Alan Weiss, PhD, who heads up Summit Consulting sends out a great weekly newsletter and he recently posted a wonderful article called "Changing Seats" that I took alot of information from.
He gave me permission to post the article which you will see below.
Visit his website- and look at his impressive bio, consulting business and sign up for his weekly Tip.
You will learn a ton of information and possibly bring Alan into your corporation.
P.O. Box 1009
East Greenwich, RI 02818-0964
Telephone: (401) 884-2778
Fax: (401) 884-5068
I was at a client event as the after-dinner speaker. As I
took my seat prior to dinner, I noticed that a very senior-level person was
sitting across the sparsely-occupied table. He was clearly looking for a more
interesting or powerful setting for himself as he studied the room.
A subordinate sat down, recognized me, and introduced me
to the executive. Attempting to at least be polite, he asked me if I had any
reaction to his sales team that was highly successful yet unwilling to try new
things. "They're too complacent," he said, clearly repeating a
mantra, "and I can't motivate them to move on to greater levels."
"They're scared," I said promptly. "You
can't motivate them anyway, since motivation is intrinsic. They are big fish in
a small pond and they're afraid to move to a larger pond where there might be
He moved into the chair next to me, changing the place
cards as he did so, and peppered me with questions through dinner until I
actually had to speak to the audience. He asked for my card, took notes during
my talk, and I wound up working for him in two organizations.
I'm not a great socializer, but I realized early in my
career that I must quickly move to become interesting to others as a marketing
technique (perhaps because I ordinarily shun "small talk"). So I
offer rapid, contrarian, provocative, and often controversial suggestions,
opinions, and reactions. What is there to lose? If you can't offer some
immediate value, why should the potential buyer be interested in spending time
with you to any degree at all? (And not just potential buyer, but also anyone
you'd want to influence or persuade, professionally or personally.)
Here are some techniques to consider to establish an
instant rapport and project professionalism, authority, and credibility,
Make sure you're on top of today's news. Use examples
that recently occurred, headlines that have just appeared. Not only will the
other person be able to instantly relate, but if he or she hasn't yet heard
about the example, you'll be seen as someone better informed than they are.
If you're uncomfortable being as aggressive as I am,
"soften" your approach with phrases such as, "Can I suggest an
alternative that may at first seem contradictory?" or "Here's what
I've seen work elsewhere, and you can judge whether or not it makes sense for
you," or, "This may sound counterintuitive."
Learn just two or three highly relevant and timely facts
about the other person. Don't memorize the annual report (which is mostly
propaganda, anyway) but listen to others to find out about recent turnover, current
competition, management style, personal attributes, interests, etc.
Don't back down. A controversial suggestion will often be
met with, "I don't see how that can possible work here," or "You
must be kidding!" Reply with, "I could be wrong, but here's my
rationale for that position," or "I usually feel the same way you do,
but here's why this might work in this case." Don't fold. In for a dime,
in for a dollar.
The last thing a prospect needs to hear is another
"yes person" from the outside, because there is already a surfeit of
them on the inside! There's no way you're going to obtain important assignments
merely mimicking the company line or telling the prospect that he or she is an
enlightened leader. The entire purpose of considering a consultant (or listen
to someone else) is to obtain a breath of fresh air, untainted by company
politics, retirement plans, and culture.
I'd rather risk being either instantly rejected as too
radical in return for the possibility of being accepted as a unique object of
interest than attempt to hang on for the ride wondering where my opportunity
may lie. It saves time, and is far more challenging. Ironically, the higher
level and more confident person you're with, the better a contrarian,
provocative approach works. Lower level people strive for conformance, but
higher level people strive for results and power.
You want people to change seats to sit closer to you, not
run for the exit.
© Alan Weiss 2012