This week I was taken by an article in The Wall Street Journal by Cynthia Crossen reporting how Leon Festinger, a social psychologist at Stanford University, identified a milestone in psychological theory 50 years ago: When feelings and facts are in opposition, people will find—or invent—a way to reconcile them.
Festinger’s theory continues to be applied today in advertising, market research, politics, education and health. I believe his theory applies directly to window coverings as we strive for success.
Start with Crossen’s example: Why do people who know cigarettes are bad for their health continue to smoke? This is classic cognitive dissonance: They know one thing and feel another. So the smoker builds a bridge—rationalizations—from feeling to fact. If he stopped smoking, he’d gain weight, which would also be unhealthy; or he feels (without facts) the risks of smoking have been exaggerated.
MESSAGE FOR WINDOW COVERINGS
In our industry, the most successful sales consultants sell emotional ideas to customers who want more than functional privacy and light control. Yet, every strength carried to an extreme becomes a weakness. The same emotions that assure success selling blinds or draperies can lead to cognitive dissonance in operating a business. Then we rationalize the difference between feelings and facts. I’ve created a chart the shows some examples of how this happens.
EXPLODE THE MYTHS, DEFEAT FEAR OF FACTS
Crossen’s article told other examples—how, when confronted with additional facts, the believer denied reality more stridently. Yes, irrational feelings can defeat reality. So what is the solution? What should you do when you sense a disconnect from the logic your brain tells you from the feeling your stomach tells you? You may be on the brink of an opportunity to improve your business and benefit your family. When it happens to you, try this surefire formula for change:
• Take pride in the good things you do. My wife, Valerie, tells how she begins the process. First, she thinks of all the good things she has done and mentally heaps them in a brightly colored “happy stack.” Next, she piles the bad things in a gray, dingy mound. Comparing the two, she knows she’s a good person and it inspires her to feel pride and confidence to make a change.
Try it. It can give you the belief that you deserve good things and are ready to grow.
• Next, think about the good things you want. Think how your dreams and goals will benefit your family and those you love. It is important to think of others, not only yourself. Think how many more customers you can serve with a growing, successful business; how employees will thank you for their opportunities; about your kids graduating college because of your success. Think about bringing your family a great vacation or even a new home.
• Then, take a deep breath and open your mind. Ask how something can work, rather than why it can’t. Consider, maybe the facts are valid. Maybe rationalizing your feelings may not bring you the success you want.
Example: If you want to build your business, look at how others succeed: calling customers, distributing flyers, canvassing high potential neighborhoods. Fear and myth keeps window coverings professionals from doing these things. Yet, over many years, the facts prove they work. These powerful business-building activities take only a modest amount of time but the pay-off is big.
• Finally, take action. You will be surprised how easy it is once you try. As you do, you’ll feel a new pride and confidence in yourself. You faced your feelings, recognized your rationalizations and acted on the facts. “Facts are stubborn things,” said John Adams, second president of the United States. The fact is, he was right.
If you want to raise your prices, if you want to avoid discounting, if you want to manage your gross profit, if you want to market for new appointments, if you want to build high sales before renting a showroom, then ask yourself if you might be a victim of cognitive dissonance—inventing ways to reconcile your feelings, but denying the facts.
If your mind tells you it’s time to change, try this four-step formula. You will build your business, build your pride and build your bank account. If you’re ready to grow and want some tips to get there, send me an e-mail Steveb@ExcitingWindows.com.
This article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience with sales and financial information working with hundreds of window coverings businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher sales, or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million dollar business, this series will help you manage sales better and increase your profitability. Bursten is the retired founder of Decorating Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur,” and is a leading expert in window coverings marketing, sales systems and sales management through his company, custEmers.com. Questions and comments welcome:
or call (888) 333-8981.