The risk zone in a meeting

When I have a meeting with a customer, I use to go with one or two people from my team, and every single time (they must be tired of this for sure), previous to the meeting I recall them: “guys, please remember not to ask any personal question to the customer”. Why is that? Well, let me tell you a story:

A few years ago, I had this important sales meeting, everything was going well, I remember that feeling about being a successful sales man, I was closing a millonaire deal. At the end of the meeting I shook hands with my customer and we stand up, my level of relaxation at that point made me look around his office decoration and I saw this a photograph behind the desk in which there was a couple of kids from my client’s hand, then I asked: “Oh, are those your kids?”. Suddenly I saw how his expression changed, he looked at that picture and after a long and awkward silence he finally told me: “they were, they just passed away one month ago, a drunk man driving his car…”, he couldn’t finish that sentence.

I have not words to describe how bad I felt after that, all my previous feelings about success were gone, and any sort of apologize wouldn’t be enough, worst of all, I carried that feeling for days.

Fortunately the deal didn’t change becaus of that, at the end the sale went well, but I never forgot that event.

So, dear reder, let me share with you some of my reflections that I learned from that event.

There are different levels of tension in a meeting, and for me the most dangerous moments are when you arrive and when you leave. Sometimes when we just arrive the level of tension can be very high, and we use to talk about trivial things to decrese that level of tension. At the end of the meeting, when we think everything just ended and we allow ourselves relaxing, this is a very dangerous point as well because again we use to talk about trivial things. Now what is the problem with trivial things? well, for informal meetings they are ok, but in a business meeting if we use this trivial chating to relax ourselves we are putting us in a position where we don’t have anything to win but too much to loose.

Conclusion, my suggestion is that if you have a business meeting, keep this format: Say hello, talk about the topics of the meeting, say goodbye and leave. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous position where you have nothing to win but too much to loose.

 

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