Seth Godin published his book Unleashing the Ideavirus in 2000, popularizing the concept of developing a message so interesting that people can’t help but talk about it, creating a contagious idea that spreads much in the way a virus does—from person to person. More than a decade later, “going viral” is a part of everyday speech, and the explosion of social media platforms means that we are sharing more ideas with more people in our network than ever before.
But you’ve heard this before. Guru after guru has preached about what this paradigm shift has meant for businesses at a whole, and almost as many experts have talked about how it impacts our industry. Yes, people talk, we get it.
With the conversation around ideaviruses typically married to marketing, we have missed an opportunity to explore the potential for your sales process to create and spread an ideavirus of your own. In fact, if your sales process is not leaving the sort of lasting impression that gets your prospect talking about you and your ideas to other people in their network, you are likely failing to stand out from the competition.
The Teachable Moment
You won’t be stuffing a collection of golf clubs into a blender or shooting a shaky prank video to kick-start your ideavirus. For our purposes, you should think of your ideavirus as a two-part vehicle:
- Your story. Everyone thinks that their story sets them apart when really they end up rehashing the same old proof points like having a “laser focus” on customer service or providing the “best value” for clients. If you talk about yourself the way your competitors talk about themselves, your voice will get lost.
- Your teachable moment. Very early in your sales process, you should share an insight with your prospect that reveals an opportunity or problem he or she had not considered. Ideally, this is insight should challenge your prospect to think differently about their needs and their business.
The good news is that these two elements support each other. If you put some thought into what impactful insight you can deliver to a prospect, your brand personality as an advisor will shine through. If you are excited and passionate about this insight, it’s only natural that more of what makes you different from your competitors will begin to reveal itself. If you haven’t plotted out your story as it relates to your sales process (or perhaps tried and failed before), working backward from your teachable moment might help you reenergize your sales process.
Building an Ideavirus Insight
Rather than give you an industry example, which might derail your own creative approach, let’s look at an ideavirus insight from another space: wine.
Imagine you are at a fancy restaurant, and the Sommelier visits your table to suggest a bottle of wine. As he talks about what wines would pair well with your meals, you mention that you would like a chardonnay.
He responds, “Do you prefer chardonnay from the Napa Valley or from a climate more northern, like Oregon?
If you’re like me, you might blink back, blankly, not knowing the difference. The sommelier will then explain that you can identify the region of origin of a chardonnay by the flavor. Grapes from a warmer climate like the Napa Valley will get riper, and will therefore produce more sugar, making it more sweet. Grapes from a cooler climate, like that of Oregon, will be less sweet and a bit more tart.
In just a few moments, the Sommelier has made you a more sophisticated wine drinker. The next time you are at dinner or sharing drinks with friends, you have a quick little anecdote in your pocket that you can share. That one insight makes you more entertaining to have around—because your friends will likely enjoy that insight as much as you did—and it also extends the sales conversation that started at that initial meal. Since the experience stays with you, you are more likely to return to that restaurant and to drink more of their wine.
You don’t need an insight that completely turns a prospect’s world upside down. As long as your teachable moment elicits a moment of reflective thought—some form of “aha”—you have succeeded in getting your prospect’s attention. Once you have that attention, you can continue to tell your story, build your credibility, and demonstrate your value.
Photo by Yuri Samoilov used under Creative Commons license.