Bob Willard’s Objection Handling Workshop (February 16, 2012)

Click here to download a Free Copy of the Discussion Paper that resulted from this event

Our Objection Handling Workshop for Sustainability Professionals was our first truly interactive format TSSS event and it proved to be a resounding success.  This workshop, held on Thursday February 16, 2012, filled our venue to capacity as 120 sustainability champions joined together to learn from author and expert Bob Willard, to share their own challenges and ideas, and to actively engage in discussions about how to overcome obstacles, resistance and barriers.

Willard’s presentation began by explaining that ‘selling’ sustainability is similar to any sales effort – you have to understand the principles of Sales 101 and what motivates your target consumer.  In handling objections and resistance, we must always validate our target’s concerns and feelings:  “I understand how you feel. Others have felt that way before.  What we have found is that…”

There were many objections that had been suggested prior to the workshop in the TSSS online community and Willard outlined more than 20 of these objections; the group then brainstormed at least 15 more.  And then, the magic began.  In small groups of 6, we discussed our ‘Top 10 Objections’ and generated ideas and strategies for handling these challenges.   The small groups were assisted by a team of expert facilitators, who spread themselves among the groups to promote in depth discussion and idea sharing.   One of our small groups shared their ideas with people around the world, as our webcast participants listened in to the group discussion and also shared their thoughts online.

Willard also shared with the audience his understanding of the roles different people within an organization play in effecting culture change.  An understanding of the worldviews and motivators of different types of people within the organization is vital to move a change initiative forward.   To illustrate his point, Willard presented an example from his own experience trying to drive change at IBM.  In presenting his 1997 “Letter to Lou”, he discussed his failure to connect with IBM Chairman and CEO Lou Gerstner.  With the benefit of hindsight, he attributes this failure largely to his approach which did not take into account Gerstner’s ‘Economic’ worldview.

This event was a unique opportunity for business professionals to come together and share challenges, successes and best practices with regard to moving sustainability forward in an organization.   Attendees left energized, enthusiastic, and ready to apply a sales approach, with an understanding of worldviews, to their next sustainability resistors/objectors.

Our TSSS staff is hard at work compiling the notes from our workshop groups, and we will soon be releasing a Discussion Paper that summarizes the many great ideas that were generated.  With the innovative thoughts that emerged at our Feb. 16 event, this Objection Handling Discussion Paper is sure to be a valuable tool for any Sustainability Professional to add to his/her Sustainability ToolKit.