“Is there anyone here who doesn’t wish that someone else would listen to them more?”
That was the opener from Neil Poynter, director of mc3 Ltd, who led a lively interactive session intended to help participants achieve influence in their organisations.
The gist of Mr Poynter’s presentation was that teamwork happened through influence. Influence, he said, is the power to affect someone’s beliefs or actions. “I want influence to be established and then kept going so that you can affect what people think over time.”
Achieving influence is about selling your ideas, capability and intellect. And there are four types of selling: commodity, technical, consultative and partnership.
Using the example of selling apples, Mr Poynter said that commodity selling was where every seller had the same apples and competed on price. This is bad. If another seller comes along with better quality apples at the same price, they might get the sale. This is technical selling. Neither of these types inspire loyalty. These sellers are just suppliers.
Continuing with the analogy, Mr Poynter explained that a consultative sale is where the salesman might ask the buyer why he wanted apples. The buyer might say they were for his children, who did not particularly like apples. The seller then might suggest that he should try some other fruit and offer the buyer a selection, perhaps even at half price. In this way the provider is suggesting to the buyer what he wants and if the buyer is pleased (ie, his children like the fruit), this could lead to partnership selling, the best type, where the buyer has found a supplier that he proactively wants to work with.
“When we are the supplier what we want to do is to solve someone’s problem” said Mr Poynter.
In terms of pharmacy services, Mr Poynter said that those who might want services would not listen to new ideas or concepts unless what was offered solved a problem for the person who had the power to buy them.
So how can pharmacists get what they want? They need to ask themselves three questions. “What is it that I want to achieve? Who do I need to influence? And how can I help them get what they want?” This takes time and energy, and needs to be thought through, he said.
And he told participants that it was no good trying to stop people doing something they do not want them to do. This must be turned round into something positive. “No one is going to buy into something negative,” he said.
A participant pointed out that pharmacists have often been told that they are invaluable but that they are hopeless at marketing themselves. Another said that this was because as a profession pharmacists are taught to pay attention to the minutiae and get everything exactly right.
Mr Poynter agreed that this was a hugely important point for pharmacy. Sometimes they need to look up and see the bigger picture. They need to understand the problems and challenges facing the person they want to influence. “If you don’t know their problems you can never be a problem solver,” he said.
He also pointed out that relationships are with people, not positions. So if someone you wish to influence leaves the organisation, you have no relationship. But any new postholder will be influenced by those close to them, so you should make sure you network with these people too, and, especially, engage with gatekeepers, for example, personal assistants.
To achieve success in marketing themselves, pharmacists need to give potential service buyers solutions to their problems. And these solutions should be pitched to them in their language, not in language that only pharmacists understand.
Going back to the four selling models, Mr Poynter said that, if pharmacists wish to influence people, the consultative stage should be the entry point. In other words, they should identify problems and explain how pharmacists can solve them. Hopefully, such an approach will develop into a sustainable partnership, he said.
The point, he said, is to achieve a win-win situation. “When we achieve influence we are giving people what they want but we are also getting what we want. What we do not want is a win-lose situation. This is called manipulation and destroys relationships. We also do not want a lose-win situation. There has to be something in it for us,” he concluded.