A small group of big thinkers gathered for an unusual workshop at the Conference of Automotive Remarketing on March 29.
The resulting conversation, almost uncomfortable at times, revealed insights about how our perspectives can impede or enhance relationships in business, and in life.
As host, Joe Miller, the executive vice president of client success at AutoIMS, set out to lead a larger, interactive engagement exercise where auction and consignor representatives could “trade places” to learn more about one another. However, the smaller, roundtable discussion turned out to be insightful for those who attended.
“Our hope was to shed light on the myriad of opportunities we face in this business to better understand our partners’ definitions of success, and as a result create more win-win situations and sustainable relationships,” Miller said.
Change Perspectives to Change Outcomes
Why the discomfort? As the group attempted to answer questions normally aimed at counterparts across the table, it became clear that they have natural tendencies, biases, and other blockers to understanding the perspective of others.
We tend to focus on and overweigh what we think is the right answer. We levy judgment on others without always trying to find merit.
A simple illustration would be as follows:
|What they say||What they hear|
|Consignor says: You charge too much for recon work||Auction hears: The consignor is cheap or is throwing their weight around to save a few bucks|
|Auction says: I'm sorry, but that's our rate, our other clients pay it, and I can't make money if I go lower.||Consignor hears: This auction is getting away with something if they are even telling the truth. Maybe they're greedy.|
|Consignor says: We'll have to find another auction if you can't lower your rates.||Auction hears: This is not a good partner; don't they recognize that we've discounted to our max amount for them already?|
|Auction says: We'd hate to lose your business, what if we trim a little off your sale fee or just take cars that don't need recon work?||Consignor hears: This is not a good partner; don't they recognize what my business means to them? Why can't they give me a better recon rate which is what I want.|
Rewording for a Better Working Relationship
Where did this dialogue come off track? How could this conversation go differently? Let’s explore:
|What they say||What they hear|
|Consignor says: I'm under pressure to cut costs and was wondering if you had some room to discount your recon rates?||Auction hears: There is a fellow business person who wants to make it work with me, but we may have an issue.|
|Auction says: Thanks for sharing your concern, let's see what we can do. Can you tell me more about why you are focused on cutting recon costs?||Consignor hears: The auction is trying to understand my problem; maybe they can work with me.|
|Consignor says: Well, it seems like low-hanging fruit. All my other auctions charge less for recon, and my cars tend to come a bit rougher to your auction, so it's a double whammy. My leadership is asking me to cut costs.||Auction hears: The client trusts me enough to tell me where I stand compared to competition in their mind and they're approaching this logically.|
|Auction says: Here are the average damage amounts and recon levels at our auction. As you can see, it's not just you. But perhaps we can optimize the work you're doing to lower costs, without sacrificing results in the lane.||Consignor hears: The auction has context I didn't know before (so I know my boss didn't know it). I can trust them to help me make different decisions to achieve my goals; and I'm relieved I won't have to find another auction in this area.|
Showing the Shoes You’re Walking In
This is a simple — but not unusual — example of the daily opportunities that show up where adopting a business partner’s perspective can change the tone and outcome of a discussion.
According to the discussion group, which included prominent representatives from all corners of the remarketing industry, they often wish the other party would just, ‘try to walk in their shoes for a day.’
Easier said than done with the current pace of work. One or both parties may carry a preconceived notion of the solution, and a perspective on how quickly others should adopt that one-sided, sub-optimized solution. Barriers are erected more easily when we don’t feel seen or heard.
Yet in the long run, making the extra effort to embrace a different point of view now can lead to better relationships and solutions that are easier to sell up the food chain. From there, efficiency gains are exponential.
4 Strategies for Deeper Understanding
So where to start? The workshop group discussed several strategies:
- Make the effort to see the other’s perspective. Channel curiosity to formulate great questions grounded in “Why?”
- Reserve judgment. When we find ourselves bristling at a new idea, or saying no quickly, these are opportunities to check in.
- Listen to understand, rather than to respond. This is not new advice, but it is underused; and it dovetails quite nicely with 1 and 2.
- Tap into the familiar. Have you been in a similar situation to the one your business partner faces? Finding points of commonality helps breed familiarity and connection.
Miller added, “I’m so thankful for the thoughtful and engaging people in our industry. Not only did several good friends participate, but also a few new folks. Everyone pivoted and participated in the discussion despite it being a bit off the normal track. Hopefully everyone took away at least one nugget of insight — I got several!”
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