HYCS #9 – What does staying in your own business sound like?

HYCS #9 – What does staying in your own business sound like?

I’ll never forget how I lost a trip to Hawaii.  The work looked like a slam dunk.  It wasn’t.

Word Count: 745

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Assignment: No additional time.

A colleague had referred a client to me saying, “Here is a simple, straightforward request from a big client.  They want you to come to their annual meeting in Oahu and give a 2-hour talk about Consulting Skills. You can stay as long as you like, on them.   I’ve got a conflict with their dates or I’d jump on this.”  It looked like easy, creative, fun work.  In our initial call, I was hoping to establish which part of the consulting curriculum would be most helpful for this client.  That is always my business.

I was meeting with 2 Vice Presidents, both female.  The CEO was unavailable.  Here’s how the conversation went.  (The thoughts I didn’t express are in parentheses.  These thoughts are essential for staying in my business.):

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Clients:  Hi Liz. You come highly recommended!  We were hoping we could answer any logistical questions you have and make sure your travel arrangements were taken care of.

(Wow.  They have no idea what I’m going to present.   I have no idea what they need.  I’m not ready for logistics yet)

Me:  Thanks for that welcome!  I’m looking forward to delivering a great program for you.  I need to ask a few questions so I can make sure what I present is valuable to your employees.

Clients:  Great – go ahead.

Me:  What is the problem you’re hoping this training program will solve?

Clients:  Oh, there is not really a problem here. We just want our sales team to be more consultative.  And more comfortable.  More comfortable being consultative.

(Did I just step into a Seinfeld episode?  “I’m an importer.  An exporter.  An importer-exporter.”)

Me:  Uh-huh. Could you tell me how they operate now?

Clients: Sure.  Each person has a territory and they are responsible for…

(Oops – wrong direction. This is going to eat up too much time. Better stop them.)

Me:  I’m sorry to interrupt. I wanted to know how they approach selling now, and what you want to change about that.

Clients:  Well, nothing really. I mean they have good relationships with their customers, and they sell a lot of product…

(This is weird. Unless I’m stoned or having a psychotic break.  Yeah, that’s it – I’m probably losing my mind right now.  What aren’t they telling me?)

Me: OK, you want me to present a new way of working to people who aren’t going to be asked to do anything differently.

Clients:  Well, yes, I think that describes it

(This really could be a psychotic break.  My brain hurts.)

Me:  Why?

Clients: It’s our annual meeting, and we want them to learn something new and get all charged up for the year!

(——-  sppffftt!)

Me:  I think it will be confusing.

Clients:  We don’t want to confuse them.

(I’m so confused.)

Me:  No.  Tell me, what’s the general mood in your company right now

Clients:  It’s very quiet

Me:  In what way?

Clients:  No one is talking to us.

Me:  “Us?”

Clients:  The leadership team.  No one in the company is talking to the leadership team.

(They can’t really mean that, can they?)

Me:  Can you give me an example of what you mean?

Clients:  They won’t answer phone calls or emails from any of us.

Me:   Any idea why?

Clients:  6 months ago the CEO rolled out a new sales model.  I think everyone is upset about it.

(Upset?  How about furious?)

Me:  No one has talked to you for 6 months?

Clients:  That’s right.  We thought offering them a program at the offsite would be seen as a perq.

(Or a diverting, live sacrifice of an external consultant: Me.  Danger!  Danger!)

Me: I think it’s more likely they’d see this as something else you were imposing on them.

You’re very quiet.

Clients: You’re right.  I can’t believe we didn’t see that.

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And that’s how I missed a trip to Hawaii.

To mind your own business, you’ve got to know your own mind.

Your Assignment:  Go to a client meeting and pay close attention to your internal commentary.   Find a way to get your questions answered, even – especially – the impertinent ones.  Listen for what you can do that will help your client with their real business problem.   Do not commit anything that does not meet that criteria.