Selling Hope (of Deliverance)

Posted on November 20, 2013

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Since my last post, I had been very occupied as the chair of a large event for our AIA Jacksonville chapter. It was virtually a part-time job and I ceased everything outside of my real job for about two months. Luckily, the event was a success and is passed.

Last evening I returned from the annual Healthcare Design conference, HCD.13, in Orlando.  I learned quite a bit over the past two months as a conference attendee, and as a volunteer coordinator.

One of the shared lessons apparent to me is the need to ‘sell hope’.  An emotional connection is one aspect of gaining  interest in a product or project, but hope is something different, something more.  Let me back up.

Last week, I stopped by my local Mazda dealership on a lark.  I have two used Mazdas and was considering trading them both in for a new 2014.  While I was on the lot and in discussion with the salesman, I was very aware of my emotional state because new cars are a classic impulse purchase.  Intoxicating new car smell aside (who said off-gassing is a bad thing?), I was simply gathering information.  I tempered my enthusiasm knowing I owned outright not one, but two functioning cars, and one in particular that I have no reason to give up.  I will admit:  the new cockpit was speaking to me and emotionally I was bought-in.  Yet despite past mechanical breakdown traumas, I have not had to wait in 95-degree heat for a tow truck recently.  I had no current situation to escape with the purchase of a new car.

This past weekend at HCD.13, I was on booth duty in the exhibit hall and spent a lot of time fielding questions about Haskell’s simulation and process analytics capabilities.  Haskell has worked hard to replicate, for healthcare clients, the same process engineering and operational efficiency expertise we provide our industrial clients.  It was catching on because I kept having conversations about hope.  People saw legitimate change, a logical solution, a way out of something broken.

Prior to this past weekend, recent past discussions outside of simulation seemed to be about vague ideas for a new project.  Hospital administrators had no excitement for the endeavor, no drive.  They had bigger problems.  It was the car analogy:  I felt that administrators were telling me they would like to have [a larger ED] just like I would like a new car, but it was not imperative.  And they made it crystal clear there is no budget for non-essentials.  Same with me.  These hospitals were not in the market for the hope a new project could deliver.  Nor am I with a car purchase.

Now months later, in a different discussion in a different context, I could see interest because simulation and analytics were offering those same administrators a way out, a chance to slay a dragon and be a hero.

Then, not eight weeks ago, I was marshaling volunteers for a prominent community wellness and design speaker, Dr. Richard Jackson, and round table event I organized.  Finding volunteers is hard; motivating those who are not in it for the hope it provides is even harder.  Those who were serving for volunteer hours or because they felt obligated were marginally effective.  I found those who believed our guest speaker would help deliver to Jacksonville the hope of a better community, were my greatest allies.

Nearly 20 years ago, Paul McCartney penned a catchy song called “Hope of Deliverance”.  I cannot pretend to know how his song was birthed, but part of its refrain is very relevant, I feel, to what motivates people to engage with you:  “We live in hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us.”  Why would I trade in two cars for a new one?  For the hope of deliverance from the darkness of being stranded under a highway overpass miles from home.  Why do healthcare administrators buy simulation?  As hope of deliverance from parts of their business that are broken, cost them a lot of lost revenue, and cannot fix themselves.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is known for saying he is in the business of making people happy; that is science to him.  For me, I think the secret lies in being in the business of offering hope.

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