Whether you’re going in for a pitch meeting, an interview, or any situation where you’ll be faced with a decision maker who can seal your fate, you have to be on your toes. You can’t just wing it. When you’re presenting yourself or an idea to this person, you’re vulnerable. You can get creamed, at any time, by a comment or question that you can’t answer. But, Reluctant Genius, you don’t have to be open to attack. You can protect yourself IN ALL SITUATIONS. Check this out.
Whenever you go into a meeting or an interview, you must ANTICIPATE one thing: What is the CURVE BALL, or objection, a decision maker could lob at you that would freak you out and throw you off -- perhaps ending your pitch or presentation?
Prior to this meeting, your job is to consider any and ALL curve balls that could be shot at you at any time. Once you’ve identified them, you must teach yourself HOW to address each one calmly and effectively. You will make it APPEAR as though you’re just overcoming their objection on the spot – casually – when, in fact, you’re a well-oiled, well-rehearsed machine. Only then will you have a chance of getting what you want from these objection craving fiends!
Here are a coupla quick examples of CURVE BALLS: CURVE BALL #1 You’re looking to score points with the president of your company and you’re presenting your immediate supervisor with a fabulous new team-building plan you’d like to see implemented in the office. She replies in a condescending tone, “It’s great that you’re trying to look at the big picture, but I’d rather you do your assigned job rather than spend your time dreaming up these pie in the sky ideas.”
CURVE BALL #2 – (entirely different scenario) You’re interviewing for the job of your dreams. During the meeting, your interviewer immediately shuts down the conversation by saying, “Your resume is interesting, but you don’t have the right experience for this job. Thank you, though, for coming in.”
If you were faced with either of these CURVE BALLS, I think most of you would be so caught off guard that your heart rate would spike, and you’d be paralyzed with fear. Some of you would react in anger – you’d be so pissed that your face would flush and you’d engage in some sort of useless ego banter or respond so defensively as to render you completely screwed. I want you to be someone who knows EXACTLY what to say because you’ve already imagined being faced with this particular curve ball. You’re the smart one who keeps control of the situation and stands a good chance of success despite this roadblock.
If you’re thinking, “I can’t know what someone’s going to say when they hear my ideas or read my resume!” Please stop it. Of course you can! Use your brain and put yourself in their shoes. ANTICIPATE EVERYTHING THEY COULD SAY and ROLE PLAY it all out long before you walk in that door. This is the Reluctant Genius at his or her best!
Yes, it sounds dumb to role play out loud, and you’ll look equally idiotic when doing it, but tough shit. Trust me, you need to have many conversations OUT LOUD before you walk in to any room where you could get pummeled by a decision-maker.
(DO THIS EXERCISE ALONE. If you do it with a friend, you’ll be all squiggly and dumb and you need to really play these scenarios out.)
CURVE BALL #1 Here’s how my role play might go with the supervisor who is clearly threatened by my fabulous ideas. She’s probably paranoid that I’ll get her job. (Remember, I’m saying it out loud to myself, playing both parts.)
(Hear the KNOCK on the boss’s door) TRACY: Hi Marion, I wondered if you had a minute to talk about a new team-building project I developed for the office? It’ll only take a few minutes for me to give you the thumbnail sketch. MARION: Yea, What?, OK. (She’s clearly distracted and could care less.) TRACY: I’ve been noticing there’s some friction between the creative department and accounting and I came up with this idea…. MARION: (Interrupts) I appreciate you’re looking at the big picture, Tracy, but the best idea, is to spend your time working on the Ding Dong Project you’ve been assigned and stop wasting your time coming up with these pie in the sky ideas. TRACY: (Prepared for this type of curve ball) Oh, no worries! The Ding Dong project is coming along really well and I expect to be done several days before the deadline. And please trust that this extra work I’ve been doing has been during lunch. I’ve been eating at my desk so I could research these ideas so we could help bridge this gap between creative and accounting. I really care about the company as a whole. I know that President Schmucky is looking for some new ideas for the staff. (SMILING) May I share these ideas with you? I’d really like your input.”
What in the hell is she going to say? NO? She’s going to relent and listen. Because you’ve PRACTICED saying this, you are in complete control. You’re not caught off guard; she is. You came in prepared to be dismissed and even hear condescending objections, but you’ve kept your cool and have advanced your agenda. Brilliant!
If you’ve anticipated and role played EVERY objection you can think this woman might have, you’ll be so bloody confident when you're selling your ideas that she won’t be able to help but take notice. And then you can saunter out of her office smiling and whispering, way under your breath, “Bite me!” You’ll feel even better about your whole experience!
CURVE BALL #2 You’re interviewing for the job of your dreams. During the meeting, your interviewer immediately throws a dream-ending curve ball at you and says, “Your resume is nice, but you don’t have the right experience for this job. I’m really looking for a producer who’s had experience doing makeover shows. You don’t have any. I’m sorry.”
This type of "you don't have the right experience" is a big one that I’ve faced many times. I usually win because I’ve practiced (role played) being one step ahead of them. You’re going to hit this curve ball smack out of the park (Yay! A trusty sports metaphor for all of you dudes.)
Here is an example of what can be said in this situation: (With a knowing smile on my face) “I knew you might think that, but in fact I have quite a bit of experience doing makeovers even though it may not look like it on my resume! Let me explain. When I was a producer on Lifestyles of the Poor & Shabby, I was responsible for making sure all of those I interviewed had teeth, proper clothing and makeup at the time of the interview. And you know, when you’re shooting in Arkansas that dental thing is no easy feat. Anyway, suffice it to say, I had my work cut out for me. Here’s what I did….(I would then go on to tell a specific story of how I managed to do the impossible in no time and have my toothless guests looking like a million bucks within an hour!)
You just have to tell them a story of something you’ve done – something you’ve really done – that satisfies their worry that you’re not “experienced” and couldn’t handle the brain-surgery-like detail that comes along with making over some crackhead who wants to be made over on TV. Get it? You must give them solid examples of work you’ve done, accolades you’ve received, experiences you've had so that her objection is overcome. BUT, you can’t pull this out of your ass the moment she lobs this comment at you. You'll stammer and stutter and get yourself all screwed up. YOU MUST THINK IT THROUGH AND ROLE PLAY IT BEFOREHAND!
(And, yes, I’ve had many a toothless guest in my day.)
OK. This next example is not for the weak of heart. I really had NO experience for this particular job. When I went in for this meeting/interview, to write cool stories for the Discovery Channel, I immediately laid it all out and said, “Listen, I know my resume doesn’t show that I have this type of experience, and I’m not going to lie to you. What I don’t have in experience, I have in enthusiasm and brains and I’m so confident that you’ll be happy with my work that I’ll do this project for FREE. (Swear to God, I said that.) If you like what I’ve done, I’ll accept payment after the project is approved. If not, no harm, no foul. What the hell are they going to say? No? Of course not. There's NO RISK!
It was, however, a gigantic risk for me for many obvious reasons. Honestly, I went home and cried for days staring at this project having NO CLUE how to get started let alone how to finish. I worked day and night. I cried more. Weeks later, I finished the project and…..they were ecstatic. After that, they hired me over and over again. I think they felt that if I was so bold (or stupid) to stand behind my work like that, I probably had some chops. They never knew about the tears. Until now. Oh, how embarrassing.
THE BOTTOM LINE: DODGE ALL CURVE BALLS BY ANTICIPATING AND ROLE PLAYING WHAT THE DECISION MAKER COULD SAY TO THROW YOU OFF OR OUT. YOU’LL WIN OVER AND OVER AGAIN. TRUST ME!