Why you should forget what your mother told you

by Daniel Batten on August 15, 2012

One reason that people and their companies underachieve is that they apply a two-word mantra they learnt from mum or dad to the wrong environment: business.

These two words are the reason that people and organisations

  • stop asking too soon before you get the key information you need to win a piece of customer business
  • don’t get that all-important 2nd meeting with someone
  • prefer to wait until a job/ tender/ RFP is advertised, rather than getting the inside running
  • don’t hear the real reason (or all of the real reason) when a decision doesn’t go your way,
  • don’t consistently ask for referrals

This 2-word mantra was “Be polite”.

I’m not suggesting the solution is to be impolite. Nor pushy.

The problem is that most people (you, probably included) overcompensate. What that means is that in an effort to be polite at all times, you often end up behaving reactively rather than proactively – when it counts most. This mindset results in lost business (have a look at the matrix below).

In other words, people end up being polite and reactive (submissive or “nice”), rather than polite and proactive (engaging).

The reason this happens is fear of being perceived as pushy. Most people have never considered that it is possible to be both polite and very proactive at the same time. This is the combination of behaviours that wins business.

Only when both qualities come together do people start routinely taking on behaviours such as

  • asking for referrals
  • seeking the opportunity to disrupt an RFP process by redefining the requirements
  • asking better drilling down questions of prospects or customers
  • creating opportunities rather than waiting to be asked to engage
  • asking clients and prospects to quantify the impact of the problems they have (even if its uncomfortable for them)

Have a look at the behaviours above. Do you do them consistently? Does your organisation? Are these things comfortable and natural to you? Are they part of your process? If the answer to any of these questions is “no” – then you are leaving money on the table, and the impact will sting your revenue.

The solution is

step 1. to master the mindset shift from polite/reactive to polite/proactive.

step 2. to take on the new skillset that allows you to be more proactive in your behaviours, words and body-language – while still building rapport and being polite.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Juliet August 16, 2012 at 10:50 am

Nice one Daniel. I like that concept of ‘polite and proactive’ and am trying it out (despite what my mother told me!)

Louis January 15, 2015 at 8:47 pm


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