Sales strategy

owen owen at
Sun Dec 20 05:25:44 PST 1998

Consider this an experiment. In making my reply, I have also left all the
prior elements of the conversation. It makes for a rather long message, but
at least a newcomer will have some idea what is being talked about. See how
it works. H.


At 06:38 PM 12/20/1998 +1100, you wrote:
>>At 07:29 PM 12/16/1998 EST, you wrote:
>>>Hello out there.  I must say that I am very excited about doing OST, but am
>>>running up a bit of a stumbling block right out of the chute.  I was
>>>of doing a "demo" OST to potential clients, but after reading the
warnings on
>>>the listserve to not do such a "foolish" thing, I'm left with puzzlement
>>>how one goes about selling this thing to potential clients, without them
>>>"tasting" it first.  It could be viewed as a bit of a "pig in a poke."
>>>would really help me is suggestions from all of you about what works and
>>>doesn't regarding selling an OST meeting to prospects who have never seen
>>>a thing.  Looking forward to your response.  Thanks in advance.
>>I have never tried to sell Open Space -- at least in my understanding of
>>the word "sell." But I have absolutely no problem in telling folks what it
>>can do. Specifically, you can promise, and deliver the following (in a 2
>>and 1/2 day Open Space): 1) Every issue of concern to anybody will be on
>>the table. 2) All issues will receive the discussion people care to give
>>them. 3) A full report of those discussion will be available to all. 4)
>>Priorities will be established identifying the "high energy issues." 5)
>>Related issues will be converged. 6) Immediate "Next Steps" will be
>>outlined and parceled out for implementation. That is a promise.
>>But be prepared for plenty of skepticism. Every group that I have ever
>>worked with always says in one way or another -- "It looks great, but it
>>will never work with this group." Ultimately the folks will have to make
>>their own decision. However, that decision can be helped a little bit by
>>two things. Show them some examples of where it has been done, and those
>>examples are multiple and public, including full page features in such
>>radical publications as the New York Times. They still may not believe you,
>>but at least they can't say it has never happened. The second thing is to
>>keep your eye out for situations where Open Space is especially appropriate
>>-- situations characterized by a) High levels of complexity in terms of
>>issues. b) high levels of diversity in terms of the people involved, c)the
>>presence of conflict. and d) a decision time of yesterday.
>>And just remember, most people really don't care about the process -- they
>>care about getting something done. So I avoid if at all possible any
>>attempt to explain it, unless they really want to know. At that point, you
>>might find my book "Expanding Our Now: The Story of Open Space" Helpful.
>>Good luck h.
>Harrison, just told us why he never sold any open space.  But at the same
>time he is a heck of a salesman.
>He told us the secret, which makes him hot  --  the customers wants an
>outcome and is usually unimpressed by the process.  But that is only half of
>it  --  the customer wants an outcome that offers some benefit to him/her !!
>Most do not willingly pay to be harmed in some way.
>And this is where Harrison the super star shines  --  he gets people to buy
>even though they don't know that it won't necessarily not harm them.  (how
>many negatives is that ??) Super.  I guess however there is some value in OS
>providing customers with infomation of what might be harming their
>businesses but that has not surfaced or the customers have not yet
>John Naisbett in the original Megatrends (1983) said words to the effect:
>"Even Ronald Reagan, both as B-movie cowboy and as President knew that it
>was easier to ride the horse in the direction it wants to go".  Knowing that
>direction is probably of considerable value especially if you think you want
>to go in another direction.  And it could just be that OS will do just  that
>for your would-be customers.
>I guess if I would offer any advice it would be to discern some desired
>beneficial outcomes and work on your 'open' manager in the vein of "well
>you'll find out what is your likelihood of success", as the horse is bolting
>and carrying you with it.
>The list of 'promises' do not in themselves constitute beneficial outcomes,
>though their content might.  Here we are faced with the important difference
>between 'form' (or framework) and 'content'.  They do not tell you what the
>real outcome will be and have very high potential to lead an organisation
>far from its managers' strategic intent.
>Taking one view that could be terrific because it might save the enterprise
>from disastrous mistakes, but the other side is also possible.  The populist
>approach has been shown often to be completely incorrect.
>I share your concern with sales strategy
There is, as we all know, good news and bad news about Open Space. The good
news is that it works. The bad news is that it works. But sometimes (you
are quite right) the outcomes may not be quite what you expected (always)
or wanted (sometimes). But either way, I have never found them to be
non-useful, although in the moment some folks will have a very different
view. My favorite story along this line is about a client I once worked
with. It was a small consulting firm in a northeast city, and they had
invited me to do an Open Space around their future. By 1pm on the first
day, it was apparent to all that they (as an organization) had no future,
and by the end of the afternoon, the organization had been radically
re-configured, and to a certain extent, disbanded. All of this was done
without rancor and with a great sense of relief. These were good folks,
doing good work. But they had all been there and done that -- and now it
was time to move on. Problem had been that nobody had put the Dead Moose on
the table. But when they did, everything smelled an awful lot better.

So there are risks, and some folks are very risk averse. Those folks,
sooner or later, tend to go out of business.

More information about the OSList mailing list