Selling is about solving a problem or uncovering a benefit of safety in a way that makes people want to buy-in.
Safety shouldn’t have to be sold. That comment is typical right across the varying types of safety personnel. People get hung up on the word selling as though selling is a bad thing, a manipulative thing.
Truthfully, what now seems like a lifetime ago, I used to sell photocopiers. But, my clients would never buy the photocopier. They bought what it could do. And more importantly, what it could do for them. Prior to photocopier sales, I sold radio advertising. Again, people weren’t buying commercial time. They were buying the foot traffic to their business that the commercial time created - what it could do for them.
You must sell safety the same way too. It’s not about shoving safety down the throats of your people. It’s about helping them see that safety improves their lives in a way that they are probably not seeing it. As a supervisor or safety person, you have to help employees see what safety does and can do for them.
Selling anything takes a communications skill-set and trust. Rarely are the best salespeople the newest salespeople. The best salespeople are the experienced veterans who always keep the interests of the client at the forefront. They know that the product or service they are selling will help to eliminate a client’s pain-point. And the client knows it, too. No one buys anything that doesn’t make their lives better in some way. It’s why we buy homes, vehicles, vacations, education, insurance and investments. Those things make our lives better, more comfortable, less uncertain. So, why wouldn’t we buy-in to safety too?
You can improve employee commitment to safety by understanding that selling safety is good thing. For each of the points below, you may have reasons for disliking the idea of selling safety. But you need to do it anyway. Here are three things that you need to understand about selling safety:
1Valuing people is not manipulation. Shock and awe safety is manipulation. Gruesome photos, gut-wrenching videos and don’t-do-what-he-did stories are manipulative. Oh sure, they outline the dangers but safety is so much more than simply avoiding danger and following rules. Scaring your people into compliance is not the same as them committing to safety as one of their guiding principles. Selling a heartfelt plan and strategy for keeping them working for a long time, is not manipulative. Caring about their health and their contribution is not manipulative. Valuing them as good and valued people is not manipulative.
2We don’t buy things from people we don’t trust. That’s key. You will never sell something to anyone against their will. Nor will people buy something from someone untrustworthy. Still think that safety shouldn’t have to be sold? An innocent man shouldn’t have to sell a jury to stay out of prison either, but he does. Consider that a lawyer tries to sell a jury into delivering an acquittal. You don’t think what a lawyer does all day is selling? Helping people see your point of view is selling. That’s all you want, for people to see safety the same way you do and to buy-in to it with the same conviction and enthusiasm. Selling is about presenting facts and feelings in a way that make people want to buy-in. But we only buy from people who we can trust and who we allow to influence us.
3Promoting safety is not the same as selling safety. There’s a major difference between promoting and selling. To promote is to popularize and publicize something; to make information available. To sell is to engage a buyer, get their commitment to adopt and to take ownership. So, promoting safety is to inform people but to not get their commitment. When you promote safety, there is no specified result. The best you can do is hope that people get the message and hope that they will adopt safety. But, to sell safety is to get agreement and commitment that safety is going to be owned, internalized and utilized daily. Selling is about solving a problem or uncovering a benefit in a way that makes people want to buy-in.
You sell the safety program best one-by-one; not in a safety meeting through PowerPoint slides. Seriously, have you ever bought anything from a PowerPoint slide or a brochure? You must find the win for each individual person. Only in one-on-one conversations can you do that. Moving forward an idea in a one-on-one conversation is selling. There are two full chapters on safety marketing and selling in my book PeopleWork.
Once people buy-in and give their commitment to safety, it is difficult for them to go back to their old ways. To convince someone of an idea is to sell the idea. Remember, your people won't buy-in until there is something to buy. Before someone can buy, there has to be something being sold. Sell the benefits of safety. Get commitment.
Kevin Burns is a management consultant, international thought-leader in workplace safety, and a speaker based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Kevin has authored ten books including his most recent release, PeopleWork - The Human Touch in Workplace Safety. Buy his new book on Amazon. Then, consider bringing Kevin's consulting expertise to your company or have him speak at a future safety event.
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