I was catching up with a friend recently and heard a story about a painful proposal meeting with a client. Her team was on top of their game — they were prepared, practiced and professional. Too bad the same couldn’t be said about the client — they were late because someone on their team sent out the wrong room number, people took calls during the presentation and two of the people came to the meeting knew nothing about changes the technical supervisor requested and spent the first part of the meeting getting them up to speed. My friend was proud of how her team handled the situation, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted the client to accept the proposal. If this is how they handled a meeting they asked for, how are they going to handle requests for information and deadlines?
Whether you’re in a proposal meeting, a job interview or sales call it’s important to remember that communication is a two-way street. Obviously the one doing the selling, proposing or being interviewed is the person in the hot seat, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else is off the hook.
Put yourself in my friend’s place. Getting more business is a high priority, but so is being able to successfully deliver on what they promise on time and within budget. In the interactions she had with the potential client, she could already see where there was a high likelihood for problems and a low likelihood for success. After some discussion with senior staff, they were considering withdrawing their proposal.
Think about job interviews where you’re grilled about your background and qualifications, but aren’t offered much information about the mission, team or work environment of the potential employer. You may spend an hour or two selling yourself but may not be sold that this is the organization where you belong.
Even when you’re selling a website redesign, you can go into the meeting with a great design and an awesome pitch but if the client is rude and seems difficult to work with you may just walk away.
Just like how you are communicating when you aren’t speaking, you’re selling yourself even when you’re the client. All the verbal and non-verbal communication cues you give off do as much to sell you and your business or product as any presentation or product. And if you aren’t careful about what you’re communicating (or not communicating) you could be the one loosing out on important business opportunities.
It’s good to remember that just because you’re in a “Power Position” it doesn’t mean that you’re the only one with any power. Sales, job interviews and proposals are two-way streets. You need to give people a reason to want to work with you. Communicating clearly and professionally will go a long way in making sure that happens.