with my direction,  I think the process offers a good guideline for structuring improvement efforts in the sales process. Not to put a hammer in my hand and think of this as a nail but it sure sounds a lot like PDCA to me.

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