Thursday, October 25, 2012

Interlude III - hard boys & soft boys

When my daughter Angelica was very little, around 4 years old, one day she solemnly declared to me that she liked “soft boys.” In her little world at the time, boys were divided into “hard boys” and “soft boys” and she liked the soft ones. That’s probably because she had a bit of a hard boy in her - but let’s not go there.

This concept of “hard boys/soft boys” was forgotten until years later when I was getting advice from my first business consultant, the one who actually named us BodyChance. He told me that small, young companies like ours did better when at least one of the staff was abrasive, aggressive and often disliked by other staff. At the time, my new manager had generated such a scandal in the way he was dealing with the staff that one of my lead teachers was threatening to walk out of BodyChance! Ahhhh, I thought. My manager’s a hard boy!

This hard boy converted 20% of our studio visitors into members of BodyChance’s one year public learning program. That was quite a feat. These were people who were coming for the first time ever to a talk on Alexander Technique, and this hard boy was getting 20% of them to agree to spend more than $2,000 over the next year learning with us! Can you imagine selling that well?

He would tell the other staff, as he marched into the room to my unsuspecting students: “I am going to get them to join tonight.” He often held them hostage way after the time they were due to leave. He didn’t care - they could leave if they wanted to. He hadn’t locked them in. But he wasn’t stopping - it was up to them to leave, not up to him to give them permission. That’s how a hard boy operates. It isn’t polite.

Then my hard boy left and a soft boy took over. At the same time the Great Recession had taken hold and businesses were collapsing all over Tokyo, including BodyChance. I kept watching the statistics, and over the next 12 months our conversion rate starting slipping from 20%, to 15%, then to 10% until finally it was hovering around 5%. It was then I woke up to the fact that it was not the Great Recession causing this dramatic drop in our conversion rate, it was because I had two soft boys doing the selling. I finally understood the difference between Angelica’s hard boys and a soft boys.

A hard boy doesn’t care what you think of him. He does what he wants to do, and if you are part of that you had better be ready with your own clear intention, because if not he will carry you along with what he wants you to do, end of story. Hard boys make for good leaders - they lead from the front. Soft boys listen better: they are more empathetic, malleable and feel kinder, but they don’t lead or sell very well. If they do lead, it is from behind. Soft boys are too quickly convinced of your point of view. In the face of opposition, they fold like puppies to the pat.

This is all a bit silly I know -  but there is kernel of truth here. I am a soft boy, at least that has been my own self-image, although I am sure there’s a few people out there scoffing at my self-manufactured image. However, if I do now live in a hard boy’s mind, it is only through long experience. Hard boys are great sales people, but this has always been an epic struggle for me.

If you run your own Alexander Technique business, you’re gonna need the hard boy mind at some time. This is simply another way of expressing the point I have been making in my How To Sell You blog series.

What is the “hard” part all about? It is simply this: hard boys are not offended by anything you say about them. They have Teflon skins. It doesn’t make them better - in fact sociopaths share similar characteristics - but when it comes to sales they are always, 100% of the time better at it than the soft boys. So if you want to get better at sales, you better start wondering what makes a hard boy tick?

You could always ask my daughter I guess.

1 comment:

  1. Was FM a hard boy or a soft boy??


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