I’m a writer but I moonlight as a business savage in the wild. After reading books over and over by Deepak Malhotra, Grant Cardone, Oren Klaff, Jim Camp, Jordan Belfort, Chris Voss, Robert Cialdini, and Joe Navarro—The greats!—The most memorable advice I ever received from a top C-level I helped in regards to competition was: ‘If they f**k with me, I will f**k with them right back.’
GET THE DIFIBRILLATOR!
I’ve built tough skin with anything involved in business negotiation. I’ll resuscitate like a doctor to keep an account alive even if it’s flatlined two times…three times… seven times…I’ll do the compressions and breaths and keep going until either I’m told to stop or get pulled off the account. It’s in my nature to not give up in business negotiations. However…I also know when it’s time to throw in the towel and walk away if I believe all possible avenues to save the account have been exhausted. Plus, I do take into consideration ‘timing’ based on my research. There’s just some accounts that aren’t able to come back from a flatline if it’s gone on for too long and you did all that you could do.
DO LIKE DON DRAPER
I can recall meeting with a client who was confirmed to be the final decision maker. When a second meeting occurred, the client brought all the stakeholders in. An executive and I pitched on the big screen. But the client was stuck on price. During our pitch, I treated every person in that group with respect and gave eye contact and acknowledged all of them. The pitch ended and the client and his group left. But something happened. We found out the real decision maker was not who we were told it was. Turns out it ended up being the quietest person in the conference room listening in…. We were now dealing with the alpha…. And it was a long back and forth…. The exec was ready to throw in the towel, but I said, ‘Just one more try.’ And I carefully drafted an email. It was to help the alpha move along from the protective reptilian region of the brain (everyone has it. It’s the ‘fight or flight’ response) until I could get them at their neocortex (logic & reasoning region — this is where you need to negotiate at), so they could see the light and understand our position that it was in their best interest to move forward with us because we are the best firm and we are going to take care of them and explained the benefits of quality, moving away from price. Never bringing up price at all. To summarize the whole email: it was solely focused on quality. We meant every word. We sent the email and didn’t hear back from the client for the rest of the day and night. The next day, the executive called me up while I was off. I picked up the phone and heard a voice of total amazement on the other line….the client got the email. They wanted to move forward with the project. I wanted my Don Draper Old Fashion drink….The character of Don Draper from the ‘Mad Men‘ show inspired me. Especially when he pitched in meetings. It became my North Star. I constantly refer back to the carousel scene.
GET IN WHERE YOU FIT IN
I get down to business even in job interviews. It’s like a blind date. You either are a fit or not. I had a government agency job interviewer on the phone and politely declined so we didn’t have to waste both our times. They appreciated my directness. Right now, I feel like a free agent and have been turning jobs and interviews down left and right. I’m holding out until it feels right (I have to be passionate about the work) or until I’m paid for the value I can provide because I know I can bring it. I’m a total savage when I’m in business mode with prospects or clients… even hiring managers. There was a firm that offered me a job with high pay, but I told them I had to withdraw my application. Even after I rejected them, they came back and still wanted me to reconsider, but I still rejected. Why? Because the work was not in line with my passion.
PASSION IS FUEL
Know your passion. It’s the thing that keeps you up at night that makes you research it and makes you excited to experiment with (No. It’s not that other thing.) It’s the fire in the belly that gives you great joy to do when all hell is breaking loose. My passion is sales, business meetings with prospects/clients, pitches, presentations, negotiations, business development. Trust me, I have no qualms in cold-calling. I can stay up all night reading up on sales and negotiation and write notes and would never get tired. I have a notepad filled with years of handwritten notes…..This is passion. I remember a job I was at. I would read at night and couldn’t wait to get to work the next morning to experiment with the new ideas and techniques I’d learnt the night before. I love helping a client or business with getting a product or service (that I can vouch for — I don’t put my name on anything I don’t believe in) that’s truly going to benefit them…as well as me getting paid for helping. All are happy. That’s better than pushing paper for high pay at some other job I’m not enthusiastic about. I’d accept the survival budget of a big package of chicken and a carton of eggs for a bit while stuck in the doldrums of a windless sea. But I know a wind will come in eventually to move my sails. Plus, I need to lose some weight anyway. I mean, it’s not too bad. Have you seen my scrambled eggs and chicken? And thank you, chicken, sincerely for giving up your life to sustain mine.
THE JOB INTERVIEW
When a job interviewer starts asking me questions like ‘Tell me about yourself….’ Instead of immediately answering (I mean, why make small talk?), I quickly turn it around and ask them questions about the job position. I also ask questions to narrow down and find out what it is they are exactly looking to achieve and what are the current challenges they face. I want their answers so I can tie it into how I can solve each of their issues. When it comes to business, I can look someone dead in the eye whether it’s the hiring manager or the C-level and tell them, ‘I’m GREAT at what I do.’ And I’ll get hired or sometimes I’ll get a manager who will give the polite rejection by saying, ‘To be honest — (I hate that phrase because it seems to imply that anything they said before can’t be trusted) — you’re overqualified.‘ I even got ‘You’re too intelligent.‘ And that’s coming from a hiring manager.
