Some years ago I was sent on a training course by the company I worked for.
As we all sat around our chosen desks the trainer, an extremely over-confident guy, had noted that every person in attendance that day was male. So he decided to perform a little trick to impress us.
He asked us all to write down our favourite film title on a piece of paper. The film we find ourselves watching again and again and never tire of. We then had to fold the paper and pass it to the person sitting next to us.
He stood by his covered white board and told us that he had written 10 film titles on the board. He announced that every single one of us would have our favourite film on the list. If anyone didn't have their film on the list he'd give them £20.
He uncovered the board.
On the list were films I loved: Goodfellas, Leon, The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Die Hard, The Usual Suspects, Groundhog Day.
At the time, one of these films was probably what your average man would consider their favourite film. Plus this was a furniture sales training course, where it wasn't clever deviating from the typical macho role. It was a week long training course and you could be setting yourself up to be the fool guy for the rest of the week if you let anyone see any sign of weakness.
In turn everyone started to read the piece of paper they'd been given by the colleague next to them.
Guy Movies v Chick Flicks
Goodfellas, The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction were the only titles that came out between our group of twelve. Until we got to my table and my colleague smiled to himself when he looked at what I had written. We were good friends and he knew I never ticked the typical bloke box. I also knew he didn't particularly like our teacher's attitude, so was relishing the opportunity of proving the guy wrong.
He read the title I'd written, "When Harry Met Sally".
Not the title you expected, I imagine. Not the title the trainer expected either. His face dropped and he looked at me. "Are you joking?"
I assured him I wasn't. Still, as he handed me the £20, he was sure I'd lied. He made a big effort to convince everyone else that I'd obviously seen this "trick" before and decided on sabotaging his fun game. He tried his best to belittle me and then mock me for my choice of film. I was called "a woman" several times, he got a few chuckles from that. But once he saw that it didn't bother me he carried on with the tutorial. I think I'd screwed up where he wanted to go with his lesson. I truthfully hadn't intended to, I was just being honest.
I'm guessing he either thought only those films could end up on a guy's list or he thought that no guy would admit to not having one of those films on his list.
When I look back though, this guy way supposed to teach us about how to do business. How to communicate with others about a product or service.
He'd failed to show the most important skill when conducting business. Listening.
He'd also committed the worst mistake when conducting business. Assuming.
Listen and Don't Assume
If you're looking to do business with someone your best tool is listening. It's the only way you can understand that person and understand their needs. This will enable you to discover how you can help them and give them what they require.
By assuming, you're instantly showing the person you're treating them like everyone else you conduct business with, like a number.
See I love sport. I love football, rugby, tennis (most sports really). I also like that list of films, but I've always been a fan of Rob Reiner films and 'When Harry Met Sally' just ticked every box when I first watched it. The dialogue, the characters, the chemistry and how it was shot.
I love watching cookery shows, but I can barely boil water. I'm useless at DIY. I'm colourblind but got an A in Art class. I hate driving - I need a double space in order to park my car (seriously).
I hate terrible 'chick flicks' my wife makes me watch, but I absolutely love 'Pretty Woman' and 'Sleepless In Seattle'. I've actually chosen 'Pretty Woman' over 'Die Hard' once when they were both on TV at the same time. Even my wife called me "a woman" that night.
I don't care. That's me.
Don't ever just follow the crowd. Be yourself. However ridiculous anyone thinks it is.
And remember, don't ever assume you know your audience before they let you know them.
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