Associations and Michael Jackson


The passing of Michael Jackson has everyone talking. The morning after he passed away I was running with a friend and I wondered to myself, “How long will it take before Michael Jackson is mentioned.” It was less than half a mile, just three or four minutes into the run, before he became the topic of conversation.

I have to admit, I’m not nearly as bothered by his death as many people. I think it’s because I had a hard time dealing with who he’d become. The part of me that’s interested in the psychology of sales and communication was stuck on trying to figure out what was going on inside his head more than I cared about his music.

But, as more time passed and I saw the tributes, I was amazed at just how many songs I remembered. While I never bought his albums his music was so prevalent that it could not be ignored. What I quickly came to realize is, fan or not, his music helped define a part of my life. I was in high school in the early 80s and graduated from college in 1986. I met my wife right after school and we got married in 1988.

Those are all pretty significant events in a person’s life and music, as much as anything, triggers feelings and memories about those times. Michael Jackson’s music carries many of those associations and memories for me. And that leads me to the subject of this week’s post – associations.

Good or bad, people form thoughts about you when they meet you. Over time those thoughts can change but most people leave that to chance. Oh sure, you may work hard and hope someone notices but that’s like making a good product or offering a great service and hoping someone notices enough to buy. It ain’t gonna happen!

That’s why I always encourage people to do one simple thing after they’ve done something which elicited a “Thank you” response. First of all, never, ever, ever do any of the following:

Say nothing in response.
“No problem.”
“No big deal.”
“I’d have done it for anyone.”

Those do nothing except discount your efforts. Whatever you did might not seem like a big deal to you but it might have been for the other person. What I coach people so say is one of the following:

“That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with [company name].” Or
“That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me!”

Why do this? Because, when you reinforce your great service time and time again, people start associating you with great service. The subconscious drives much more of your behavior than you realize and it’s the same for other people. The more you do something like I’ve suggested to set yourself apart, the more people will form that positive association and think of you next time they need something.

Too often when I interview people for sales positions they talk about providing great service but never talk about selling it. Great service and selling are two different things, just like a great product is different than selling. The problem is, people will take your great service for granted…if you don’t “sell” it.

So here’s where you want to end up. Let’s say you’ve reinforced your good deeds time and time again. After a while people pick up the phone and call you before they call a competitor because you’ve formed that association and they realize, consciously or unconsciously, they can rely on you. It’s easy enough, one simple sentence so why not give it a try?

As for Michael Jackson, strange or not, it’s too bad he’ll never fully know the impact he had on people and how much people loved him for that. To a lesser degree we all impact people and are impacted by people so this might be a nice time to let someone (parent, coach, friend, etc.) know how much they’ve influenced your life.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

2 replies
  1. JLS
    JLS says:

    I really like this post Brian. Too many times people believe that hard work will get them ahead, unforetunately, this is only a part of the equation. Since most people do not see the "gray" area, most people just think of something as good or bad. The same can be sad with associations. As much trouble as Michael Jackson had in his career, most people think good of his music and I believe it will be his legacy 100 years from now.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.