I’ve had two conversations recently, about the same topic, that are bothering me. In the first a new friend in our industry observed that sales people in general, and insurance people don’t like to share. And by that, he meant share ideas. In the other, a colleague wondered why I don’t sell some of my ideas to others and instead give them away.
The first conversation was bothersome because I recognize that my friend is right. In fact, I frequently encounter agency owners who view everything they do as a secret, that if others copied, they would lose opportunity or business.
The second conversation is a concern because it implies that not being greedy, or not always seeking to profit from my ideas, is foolish, short sighted or somehow contributes to a smaller degree of success.
For the last couple of years, I’ve read and listened to Peter Diamandis, the author of “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think” and the developer of the Abundance 360 conference. One of the things Peter talks about is the demonetization of products and ideas. The other is how truly abundant almost everything of value in the world is.
Peter’s teaching, along with my own personal philosophy of casting bread on the water has caused me to share increasingly those things that others might call “trade secrets” or some other appellation of value. My thinking, as it has evolved, is that there is more business available to me than I can ever possibly garner and what little I know of is probably already known anyway - so what is the harm in sharing? I also have discovered that the more I am willing to share, the more I am shared with.
In fact, while it isn’t the primary motivator for me, I’ve had the interesting experience that the more I give away the more I receive. I’ve written before about Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” and about how powerful, in terms of human interaction, relationship and ultimate achievement giving is. In contrast, my own personal observation is selfishness is often the root of failure.
Selfishness and greed are born of a mindset of scarcity Diamandis tells us. And these characteristics repel while generosity and giving attract according to Grant.
As a practical matter, I cannot possibly sell every prospect in my market nor could I take care of them if I did. If sharing with others means they can, so what? But what if sharing opens me to the gifts of others? In my experience, it has and that has led, in business, financial and satisfaction terms to more success than I ever dreamed of.
So, who is the fool? The one who shares or the one who secrets away? We all get to make this distinction ourselves, and in our own business the decision.