You have a meeting set up with a firm of architects to demonstrate your stressed concrete roof trusses and realize that you have got the office junior. I had a situation like this once where I was coaching a group who actually did visit architects. They would do a presentation of the benefit of the product range, and also explained a very expensive and well produced product selector – sort of catalogue thing. The point with architects is that they sometimes think that they are ‘too cool for school’ and feel it is beneath them to waste time speaking to salespeople. However, building design is a moving and changing discipline and architects really should meet manufacturers to understand the use and application of new materials. They get round this (in their heads, anyway) by appointing the most junior and, perceived, useless member of staff to be what they euphemistically call the ‘Practice Librarian’. In other words, they gather up all the catalogues and literature, classify it, and store it for the designer to peruse for their next project. I would ask these salespeople how they got on. “Fantastic! They were very interested!” When asked what evidence they had of this ‘v.int’ position, they would reply that they had done the whole ‘dem’ without interruption and shifted a full set of catalogues and a presenter file (costing my client hundreds of pounds). They seemed to feel that the more of these they shifted, the greater evidence of their ‘hard work’. In this case why are we speaking to this person? Some simple qualifying questions would have revealed their lowly status.
“What project are you currently working on?”
“Have you personally specified a similar product to this?”
When we look in our evidence box we can see it is time to change tack. What do we want? We need to move up the food chain to someone who is in a position to specify our product. The chances are that won’t happen today but what is the most the person we are with capable of giving us? They have a lot of inside knowledge so let’s ask for that.
“I suppose the senior partner must be near retirement age. Who do you reckon will succeed him?” “Everyone seems busy – have you got a new project on the go?” And of course he could introduce you to his boss – not subtle at this stage, but why not ask…
“His name’s John Smith? I would love to meet him. Would you introduce us, please?”
Worth a shot!
This is not about whether you are talking to the right person or the wrong person, but is about understanding the person you are talking to and getting to the truth. If you are not getting genuine information because either the other person is misleading you or, worse still, you are misleading yourself, you will never know where you are on the route map to persuasion.
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