Talk to the Right Person in the Room

This is where it’s really easy to screw up – I know it through experience. Counting the times takes more than fingers on my hand, when after a meeting I have realised that I talked to completely wrong person in the room. The meeting itself has been great and the conversation has been flowing nicely and we have agreed on everything with the customer.

But the conversation has been flowing in unison exactly because I haven’t talked to the person. The one with a resistant attitude, the one that I should have tried to win over.

Who do we feel like talking to

When we enter a meeting where there are a large number of people, we feel like talking to our equals. We search from the crowd that individual, who understands us and speaks the same language that we do. The one who takes a positive attitude toward us.

Also, we would like to interact with people that attract us. We desire talking to the charismatic and the positive people and to those who appear to be, somehow, slightly more visible than others.

In an ideal situation that person is also the one who is in charge of things and on whose team we are supposed to get. From time to time, however, they are not.

The one sitting on top of the chest or the one who’ll drag their feet

It might be someone else in the room that actually makes, or can affect, the decisions. The situation is hard because the title of a person may not reveal who has the possibility to nix the decision entirely. It is often, of course, the one who is authorized to buy and decide things. But sometimes, though, it is the one who will give a long speech after you’re gone, why this technology, system or executor shouldn’t be selected under any circumstances.

It could be the suspicious-looking person who sits in the corner observing the situation. Or it could be the one who is always outshined by the glorious and charismatic people and is therefore terribly annoyed after the meeting.

So even if we agreed upon everything with the customer’s technical expert, if the product owner is suspicious and resistant, we have talked to the wrong person. If the CTO of the customer is in our pocket and ready to buy everything from us, but the technical expert is staring at us with a doubtful expression, we have again talked to the wrong person.

How the heck should I know?

Well, if the title doesn’t give it a way, and in the situation you’re not completely sure either, then how are you to know whom you should really approach? The thing is, you don’t necessarily know. Surely you can ask your colleague or the account manager already on the way to the meeting, about who is probably the most resistant and who makes the decisions, i.e., whose opinion is the most valuable.

On top of this, it’s beneficial to do a couple of precautions. First of all, it is a good idea to talk to everyone in the room and to be, at least at the start, careful not to pay attention to only one person. It’s also important to take all the questions, that the customer’s representatives pose (no matter how irrelevant or stupid they are), seriously enough.

Every once in while you can also ask questions from different persons. While they answer you get to observe the tone of their voice and their facial expressions. They do quite often reveal whether the one giving the answer is judging you or your proposal in a negative manner.

It’s especially important to pay attention to those that usually don’t get attention as much. Because if the decision-maker is the one being often ignored due to their age, sex, appearance or volume of speech, they are probably relatively allergic to being ignored. The best way to lose the trust of a decision-maker is to not see them at all.

Easy? Hard? Impossible? Share your thoughts to comments or come join the discussion to our Slack community!

TL;DR: To win over the decision-maker you must talk to the decision-maker

  • At the meetings we feel like talking to those that we know, or we find favorable, nice or similar to us.
  • Sometimes the decision-maker or the one affecting the decision is, instead, the resistant, difficult, quiet or the ignored person.
  • Try to find out beforehand who has the power to make decisions in the meeting.
  • If you don’t know for sure who is holding the key role, start with the assumption that everyone is.
  • Pay attention to all that are present and take everyone’s opinions and questions seriously.

Or what do you think?

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