Irritating Rituals (Issue 670)

In which we consider whether our moves at the beginning of sales calls may not be so smooth.  

“She wouldn’t even look at me,” our office manager exclaimed. “I watched her walk across the parking lot, she came to the door, she saw you and shook your hand, you introduced her to (our controller) and (another team member), and you tried several times to introduce me, and she wouldn’t look at me. What’s with that?”

She was speaking about a consultant we were considering engaging to provide services to our company.

It got worse. We sat down at the conference table and arranged ourselves — three Clarity team members and one consultant. She exclaimed, loudly, how happy she was to be meeting with us. She pulled out a big wad of Kleenex and juicily evacuated her nose, then looked around in distress to find someplace to put the used Kleenex other than her bag. I got up and got her a trash basket.

She pulled out her laptop computer and set it on the table in front of her, effectively blocking my line of sight to my colleague at the end other end of the table. She pulled out her power cord and dropped it on the table, happily not on her keyboard. As she was doing this she was loudly recounting the story of her journey to our office; she got misdirected along the way and was a few minutes late.

When we got her laptop plugged in and she fired it up, she asked us to wait for a moment while it booted up and she found the checklist she was looking for as the basis of our interview. As it booted up, she pulled a big bottle of water from her oversized handbag and set it on the table, then removed the cap and took two BIG gulps, and then put it back on the table.

Just as she settled down, our office manager passed the consultant a large folder of documents that she had collected to share with the consultant.  It was like watching a puppy turn to chase a squirrel. The consultant was off and running until I called a time out, suggesting that I introduce the Clarity team members at the table and set an agenda for the meeting.

“I think she was nervous,” I said after the meeting. “It’s odd to think that, because I am sure that she meets with lots of business owners. And I think she was very nervous.”

Stress generates quirky reactions. Like the baseball players who perform highly elaborate, ritualized quirks and kinks when they step into the batter’s box or after they’ve taken a strike, all of us have developed little techniques to help us channel nervous energy as we begin important meetings or sales calls. Unfortunately, many of these look as bizarre as baseball batters box rituals.

We speak too loudly. We blink. We wink. We sweat. We yank at our ties or our hair (which actually doesn’t take very long with me, so I scratch the side of my head). We pull out brochures. We are all different, and we all have these patterns that help us manage.

While it would be great to have one of our colleagues video us during real sales calls so  that we could see our  rituals, we can’t. The next best options are a colleague’s detailed notes from real sales calls or video-taped role play sales calls.  Whichever method we use, it’s good to see it from the client’s side, and it’s good to make different choices about what we do because, trust me, they notice.

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