Taming the Charging Bull: Avoiding Customer "Fight or Flight" Responses

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Volume 6, Issue 1
From Vision to Reality
Perception Becomes
Taming the Charging Bull:
Reality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 2
Making Web 2.0
Avoiding Customer “Fight
Work for You . . . . . . . . . page 3
Organizational Improvement
or Flight” Responses
Through Identifying Patterns
– Jim Caprio
in Feedback . . . . . . . . . . . page 4
Did you know?
We are all familiar with the concept of
“fight or flight.” When confronted with
something fearful, like a charging bull,
we have an involuntary reaction caused

Giving the Gift
by our amygdala. Our heart rate gets
faster, muscles tense, breathing acceler-

of Feedback
ates, and adrenaline increases. This cri-
Feedback is a gift that you can give
sis mode is known as the “avoider’s
to coworkers to help them improve.
response” and prepares the body for
Unfortunately, feedback is often
“fight or flight.”
The amygdala is a small neurological
delivered in a way that makes the
structure in the brain that plays an
recipient feel like they’re being
The “Charging Bull” in Business
important role in the processing and
attacked instead of supported.
A typical day does not involve charging
memory of emotional reactions. The
Before you give feedback, consider
amygdala is responsible for the initial
bulls or other menacing events, so you
the following questions:
reaction to threatening stimuli – the
would think that the amygdala is on
unthinking, knee-jerk response known as
• Has the person indicated that
vacation while we are at the office. In
the startle circuit. Working through the
s/he is willing to listen and
reality, there are some behaviors of sales-
hypothalamus, the amygdala releases
respond to feedback?
people that are so inappropriate that they
excitatory hormones into circulating
are the equivalent of a “charging bull!”
blood. The result is the familiar adrena-
• Do you know how and when
They trigger the customer’s “avoider’s
line rush.
to deliver the feedback so the
response” making him or her ready to
person will be receptive?
run instead of ready to listen.
ARROGANCE Arrogant salespeople are
• Can you provide specific examples
probably the most dreaded “charging
of the behavioral tendency?
“Charging Bull” Behaviors and
bull.” Smug and self-satisfied, they
How to Tame Them
project the sense that the cus-
• Can you be descriptive instead
of judgmental when you share
There are three behavioral tenden-
tomer’s business is not real-
the feedback?
cies that can trigger the “fight or
ly that important. Nothing
flight” response in customers and
raises a customer’s heart
• Are you the best person to
make them want to head for the
rate or causes muscle ten-
deliver the feedback?
nearest exit. Even if these salespeople
sion more than an arrogant
Make sure that you can answer all
have a wonderful product, they will
of these questions with a confident
never sell it because the customer’s amyg-
To avoid the arrogance trap, be willing
“yes” before you give the gift of
dala is screaming, “Flee!”
to accept the fact that your customer
feedback to your colleagues.
continued on page 2

continued from page 1 – Taming the Charging Bull…
may actually know more than you. Ask
that is good, even if it is not necessarily
self-centered salespeople can be so
the customer questions when you don’t
a sale. A sale does not have to be the
unpleasant that, like a charging bull,
understand. Be sure to let the customer
first or immediate goal of every contact.
they trigger the customer’s “fight or
know you appreciate his or her comments,
Assume a consultative role.
flight” response. Consequently, instead
ideas, time and, most importantly, business.
of listening to the sales presentation,
SELF-CENTEREDNESS Self-centered sales-
alarmed customers are anxiously plotting
DESPERATION Desperate salespeople
people, or “presenters,” have their own
their escape. The good news is that the
are the opposite of arrogant ones, but
agendas. They will launch into a litany
“charging bull” can be stopped in its
customers want to avoid them just as
of product benefits without asking
tracks when a salesperson is
much. Desperate salespeople can be
what the customer needs, wants,
focused on the customer’s agenda
overly talkative, or they can be emotion-
or would like to discuss.
and is prepared to ask questions,
ally flat. Their body language
Meanwhile, the customers’
listen, uncover needs and deliver
projects a negative,
aversion alarm has gone off, and
solutions that make an impact
defeated attitude. The
he is planning his escape.
with the customer.
customer’s amygdala
To avoid self-centeredness, be flexi-
can spot these behav-
ble and open to the client’s agenda.
iors, particularly the
Most importantly, ask questions.
Gorman JM, Kent JM, Sullivan, GM, Coplan JD,
“Neuroanatomical hypothesis of panic disorder”,
negative body lan-
Determine specifically where the cus-
Am Journal of Psychiatry April 2000, 157(4):493-505
guage, and the immedi-
tomer is coming from and where he or
Douglas Holt, “The Role of the Amygdala in Fear and
ate response is, “Avoid this loser!”
she wants to go. Avoid lectures and
Panic”, http://serendip.brynmawr.edu
The Whalen Lab, “About the Amygdala”,
To avoid the appearance of desperation
canned presentations. Be ready to listen!
you must have a positive attitude,
Customers are perceptive, and their initial
regardless of your actual sales history.
reactions can make or break your sales
Focus on what you have done or can do
relationship. Arrogant, desperate, or
Visualizing Successful Facilitation Outcomes – Lynne Ventress
“You see, really and truly…the difference between a lady and
Savvy facilitators can use visualization to control their audience’s
a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated. I
expectation and make a positive outcome become a reality. Prior
shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he
to facilitating, envision a successful day. In an ideal facilitation,
always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know
does the group have a great sense of humor? Do they eagerly
I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady,
participate in small and large group discussions? Identify
and always will.”
positive characteristics of the group that will contribute the
- George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion
most to success.
Shaw probably did not anticipate that Eliza and Professor
At the start of the facilitation, let the group know about the
Higgins’ relationship would be relevant to facilitators
preparation and share the vision of the group’s positive
almost 100 years after writing Pygmalion. The
attributes with participants. Then, allow time for group
characters’ relationship demonstrates how expec-
members to visualize a successful day. Ask them to
tations can be self-fulfilling prophesies. Professor
consider what they will accomplish, what they expect
Higgins expected Eliza to behave like a flower girl,
from the facilitator, and what they expect from each
and she met his expectations; after her success at
other. After a few minutes, invite them to share their
changing her behavior with others, she continues
thoughts. Capture their comments, and make sure
to act and speak coarsely with him.
they remain posted throughout the day.
Facilitators today can learn from Eliza and
Starting the day with visualization primes par-
the professor’s feisty interactions. Instead of
ticipants to be successful. They develop a
following in Professor Higgins’ footsteps,
positive expectation of the event at the
facilitators can create success by collabo-
start of the day, which will help make
ratively generating positive expectations
the facilitation goals a reality.
with their audiences.

