Harvard Business Review on Motivating People: Fulfill Needs, Don’t Change Them

“Successful sales people discover and fulfill people’s needs rather than try to change them.”

Harvard Business Review on Motivating People by Brook Manville and Steve Kerr, page 42

Today’s quote raises two polar thoughts, and I think I will give some ink to both sides of the coin. A popular marketing message suggests that in order to “become successful, find out what people want and then give it to them.”

Brilliant! Why didn’t you think of that?

Click on the book to grab your own copy of "Harvard Business Review on Motivating People"

Click on the book to grab your own copy of “Harvard Business Review on Motivating People”

As logical as this sounds, very few travel agents heed this advice. More often than not, they come up with a good idea as a result of attending a trade show or conference and dive in with both feet trying to promote a destination or group departure to some very cool-sounding place. This tactic even works sometimes. But there is a better way.

Ask your clients what they think. Ask them where they would go if they won the lottery. Ask them what and where they would like their kids to experience.

There are few ways for you to arrive at some very valuable input. You can ask them in a one-on-one situation when an easy-going conversation unfolds on its own. You can send a brief informal survey with five or fewer questions under the guise of market research. You can invite a small group of your friends over for coffee, subtly probing for a few travel hints.

In all cases, you are putting your personal thoughts and ideas aside while you open your mind to what others are thinking about.

Now to the other side of the coin.

In today’s fast-paced world, time to think, dream, and plan has become a luxury. Most of us are busy putting out daily fires while covering our bases at a frantic pace. We find ourselves focusing on what is urgent and not what is important.

Spending time with family is important. Maintaining your health is important. Taking time out (and away) from your stressful day-to-day existence is important. And this is where you come in.

It was Apple’s Steve Jobs who told reporters that he did not believe in asking customers what they wanted. He didn’t believe that most people know what they want or need. He made it his business to “tell them what they needed.”

With this strategy in mind, maybe from time to time you can bust in to a prospect’s mind and blow a few ideas their way. Who knows? They may even thank you for the interruption.

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