Lessons from the Tiger King: Why You Shouldn’t Go Negative

Image for Lessons from the Tiger King: Why You Shouldn’t Go Negative

If you’re like me, you’ve succumbed to the curiosity around this strange show everyone is talking about during the past few weeks…Tiger King. This bizarre tale involves disappearances, drugs, polygamy, politics, murder-for-hire, and of course, tigers. So to justify the eight hours of my life that I can’t get back that I spent watching this ode to the insanity that is the private zoo world, I’ve pulled together some lessons on effective sales messages Joe Exotic and salespeople everywhere can benefit from.

The overwhelming takeaway from this monstrosity of a story is this – don’t go negative. Rarely is an attack against someone you believe is your enemy going to hurt your target exclusively. Collateral damage is a constant in any battle.

In Joe Exotic’s obsession to take out Carole Baskin and any other perceived enemy, he hurt himself and lost his freedom. (Not to mention hurting all his employees, his husbands, and the animals.) Today we’ll examine three scenarios where it may be easy (and fun) to go full “Tiger King,” but there are better ways to win.

Scenario #1 – You get passed over for a promotion

Sadly, it happens to everyone at some point. The dream job opens up, and you fight like the dickens, but alas – the position goes to someone else. Maybe it even goes to your arch-rival in the office.

effective sales

What Joe Exotic would do:

He would start a daily Vlog talking about everything that his coworker does wrong and highlighting all the skeletons and conspiracy theories that person could be involved in. Joe would also spend every spare moment convincing everyone around him that the person who got the job is unfit, and he was robbed. He’d become fixated on this probably to the point of losing focus on his current position until his rival is eventually fired for underperformance. This turn of events will feed the idea in his head that the whole organization was set against him from the start.

What you should do instead:

Try to get as much information as you can about how the decision was made – what qualities or experiences did the winning candidate have that you didn’t. Feel the pain and the disappointment, but don’t let them control you. Instead of drowning in envy and resentment, focus on shoring up the weaknesses exposed in the process if desired.

Funnel that energy and frustration, and direct it at something in your control. If you honestly believe the situation set you up to fail, and there is no way forward, then pour your energy into finding somewhere that will treasure you. But if you hold onto the negativity, it will sabotage you. Holding onto this grudge and embracing victimhood is dangerous for your career.

Whether you stay in your current role or pursue other job opportunities, you will, perhaps unknowingly, portray yourself as a victim who takes no responsibility for their failures.

Disappointments happen, things will occasionally go against you. Resist the temptation to go negative, and you’ll blow right past them. Give in, and you risk ending up making strange YouTube videos with shotguns, fake thrones, and actors dressed as the person who beat you out for that job. And no one wants to see that.

Scenario #2 – You’re in a heated battle with a competitor

You’ve had multiple conversations with a prospect, and all of a sudden, they mention they’re leaning toward going with a competitor over you. You’re frustrated and discouraged – after all this work educating the buyer and building rapport, they’re going to the enemy! Now what?

prospective customers

What Joe Exotic would do:

Dress up in mascot costumes and protest outside the competitors’ headquarters, accusing them of anything that will get negative publicity for the competitor. If possible, maybe send someone “undercover” to “expose” what’s really happening inside. Anytime someone mentions the competitor, launch into a tirade about everything wrong with their product, people, and philosophy of business.

No one should EVER have ANYTHING to do with them! They’re crazy! They’re dangerous! They’ll take your money and burn your business to the ground!

What you should do instead:

Whenever possible, it’s important to avoid dismissing or talking badly about another product or company. Instead, explain why your product or service is different. Focus on the differences, and then you can build up the value of those differences.

The last thing you need to do is insult your buyer on a personal level. Many buyers have relationships you don’t know about. Maybe their son-in-law works for the competitor; maybe the CEO mandated they evaluate the competitor. Perhaps the sales rep for the competitor is an old college friend.

You can still win in every one of those scenarios but not if you immediately launch into why the other product is “bad,” and you’re “better” — this puts the buyer on edge and can easily veer into “you’re stupid if you’re looking at them over us.” No one wants to buy from someone who makes them feel stupid.

Congratulate the buyer on doing a thorough evaluation of the market. Confirm what their desired end-state is. Ask what specific things they like about the competition. Get all the information and then build your argument to explain why their solution is good but how yours will get them to where they want to be.

Maybe you need to learn how to steal those clients back the right way.

Scenario #3 – You don’t like new rules or systems put in place

You hit your number every month. Maybe you’re not always 100% compliant with the SLAs, but that’s never been a serious problem. Now some new VP is insisting on more Salesforce logging or a new system to get marketing budget or additional forms filled out for every deal. Why now? Why all the extra work? JUST LET ME DO MY JOB.

sales process

What Joe Exotic would do:

Rules were made to be broken! Nobody can tell Joe what to do – except Joe! As long as he gets results, why does anyone care how he does it? Why sacrifice productivity and results in the name of some new tool or record-keeping system. Forget this! Joe will keep doing what he’s always done. Joe thinks, “as long as my results stay the same, no one will really punish me.”

What you should do instead:

No one likes overbearing systems and reporting. Especially if you’re “on your game,” taking the time to record every step of the process seems like overkill and just slows you down. It’s essential to understand what is driving the new systems. Why is leadership insisting on rolling this out?

Sales is a team sport. There are lots of star players, but they wouldn’t be where they are without their teammates. Most systems, reporting, and rules are in place to make sure the team succeeds. So take a moment – figure out the reason behind the change. If you’re still concerned, the change will impact your performance, speak up!

Talk to leadership and express your concerns – not by telling them the rules are silly, and you won’t follow them, but by explaining you understand the reason for the change but you’re not confident it won’t hurt your performance.

Effective Sales Messages Focus on Positivity

When you “go negative, the person you hurt the most is yourself. Effective sales processes and people focus the sales messages they deliver in positivity. Focus the buyer on what they want – not what they hate or don’t want. It’s okay to remind them of the pain of inaction – but it must be a reminder, not the focus.

Even in your personal career, going negative is the “nuclear option.” There is no turning back if you decide to call out a coworker or leadership’s decisions without some positivity and tact.

Joe Exotic’s ultimate victim was himself. On his way down, no one got out unscathed. While it makes for some great #quarantine #bingewatching because everyone in it is such an extreme character, the overall story is nothing but a cautionary tale.

Don’t go negative…and maybe don’t mess with exotic animals…or drugs.

Did you watch Tiger King? Are there any other sales lessons you pulled from it? Share them with us in the comments

LEARN MORE