When What You Know You Know Runs And Hides

PREPARATION. It’s axiomatic. It’s essential. Yet it is also highly variable. Depending on the level of significance of a given coming encounter we generally  tailor our amount and degree of preparation. Sometimes we obsess if it is important or unfamiliar or we take a casual view believing “we know this stuff.” Unfortunately, the reality can be that our preparation is misguided if we skip preparing what we think we already know–and know how to do!

What we know involves two categories: elements such as facts, figures, prices, specs, objections, etc. Plus things we want to learn prior such as intel on our counterpart, experiences, ideas or observations from others. Reinforcing knowledge of elements is our primary preparation. With elements we don’t have to “learn” we should explore variable context and consider what we may be taken for granted within those facts and figures.

The second element of knowledge is the process we will use in the engagement–Knowing what to do. If it’s a major sale or interview we work extra to line up our ducks. A significant encounter may not even be planned so, in that case, is preparing for the how you engage even relevant?

You bet! In fact, I would argue that while having appropriate knowledge and insight is obviously significant so often we get tripped up by what we later know we should have done or should have said and often realize it after (not) doing, or are told…or sometimes right while we are blowing it. Why?

Distractions and unanticipated events are as likely to occur as not. Do you prepare to be distracted? To get back on track if derailed? It is only by relentlessly preparing our how, our process, that we can be confident it will trigger a winning reflex and have us lament a lost opportunity.

I had an opportunity with a prospect that was so in my wheelhouse it should have been a slam dunk especially with a strong internal referral. Even though the subject requested was already an expertise I prepared extensive notes on my philosophy, refreshed all the associated technology and terminology involved and proudly had my past successes in this arena prepared for confirmation. This was such an obviously perfect fit I spent no time preparing how I would sell it, how I would react to questions, check-listing any negative habits that can work against me…I know that stuff, I train it so why would I have to prepare it?

The answer was sadly revealed when I thoughtlessly broke rules I intellectually know like the back of my hand. My sales reflexes deserted me, relieved of duty by the “expert.” I know to answer any question (especially first ones) with a polite reversing question(s) that gets to what the real issue is. I got an unexpected question, general and going way back in time, instead of narrowing it to give a brief, precise and relevant answer my ego let flattery take me back to recount what must have sounded like a hero’s journey tale that took far too long, Forks in my road were taken and I lost any relevance to the q&a that should make this sale. A question you get may not be a good one (for you) so don’t try to make it one. Ask and ask until you get to what response will connect to your counterpart, helping them and yet forwarding your objective. Even recognizing the misguided start I couldn’t stop it once inside the snowball on the hill, and never recovered letting myself get down recognizing I was blowing it. I prepared extensively what to do when I got the gig…not making sure I would get it.

The second “what did I just do?” involved breaking another two rule set I preach: Always ask permission if you are going to ask a personal question and two, don’t ask a personal question (unless it is expressly part of your selling strategy to introduce personal consequences of action/inaction).

What drove what I know I know to desert me? The engagement was over Skype and the lack of personal intimacy, ability to read body language and the more uncomfortable you talk/I talk sensibility heightens certain sensory observations and diminishes others. I hadn’t prepared for the do’s and don’ts of video selling/meeting compared to in-person.  I do plenty of training over Skype why would I need to prepare to sell over it? Takeaway: Prepare for your space and engagement type by reviewing how you will sell/present/respond with as much importance as what you will be saying/selling/presenting.

The other sink hole on this preparation road for me was my determination to hyper-prepare as a subject matter expert with previously successful and innovative approaches. Because I let myself journey down the wrong roads the  conversation never got the opportunity to present those insights, I wasted time talking and not selling. Takeaway: Selling (or influencing) should always be a process of uncovering what your staff/boss/client/prospect really needs to feel more than know and declare comfort and desire for you as the solution (who you are not what you do or know). The greatest expertise, product or process is of no use if it isn’t seen and felt as a solution to pain or opportunity.

So when preparing for the big meeting, interview, important sale or the impromptu critical call let your preparation be not just what you know but in how you will engage. What you will ask rather than what you will answer. A reflex only works the way you want it when it is well honed out and practiced.