“On top of all that, we hired a new director of purchasing, a real heavy hitter and we’re sewn together at the hip . . . . he’d need to be involved in anything we do.”

Yes; people actually still use tired cliché after tired cliché in business discussion. That alone is gut-wrenching enough. But when you mix it into the prototypical operations’ guy “stay away” speech; it’s downright viral. Not internet viral, intestinal viral.

I feel like putting it on a poster with the caption “How many times has this happened to you?”

Sadly, if you work in procurement consulting, the answer is “too many times to count”. As digestively painful as this juncture may be, it’s a rare time of opportunity in the sales/consulting process. One has the choice in that instant to simply nod approvingly and stroke the ego of the chest beater, or to see the moment as a critical event and appropriately introduce critical mass.

Here’s what stroking the ego gets you. The chance to stroke more ego. It won’t get you work, and even if it does get you work, the work will never come to fruition. Because a chest beater, left to beat his or her chest is only interested in using you to validate their work.

Those of us who want to produce results take the “road less traveled”. (Yes, I use tired clichés too, but never in tandem.) Because if you want to break through with the guy who “has it all under control”, you have to set the table to challenge that notion immediately. Statements like “real heavy hitter” are “stay-away” language, just like the speech about all they’ve done and all they’re doing already to reduce costs.

So when I heard the standard Ops guy rap this time, I took a shot. I said, “Hold-on, much of what you’re saying sounds like “stay-away” talk. Are you feeling that you don’t need us? Because if this is just a polite and detailed dismissal, why not just be direct about it?”

It was a risk. I have to admit I was a little nervous about introducing breakthrough language in the first ten minutes of a sit-down. But 99% of the time, a hero is just a regular guy who’s too cold, too tired, too hungry, or in my case too fed up with the standard BS to give a damn about the risk. Too often, we’re so afraid of losing that we play not to lose, rather than to win. Here’s what we know about playing not to lose. One usually loses.

So play to win. Engage the stay-away guy. Listen to his rap until your stomach starts to twist and then put up the stop sign, and end the madness. It’s the first step in turning a BS event into a critical event. It’s the first step in having a meaningful, profitable engagement instead of being some chucklehead’s patsy.

Yeah, it’s a bold step. But no one ever falls out of bed and makes a million dollars. Now there’s a cliché for you.

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  1. Dollars to Donuts you were escorted out of that meeting by security.