Making Web 2.0
Work for You – Cathy Plese
Many young professionals expect their colleagues to be equally technologically fluent.
Staying up-to-date on the latest trends contributes to a youth-friendly workplace,
progressive company branding, and recruitment and retention efforts. Take a moment
to visit some of these websites and consider how well you’re using technology to
work more effectively with all your employees.

Beyond Facebook
Online networks continue to
expand beyond
MySpace and
Facebook. Many young
professionals are using
linkedin.com, which focuses
on career connections.
Companies are also using
their intranet to provide
networking for employees
The Long Tail:
at scattered locations.
Why the Future
One organization
of Business is Selling
posts new-hire
biographies on
Less of More
Mash It Up
their intranet. When
— Chris Anderson
they arrive, employees
The term “mashup” was first
Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief
are welcomed with
used to describe the combination
of different musical tracks, but now
of Wired Magazine, presents
e-mails from colleagues
anyone can blend videos, maps, news
his theory of how niche markets
across the country and can
easily find others in the organi-
sites, and more. Sites like popfly.com
and e-commerce will transform
zation with similar professional or
make it easy for anyone to make a
consumer behavior and popular
personal interests.
mashup, although you are required to
culture. Anderson believes that
open an MSN account and download
the “hit-driven economics” of the
Share Content
additional Microsoft applications. When
twentieth century was created
The web has incredible content, but it
you’re recruiting, consider using a
can be difficult for users to find what
mashup to communicate with potential
by the relative scarcity of TV
they need. Sites like clipmarks.com
hires about housing, restaurants,
screens, retail shelf space, and
allow users to “clip” the content they
public transportation, and
other methods of delivering
want from a website without having to
other amenities in your
services to consumers. He argues
copy, paste, or print unnecessary infor-
that in the twenty-first century,
mation. Users can then save, e-mail, and
online distribution and retail will
blog the clippings. Instead of just shar-
make smaller niche markets as
ing helpful links about projects, share
profitable as the mainstream.
specific content that is of interest.
Anderson’s book offers insight
into changing business practices
by providing a new lens to view
today’s economy.

Organizational Improvement Through
Identifying Patterns in Feedback
– Kathleen Clark
Organizations collect feedback about their success from multiple

Committing to Individual and Organizational Change
sources: P&L statements, orders, inventory, revenue, hits on a
Once the feedback has been presented to individuals and one-
website. Unfortunately, most of these feedback sources have a
on-one debrief sessions are held, the individuals choose one or
limitation which is often overlooked - they don’t indicate if the
two areas to make changes in their behavior. A common response
executive team is getting the results in ways that are the most
to this challenge is, “I don’t want to set false expectations; I am not
effective for the long-term growth and viability of the company.
going to change.” A good feedback facilitator will demonstrate
For example, a leader with a dominant style may be generating
to executives how their behaviors are preventing them from
profit now, but his aggressiveness may damage valuable customer
achieving their goals. The individual also puts in place a method
relationships over time.
for ensuring ongoing support for the behavioral change.
After each person has identified an area for change and has a
plan in place, the team can expand its analysis to assess patterns
within the organization. In one company, an executive 360
feedback process for the entire team led to the realization that
behavioral differences among the leaders were resulting in varying
levels of staff accountability and organizational effectiveness.
A focused discussion with the entire team should be the next step
in the process towards organizational change. The entire team
considers how they can effect change by setting personal goals,
team goals, and company-wide goals. The team also must establish
how they will communicate the changes to the entire company.
The behavioral patterns of leaders also have a tremendous impact
on the internal culture and effectiveness of an organization. High
These changes do not always entail complex strategies with
employee turnover rates can be a direct result of a manager’s
big events, cutting-edge technology, and interminable meetings.
actions. After all, employees don’t typically leave a company;
Employees will notice small changes: conversations that now
they leave their boss. Also, behaviors that were acceptable
include the impact on other business units, inclusion of other
when the organization was smaller may be disastrous as a
team members in meetings, language that implies the executive
company grows and defines its processes.
team has made a commitment, and conversations about the
expectation that people will work together to reach a common goal.
In order to change their individual behaviors and company
cultures, executives need a method of compiling data from
A facilitated feedback process can help executive teams
multiple sources. One option for collecting feedback is a 360
build a culture focused on peak personal and organizational
degree program, implemented by an outside facilitator and
effectiveness. By addressing individual and organizational
debriefed by the entire team. Other options are self-reporting
behavioral patterns with assistance from an outside perspec-
assessments such as DiSC, Emotional Intelligence,
tive, everyone can contribute to the health and goals of the
StrengthFinder, or personalized development plans.
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