How many of you sit in meetings with technical professionals who just keep telling you: “No, you can’t do that”? Does their reaction blindside you? It shouldn’t.
They usually have some sound reasons for telling you “No.”
Perhaps they are skeptical that your marketing research study design not only will fail to yield meaningful statistics upon completion but also will represent a huge amount of mis-spent budget. Perhaps you wanted to make product labeling claims that were competitive, in your mind, but were not particularly factual in their opinion. Perhaps you won a sales contract by over-promising a solution that, on a good day, could only be under-delivered – especially at the price point you negotiated.
There just might be something to the position taken by your technical colleagues.
Have you ever taken their “No” as your opportunity? Perhaps both of you should consider taking a step closer to crossing over to the other person’s not-so-dark professional side.
As a corporate newbie in clinical research, I was assigned to a cross functional commercialization team focusing on over-the-counter product development. I thought it was a demotion. Instead of working on the clinical research side of things, with sexy high-profile potential therapeutic blockbusters, I was working with them: public relations, marketing communications, and sales. UGH, is what I thought.
Little did I know, at the time, that this singular re-assignment ended up defining who I am today.
Why? There was one particular meeting I sat in with the legal, ops, R&D and marketing and sales VPs. After I did my usual “No” routine for just about every proposal Marketing & Sales put forth, the VP of Sales looked me in the eye, leaned in across the table, and everyone just inhaled and held their breath.
You’ve seen that scenario before.
Except that this particular VP of Sales, who – believe me – was as stereotypic as they come, and a great friend and mentor of mine as well, simply said: “Babette, don’t tell me what I can’t do. Tell me what I can do.”
And, per that famous line from the movie Casablanca, that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with the folks on the other side of the business table. That was my “aha!” moment, and it is played out daily in every and any business that has both technical and non-technical professionals involved in revenue generation.
That was the moment I crossed over from science to, yup, you guessed it, the dark side of business development. And into the light.
I invite you to do the same at your next cross-functional meeting.
Here are three tips for implementing this cross-over technique in meetings with your colleagues from the “other” side.
- How can you rephrase your “No” so that the folks across the table understand what they need to do to get to “Yes”?
- What types of research questions do you really need to be asking, so that your quantitative analyses of survey research results are less amorphous and more definitive: even if what is defined are the real issues you should have addressed in the first place? (Alternatively, how do your technical research results translate into meaningful and understandable language anyone can understand?)
- When is the appropriate time to bring an engineering professional into your sales negotiations on a custom fabrication contract that promises long term potential for revenue and customer retention? (Hint: how about at the beginning and all the way through to the end?)
What has your experience been when dealing with the folks on the “other” side of the business table, whether they are technical or sales? How do you get to “aha!”?
Babette Ten Haken provides technical people and other sellers a solid strategy for how to explain a product, its benefits, and its value in ways that buyers can easily understand and sellers can comfortably present. She gets people together who are often on opposite sides of the table, like engineers and sales people or entrepreneurs and investors. Her company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, works with entrepreneurs, start-ups & investors, as well as small businesses and manufacturers, focusing on revenue-generating and portfolio-building business development strategies. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? was named 2012 Finalist, Top Sales & Marketing Awards.