Sometimes when you pitch your products or services, you will encounter Mr. Know-It-All. No matter what you ask about his company, he will say he already has it solved. You can tell you are dealing with a “know it all” by his demeanor, often arrogant and sometimes even belligerent – you can see his colleagues reluctant to go to battle with him. His subordinates stay quiet for fear of being ridiculed.
In the early days of the Internet when I was building my first company, GovCon, a business development portal for government contractors, I was asked to present some technical options to the CEO of a 1,000-person firm. He brought my company in because we had a very strong reputation for helping government contractors like his. He had the reputation of being tough as nails and I wasn’t looking forward to the meeting.
As we started the dialog, I asked about their issues and was met very quickly with Mr. Know-It-All responses. He had a quip for every turn I took. So I finally asked him this:
- I can see that you have a lot of these issues in good hands. So, what were you hoping to address by having me come here today?
This completely turned the tables. Instead of shooting down everything I said, this question gave him the opportunity to stop attacking and start opening up. At the same time, it acknowledged his need for showing off that he had most of his issues already under control.
Some people delude themselves into thinking that the solution they have implemented is the cat’s meow. If you know you can offer a better option, use this two-part question set to diffuse a Mr. Know-It-All encounter:
- How is that working out for you?
- Are you getting all of the results you want from that solution?
These questions usually force them to acknowledge their problem areas, giving you the chance to delve deeper into ways you can help. If you have several people in the meeting, you will see some of them bring up topics on their minds.
When you start asking the right questions, people will open up to you because quite often nobody has ever asked them before. This approach allows you to find opportunities and turn prospects into clients by offering ways to make their businesses better. You become a trusted partner, not just a vendor.