Are You Overly Deferential to Power Personalities?

Robert Terson

Salespeople are no different than anyone else when it comes to dealing with CEOs and other power personalities. Fear too often creeps to the forefront when sitting across from these tough individuals, especially if their difficult-to-deal-with reputations precede them, and even more so if they fall into the celebrity category. Say, someone like a Jack Welch or Donald Trump. This fear causes the salesperson to become overly deferential to the power personality, and in the case of a celebrity, it can lead to fawning all over the person, downright ass kissing.

The problem is that this kind of overly deferential behavior is not going to cause the person to respect you; on the contrary, it’s going to cause the person to not respect you. And if he/she doesn’t respect you, I don’t care how phenomenal your product/service/proposition is…you’re going to get run over by a freight train and your remains are going to be splattered all over the place.

In Chapter 37 of Selling Fearlessly, “The Importance of Equality,” I relate a story my dear friend architect Barry Thalden tells of presenting a proposal to Donald Trump. It’s a wonderful true story (it’s been related before on this site) that proves anyone can be stood up to, can be demanded respect from, even a tough power personality like Trump who possesses an ego the size of Mt. Saint Helens. Here’s the story and the last section of the chapter, which follows the story:

Presenting to Donald Trump

Barry Thalden once told me a great story about presenting to Donald Trump: “I managed to arrange a meeting with Donald Trump. We met in what later became the infamous Board Room on his TV show The Apprentice. My presentation was on slides. As I started to set up my projector, he immediately objected. Undaunted, I told him it would only take a few minutes and would fully explain the opportunity I’d come to show him. Once the presentation began he interrupted me several times, trying to rush me along; each time I told him I was just getting to the part he wanted to know about. I’d come all the way to New York to see him; I was going to do it my way, come hell or high water. I wasn’t going to chicken out, be intimidated because he was Donald Trump. When the presentation was over he said, ‘I can’t believe you got me to sit through your entire presentation—my rule for meetings is 12 minutes and out.’ As you know, I got the job.” If Thalden can stand his ground with an egomaniac like Trump, you can do the same with anyone—if, like Thalden, you’re fearless.

Equality Begets Respect

If you want a prospect to respect you, you can’t be afraid of him. He puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like you do. He sits down on the toilet the same way you do. He’s just another human being, not a deity; he has no power over you except to say no, and if he exercises that power, so what? In the overall scheme of things, his “no” is meaningless: you knew going in that you weren’t going to sell them all. The losses don’t matter, right? Only the victories count. You have to get the no’s out of the way to get to the yes’s.

You’re there to serve the prospect, better his life; your best chance to accomplish that goal is to be his equal, not his doormat.

The premises may belong to him, but your dignity belongs to you and it’s not for sale.

So, keep the Thalden/Trump story in mind the next time you’re in front of one of these egocentric personalities. Treat him/her no differently than you would any other prospect. It’s your best chance to create a win-win situation for both of you.


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