Saturday, January 14, 2012

Axiom 16: Talk to the Lion

"If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat." -Sun Tzu

"An archer cannot hit the bullseye if he doesn't know where the target is." -Anonymous

I had a professor once that told me a story about a business deal that fell through. It was a potential client meeting between a family-owned business (owned by two brothers and a sister) and a PR firm trying to add them as a client. The PR firm thought the meeting went great. They were grilled by the two brothers with tons of questions while the sister quietly sat in the corner. The PR firm charmed the two brothers with all of their answers but in the end they did not get the account. They failed to focus on the sister, who even though she sat quietly and did not ask a single question, made all of the final decisions for the company. The PR firm did not know their target. They did not talk to the lion.

I hear about similar failures all the time. People failing because they were just not prepared with any research, or were prepared with the wrong research. Often that lack of knowledge is perceived by the other party as a lack of respect and the potential deal is killed no matter how stellar the presentation.

The biggest violators of this axiom that I have seen have come from salespeople. At work there is one sales guy that visits us that comes to mind. He struts in every few months to see our company and try to get us to buy more from his company. My office is at the front of the building and he often ignores me when he walks by. Sometimes he will say hello and call me 'Shane', which is slightly annoying. Then he heads straight over and starts kissing the ass of one employee in particular.

Now the interesting part of the whole thing is that this outside sales guy thinks he is kissing the ass of the person with the most purchasing power in our company. In reality the guy he is talking to probably buys the least from his company and I probably buy the most. Kinda ironic considering the guy can't even seem to get my name right. This sales guy is a victim of bad research and failing to talk to the lion

The point of all this is to prove the importance of doing accurate and useful research. When you go in for a meeting you should already know (or have a plan to quickly find out) who has the decision making power. Otherwise you'll look lazy, ill-prepared, and hurt your overall chances of accomplishing your goals and succeeding.