Know when not to rock the boat

Tips for Entrepreneurs: Know how to get to your client by giving them what they need to hear.

Money cash Shekels currency 521 (photo credit: Reuters)
Money cash Shekels currency 521
(photo credit: Reuters)
Countless times, two sides of a potential business deal come to the table and consider working with each other. All seems to be going well, when suddenly the air in the room suddenly seems colder and less appealing.
Something happened that torpedoed the deal, and the seller was left wondering what had gone wrong from the positive start that suddenly led to a dismal failure at the closing.
Throughout my years of consulting with clients of all kinds, I can tell you that one of the biggest reasons for this is the language that was being used by one side that turned the other party off.
Take an entrepreneur, for example.
It’s fair to say that entrepreneurs take many risks and calculated gambles to turn a company from nothing more than an idea on a shoestring budget all the way into the successful business it is today. The owner of that business thrives on action, change and excitement – the very things that drove him up the ladder of success and past the many setbacks he inevitably encountered along the way.
Now, contrast that with the chief executive officer, or head of a department as a large organization. How did that person get to the top of that organization to the position they are in? Unlike the entrepreneur above, this person’s success was probably due in no small part to coming in early, putting in the right number of hours, and not “rocking the boat” in any way that could get them booted out the door.
Because in companies where people take initiative, they will get promoted and recognized as long as things work out in their favor.
But as soon as they have a failure (and everyone does, at some point!) they will fall out of favor and often end up seeking a new opportunity (or becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own company). Now that we have climbed into both their heads, a startling picture starts to emerge for what they need to hear to feel comfortable.
When you are selling a new software program to the entrepreneur, what should the approach be? I’d venture that “this program will transform your business! Your clients will love the new interface and shiny buttons!” would be a compelling pitch. If the product is needed by the client and will provide them with value, then you’ve given them the excitement they crave and the enthusiasm and confidence you have in your product will be appreciated by the buyer.
However, trying that approach with the executive would be downright foolish. Why? Because again, getting inside their brain and the way they think, what they need to hear is “our product can be installed after six o’clock in the evening and will be finished before nine o’clock the following morning. Your income will increase and your costs will go down… but to the consumer it all looks the same, and will not affect the way they interact with you. They won’t even know that we’ve changed the guts of the system!”
They need to hear that this can be done without rocking the boat – and without potentially costing them their comfortable corner office and cushy chair and salary. After all that’s how they got to this point! If you are writing a letter to people who like sports, you should mention in passing certain references that they’ll understand, even if someone outside the group would not.
If you are dealing with a specific ethnic or religious group, work that into your communications as well.
To the Jewish market, “Free matza balls and borscht!” is a better promotion than “Free clam chowder!” On the other hand, if you were marketing to gas-station employees in New England, the response would likely not be that great to a matzo ball and borscht offer.
When you speak to a client, or read their web page, LinkedIn profile, or an interview they did for a newspaper, see what kind of words they are using. Are they words that show they thrive on excitement? Perhaps they skydive? That would tell you something about their personality you can use in a powerful way to understand what makes them tick.
And something often overlooked: when people call a business and the person they want is not in, they will often hurry to hang up the phone. But think about this for a minute: people hire people they want to be around. So if the receptionist has a certain personality, you can pick up some important cues from that alone that can help you develop rapport with the client, as well as the so called “gatekeeper.”
And if you were trying to get me to let you skip the queue for an appointment? Offer me bagels and lox, not tickets to a baseball game.
Know how to get to your client by giving them what they need to hear!

Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi who has been published in more than 50 business publications.