Melinda knew it was going to be tough establishing rapport with Carmello. As she trudged through the rough-graded job site toward the construction trailer, trying to avoid what looked like 10-feet-deep puddles of mud, she reminded herself one more time to never assume that a sales meeting would be held in a nice air-conditioned office.
She reached the trailer and found the hastily constructed wooden steps that led up to the door, looking ready to fall apart if just one more layer of mud were added. Instead of chancing the collapse, she reached up and banged on the door.
From inside she heard a muffled voice yell something. It’s going to be an interesting sales call, she thought to herself as she banged again.
The door suddenly popped open, and just as quickly out came the booming sound of a male voice.
“Come in! What the hell do you need? An invitation or something. I’m on the phone.”
As Melinda climbed up the steps, she heard someone she figured was Carmello continue talking on the phone.
“How the hell do I know? Probably the idiot building inspector that was supposed to be here two days ago. Yeah, yeah, I’ll call you right back.”
Once inside the trailer Melinda took a quick look at the inside. Besides construction plans everywhere, hanging from the walls, spread out over drafting tables, there were white styrofoam cups partially filled with coffee on every imaginable flat surface.
“I figure you’re Carmello. Two things. First, I’m not the building inspector. Second, do you have any fresh coffee?” She waved her arm around at the styrofoam forest.
He stared at Melinda for a moment and then laughed. “You’re good. I figured you wouldn’t bother coming out here. Coffee . . .” he said to himself, “you want to go up the street? I’ll drive.”
“Tell you what, we’ll talk a bit. Then if it makes sense, I’ll drive you up the street for some coffee.”
“Right, this is good. Let’s talk.”
Melinda did not let where the meeting was happening throw her off balance. In fact, she used it to her advantage. She was in Carmello’s world and let him immediately know that it was fine with her. They were there to do business, and he agreed.
You may have heard a song entitled, “Two Different Worlds.” The opening line is “We live in two different worlds.” If Carmello had been playing that when she stepped into the construction trailer, Melinda would instantly have agreed.
Even though Carmello’s daily world was not one in which Melinda would like to spend a lot of time, she let him know that she respected it. Another salesperson might have remarked on the “mess.” Consider how Carmello would take a “mess” type comment.
To Carmello, his construction trailer is his place of business. Melinda must assume that the way the inside looks is okay with Carmello. If he didn’t want it that way, he’d either clean it up himself or have someone else do it. To tell him it’s a mess is to border on being insulting. Not the best way to start a business meeting.
It’s also obvious that someone drinks a lot of coffee. Her asking for some is another message to Carmello that she’s not put off by the styrofoam forest. He offers to go get some, which means he gets to leave his place of business. She says no, we stay where you do business because that’s what we’re here for.
Consider for the moment where you meet your prospects or existing clients. If you meet them anywhere outside of your business base, you are meeting them on their turf. You must communicate to them that you respect their place of business.
Establishing rapport in their business location is essential. Consider this situation. You invite someone to come to your home and when he arrives, it’s obvious to you that he is uncomfortable. Perhaps you begin to suspect that he is “looking down” on where you live. What’s your opinion of him at that point, regardless of what he is saying?
Your prospects and existing customers spend more time at their places of business than at home. In fact, many of them jokingly consider their office their second home. The only catch is that they are not joking. It is their second home.
Enter their place of business just as you would the home of someone you want to become a good friend.