Using bullshit for good: what we can learn from fake news

We live in the era of fake news, sensationalized reporting, elevated threat levels and common household items that you use every day that could kill you in your sleep. There’s a nice, short way of describing these things: bullshit. And while bullshit is negatively portrayed, there is such a thing as good bullshit.

Bullshit is simply a misdirection. Like a magician getting the audience to focus on his left hand while he hides the rabbit with his right, bullshit – when used properly – guides a conversation to the whims of the discussion’s owner. And, like a magician, these tactics can be uses for good. Here’s how:

The conversation starter: Getting noticed is one of the hardest things in business, and there are plenty of examples of companies using bad bullshit known as clickbait to get noticed. Clickbait uses mysteriously worded headlines to maximize the amount of people clicking on a link (“19 ways apples can kill you in your sleep,” “She opened her garage one morning. What she found will shock you!,” “He buried a beer in the backyard for 9 years and then this happened …”) Now, for the most part, this bullshit leads you two a badly written multi-page article, with more photos than information, that exposes you to hundreds of display and pop-up ads (and possibly malware!). That said, a little mystery is a good thing. “This one machine saved a Midwestern company thousands,” is a clickable headline, and if you happen to sell that machine it’s a definite conversation starter – and it’s directed them away from whatever they were doing.

The personal brand builder: A charismatic sales leader comes off as being confident, knowledgeable and strong without being a forceful shyster. Think about people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Eisner, Jack Welch. Smart, charismatic, you’d buy anything from them. Well, here’s the deal – Charisma is bullshit! Sales people often rely on a “sales persona” they’ve created to get in the door and overcome the natural fear and nervousness one experiences in stressful, and often uncontrollable, situations. A sales persona is bullshit – good bullshit.

To be continued: You’re in a sales meeting and your potential client asks if your company has certain capabilities – and you just don’t know. You could say, “not that I’m aware of,” but that would kill the conversation. You could roll the dice and say “yes,” but if you’re wrong you will lose a customer for life. The best option is to keep the conversation going with something like this: “We take great pride in working with our customers to not only build items to their specifications, but to also work with them to make their products better. What I would suggest is to have your engineers meet with our engineers just to make sure this is the right solution for you.” It’s bullshit, for sure, but its bullshit that could not only get you the sale, but could also provide your client with new, cost-saving processes they never considered.

2018-01-15T22:22:15-05:00