Welcome back to the weekly series where i (we) analyze the business situations encountered by possibly one of the greatest bosses ever
— Mr. Michael Scott
(if you believe buying a gag coffee mug from Spencer gifts, or Amazon — makes you one)
Here is Post #1
This time we will look at a scenario where i learned about 50% of my so-called sales techniques, stuff like how to make them sell to you by truly identifying with their situation.
Michael is preparing to go on a very important business or corporate sales meeting with Jan Lavinson-Gould, Micheal’s boss and a full on corporate persona as you would’ve imagine if you worked in a corporate environment between 1980–2018, although its improving in recent years. They’re meeting Christian who oversees the office supplies purchasing for the Lackawanna county. The Whole County. It’s a really big sale, one that has the potential of saving the entire branch from downsizing.
Let’s review the business scenes in this episode in a chronological order.
Preparing for the meeting
Jan, being the professional she is, brings a lot of data and charts and colors for her and Micheal to review and come up with a financial and business strategy for the meeting. Probably figure out will be their value proposition. Micheal doesn't care about this one bit and all he does is changing the location of the meeting (brilliant sales power move) and letting Jan know she’s in a power trip. Let’s talk about properly preparing for a business meeting first. Without getting into too much detail, we always should prepare for sales meetings — thats a given, but beyond the obvious data and figures what else do you do to prepare for a meeting?
Michael changes the location of the meeting at the last minute from the Raddison to Chili’s because he read (or imagined his letter to the editor being accepted and printed) something in Small Businessman magazine which crowned Chili’s to be the new business-casual meeting place.
Now to be honest, i can’t say how much i enjoy and look forward for meetings that are: walking meetings, sitting by the ocean/in the park meetings, street-food meetings, fruit-shakes meetings, etc. Micheal has broke the first barrier just by the how projected himself and Dunder Mifflin in a more humble way instead of as “pushy” salesmen. (Something Jan clearly didn't expect because she’s from corporate in New York City, Manhattan, to be exact and in rural Scranton business is done a bit more personal).
Also, when Michale calls out to Megan the waitress by name, its a nice power move that he’s aware of and a pretty sophisticated move.
I always try to encourage people i’m intending to meet, especially for the first time, to do something a bit different instead of the usual office/coffee shops. I believe it brings more of the true nature of people and makes them somewhat more open. Oh, i present to you Small Businessman Magazine!
“That’s why i wanted a signal between us”
This is interesting, and needed. The reason Michael wanted a signal is that he needed a way to stop Jan if he (and only he) thought she was heading in the wrong direction. I can’t stress how many times i had to kick my partner’s foot under the table, try to make serious eye contact, or tried to break the sentence if the i felt we were losing the audience. Michael is a great salesman, its probably one of his very few virtues along with a huge heart. Great salesmen are masters of identifying what type of audience they have in front of them in order to adapt they’re sales strategy to fit and close. Michael sensed that Jan is moving too fast and jumps to technical business talk, while Michael knows his strategy: connect with the audience (Christian) in a very local way by stating facts like “I grew up here, i know this place, i know what it needs” or “The big nationwide chains are cutting our prices, kicking us out, then they jack up the prices” — but the way he communicated these business facts is just inspiring. Signals in a co-meeting are crucial because you have to accept that maybe you are not reading the room right and risking losing something you could prevent by just really LISTENING, remember that human communication is only ~30% verbal, Listen and then adapt, react, re-adapt, act :)
Michael does it twice. First time he just blatantly disrupts Jan and says “Awesome Blossom” and the second time is where he loses it and just blurbs for a few good seconds, at that point he felt its almost too late and attempted a coup.
Taking the time to talk business
If we analyze Michael’s steps of a sales-meeting, it will go like this:
Change the location of the meeting from a pretentious hotel bar to a humble friendly local restaurant — a move that wanted to project a company that is local, simple and trying to do good honest business with great customer support.
Ignoring the data sheets — Michael ignores the preparation done by Jan, because he knows his game and that’s sales. He knows enough of the data simply because he’s been around long enough and it’s embedded in him, it gives him the option to not prepare for that meeting.
Making the other party feel at ease — before even talking an once of business Michael organizes the food order, and after that is taken care of, he’s breaking the ice by telling a joke (but just the one).
Reading the room — what we talked about it the previous section, Awesome Blossom!! — it’s called reading the room.
Exploiting the best situation and time in the meeting to bring up business swiftly with the intent of closing — this is probably what i identified with the most. After a full meal, drinks, removing the jackets (another strong signal of ease and connection), Michael starts to mention the business challenges Dunder Mifflin is facing and making it seem very direct that him and the client share the same pains, and by doing so making it a good fit and alignment of interests between a seller and a buyer. a second after that Christian gives him the business. Wow.
Epilogue: We are human
There’s one more thing Michael did that i truly related too personally, though it’s something risky to just volunteer to do. When they are introducing themselves to Christian (the client), Jan corrects Michael when he declares her Jan Lavinson-Gould by saying “No Gould”, Michael tries to interrogate her (literally) to find out what happened to her marriage and it clearly made everyone uncomfortable. Later, after they are a bit tipsy and well past the gracious chit-chat, Michael AND Christian try to interrogate her and when she “breaks” and tells them what she think happened and she thinks she’s stupid — Michael swoops in with Christian to show her just how wrong she is. It’s good writing of course, Jan and Michael developed a thing and it started right here :)
The point about this is that i don’t think we need to be afraid to talk about personal things in business situations. We are humans and we are experiencing the same sh!t as everyone else, it’s ok to admit it and it’s ok to share it — just never judge.
That’s it for this week’s review. I’ll see you next week :)
p.s. if you have a favorite season or episode you think should be reviewed — let me know in the comments