Knowing Your Boss

As a business development professional, you routinely meet with prospective customers at all organizational levels. All of these contacts hold some potential for you and your [learning initiatives]; however, your real target is the leader of the enterprise. Whether his/her title is CEO, president, general manager or owner, this is the person who is ultimately responsible for the business, and this is the person who can, immediately and unilaterally, “buy” what you are “selling.” You have made all the right calls, provided all the right information, and you have been able to arrange a meeting with him or her. Now what? How can you distinguish yourself from the countless other voices this person is hearing all day and make a real impact? How can you make a significant connection with the leader of the enterprise?

First, it is important to understand what is unique about these particular business leaders. They are distinguished by five traits and characteristics, namely:

1) They are intelligent on several levels. In his ground-breaking book “Frames Of Mind” (1983), Howard Gardner claims that people have the capacity to have various forms of intelligence beyond what we have typically viewed as I.Q. They may have all sorts of mental gifts such as linguistic, spatial or interpersonal intelligence. In “Primal Leadership” (1995), Daniel Goleman went on to assert that people with high emotional intelligence tend to rise to the top of organizations. Therefore, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that the leader of the enterprise has a level of emotional intelligence that is significantly higher than average.

2) They love to learn. Enterprise leaders tend to be life-long learners and usually have the ability to assimilate large amounts of information and rapidly extract the most important ideas, themes and dilemmas. Conversely, they quickly tune out of any conversation that does not appear to hold some fresh knowledge or insights for them or their business.

3) They traffic in superlatives. These leaders live in a world in which good and better are for everyone else. They thrive on extremes. Deep in their DNA is an uncontrollable fascination with the best, the fastest, the slowest, the biggest, the newest and the cheapest. They glaze over when confronted with good or better. They are looking for the “-est” in everything.

4) They do not buy to look good. Truth be told, those of us who work inside organizations have a significant degree of self-interest. If we are responsible for a purchase, we want to make a good buying decision but we also want to look good to others, particularly our bosses. There is nothing sinister about this; it’s just human nature. Not so for the leader of the enterprise. Most have little regard for what others think about their decision. The best will seriously consider the advice of others but will still make a decision that they believe, in their heart of hearts, is best for the business.

5) They are listening for a personal promise. Most of these leaders are in the sales business as well. They know you are doing your best to get them to buy something and they respect that effort. They also know that you have inside information. You know if the product or service is really right for them. They, on the other hand, can only guess. They will listen to your well-articulated description of features and benefits, but what they really want to hear is a promise from you, personally, that a buying decision is the best thing they can do.

—The author, Gregg Thompson, is president of Bluepoint Leadership Development and author of several books. More info: phone (888) 221-8685 or visit

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