Guest Post by Mark Shalinsky – Business Development Manager at The New Office. Mark is a veteran sales guy that loves the hunt and metrics. He taught me some great techniques over the years including “whale hunting” at conferences, one of my go to strategies. In this article, Mark shares how to to become a communication catalyst, pulling in a collaborator to make everyone a winner.
I ran into a rough situation the other day.
My boss and I are in the boardroom. Across from us are sitting the client champion (I’ll call her “Darcy”), one of her colleagues, and two outside consultants. We had several short conversations with Darcy prior to finagling a sit. Usually, I go on these alone, or with a pre-sales engineer, not typically with my boss, the CEO of the company. I like to hold him in reserve so we can play good cop / bad cop during negotiations. For whatever reason, my boss decided he wanted to be in the thick of the action.
I’ve worked for a bunch of tech companies and up until now all the founders were tech people. Mostly extroverted, so they’d stare at my shoes not their own. My current boss is the consummate, old school sales guy. He loves filleting the pain, negotiating, and closing. He’s the encyclopedia of sales plays and effective meeting strategies, so I know I’ll always learn something when he comes along.
So we get started. I boot up our demo and immediately our champion, Darcy pulls out her Gatling gun and starts peppering me with questions. Right out of the gate she’s on fire. We’d barely finished the pleasantries, and she started to unload. And unload hard she did. You know those deep cutting questions that go to the core of your product and your value proposition.
While I was able to easily and deftly field these questions, it put me on the defensive track. Defensive is terrible. Defense deflects the ball. Defense does not control the conversation. The worst part, I could not get on the offense. Remember what I said about my boss being the quintessential sales guy? Well, he was able to grab the ball and called a timeout.
Wait. Can you call a timeout on a sit? Why did nobody ever tell me? How come I never knew? Regardless, my boss slammed his hand on the big red button and said, “Darcy, we’ve had a couple of conversations, why are you the only one talking?” Then he laid on the big William Shatner pregnant pause. Darcy mentioned something squirrely tried to go on offense again, but my boss wouldn’t let her. “Darcy, we’ve got two of your colleagues, I have an idea what they do from our intro, and are you are paying a handsome sum to these two implementation consultants to sit here and listen to Mark’s answers?”
Then he dropped the mic, put the ball right back in the middle of the table and went back to the edge. It was at that moment that something amazing happened. With little prompting, those two statements got five people starting to talk. Those two groups had not outlined the problems that they wanted to solve individually, as a group, nor had they had the opportunity to hash out their issues.
It became abundantly clear that the entire reason we were called in was to act as a conversation catalyst. Darcy needed to have the conversation with her colleagues and the consultants that my boss had created, however she did not know how to get that conversation started. Then when she found herself in a room with three different groups that, in her mind, all had set objectives, she believed she needed to dominate the conversation to get her way. Wrong.
Had the sit gone the way Darcy initiated the result would have been an impasse at best, a failed implementation that would have made my product look bad, the consultants overcharging their client, and Darcy pulling defeat from the jaws of victory that may cost her her job.
The better way, start from zero. If we are all not on the same page from the outset, start again. Yes, we did go around the table make introductions with roles and responsibilities. However, I failed because I let Darcy grab the ball and run with it. She ran to her end-zone. The problem, her end-zone was not my end-zone, her colleague’s end-zone or the consultants end-zone.
Step 1 is to identify the players.
Step 2 have each player define what success looks like.
Step 3 paint the complete picture where everyone comes out a winner.
If you can’t provide the complete solution, be honest and offer what you can. Gain credibility with effective meeting strategies like offering to pull in a collaborator that can help you make everyone at the table a winner.
About the author
Following an academic career, Mark moved into business development and has been the critical early sales hire at start-ups that have grown to become global brands in scientific publishing and IT security. Currently, Mark leverages academic skills and sales experiences in the tech sector identifying market sweet spots and cultivating sales reps into power-players, closing bigger deals faster.