JOB GAPS – THE TRUTH HURTS
What I’ve learned is most if not all job interviewers (unless you’re related) seem to want to be lied to when it comes to job gaps. They can’t handle the truth. So you have to be more diplomatic and vague instead of saying ‘the HR manager who had the ear of the owner accused me of something I didn’t do until an employee confessed that they were the one who did it not me.’…. or ‘a supervisor who had the ear of the owner was noticeably hounding me when I would get attaboys from management’ …. or ‘the director lied to my face (with the corporate manager in tow) both trying to hide the truth about what happened to a respected manager—just to try to keep the asset from jumping ship….But I jumped anyway — with corporate trying to call me as I drove off’’…..I hate liars…. and the list goes on. What helped me to answer the job gap question was to analyze the trend in the gaps so I could thoughtfully reply with: ‘I’ve come to find it’s two things — workplace culture or change in management.‘ And lo and behold the interviewer would empathically confess they ‘get it’. One even asked, ‘How will I know you’re not going to cut out?’ And I would get different variations of that last question. I would usually tell them: ‘The company I want to stay with long-term has to encompass all three characteristics: professionalism, respectfulness, and know how to strategize’. Lo and behold I’d get a shrug and a nodding of agreement with ‘That’s fair.‘ I’ve walked aplenty when one of the three characteristics was compromised to the point-of-no-return. It’s funny that some of these bosses can’t remember that detail. Some even trying to save face.
“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape by finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” — Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor/Philosopher)
THE ART OF WAR
Problems seem to stem from the top and trickles down the chain. Think of management or military hierarchies. It’s like a cascade or domino effect. My family comes from a military background, so strategy and especially tactics in the workplace is very important to me. Let’s say if you have weak colonels or majors (managers) — [note: not all are weak. I’ve met a few admirable ones who have my smile. I’m not talking about them] — or captains who refuse to study the ever-changing terrain (trends). Undoubtedly, the mission (win the deals/accounts) is going to fail especially for the soldiers (reps) in the trenches fighting to win to stay alive (maintaining personal lifestyle) against the enemy (competitors). There’s that saying that people don’t leave jobs, they leave its workplace culture. (I don’t really believe that entirely because I can name a few other valid reasons). Also, you don’t know what the culture is like until after you get hired. It’s like going on that blind date then falling (supposedly) in love, then getting into a relationship, and then realize one day you’re dating a friggin’ monster. That’s what happened at one job. Two CEOS from two different firms were trying to outbid each other to retain me. After I moved to the highest paying one, I ended up at a job working with a manager who would often cry and yell; and everyday would go into smoke break huddles every 30 minutes with a few of the stressed-outs. Thankfully, I quit smoking so I wasn’t part of that smog fest.
I had a manager once ask me to pick my ‘favorite’ rep to assign an account to. I declined. They were all my favorites, but I refused to go by that criteria. I wanted to have the decision made based on the ‘soldiers’ merits and who could get the ‘mission’ done. The reps were all good, so I moved for what was basically like a ‘coin toss’ decision.
I AM THE WAY I AM + YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
I have a very strong personality when it comes to work, like ‘I’ll get the job done‘ type of personality. And I’m very kind and respectful until bullies cross my path. My tolerance stops when I’ve come to the threshold and reach the ‘okay that’s enough out of you‘. I remember this attorney I was helping. I did my job extremely well and finished all my projects in a timely manner, but for some reason the attorney commented, ‘You need to learn how to be more humble‘. I was wondering what was the angle. Was it supposed to get a rise out of me like the attorney was getting out of another in the team where one would be so distraught by getting picked on that I had to comfort them many times when the shift ended? After awhile, the constant passive-aggressiveness from the attorney irked me that eventually I left and quickly got a submissive plea bargain from the attorney wanting me to return. I never looked back.
Maya Angelou said it best with “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I had the fortunate request from a firm I walked out on who reached out months later out of the blue wanting me to enter into negotiations for them and help close a deal at the 11th hour. Guess what I did? That’s right….
BULLIES HAVE INFERIORITY ISSUES
Anyone who knows knooooows me, knows I don’t tolerate bullies messing with me or anyone else inside or outside the workplace these days. I’ve been fending off these fu**kers since I was in first grade. And when I turned around 12 or 13 years old, I remember a bunch of my friends were warning me that a new girl in the neighborhood was looking for me so she could stab me with a butterfly knife or a butter knife (something ‘butter’). Hmmm. Which out of the two would be the easiest to deliver a mortal wound? I think it was a butterfly knife….It was the late ‘80s. Maybe this chihuahua was trying to establish dominance or maybe a cute boy liked me instead of her. Who knows. For some reason, I wasn’t scared. Just amused as she waited for me. Yes. Keep her waiting for a bit. I like to be late so I can make grand entrances.
After many years, my bully-detection skills have honed and can zero in on the jealous arrogant bullies, the loud ones, the clever ones who can actually bring a smile, the ones lurking at work (especially a few managers). This species won’t have butterfly knives, but they’ll try to lessen your performance in very ‘oh so subtle’ ways where you can’t high-perform at full capacity. But I can’t be fooled. I have a knack for studying baselines. I’d smile and be agreeable, but I’ll quietly fade into the background and observe….You’ll start to notice things more when you’re silent and still…. Probably noticing how your moves and ideas that were once criticized are now being used. Mostly, I take jealousy as a compliment. What’s that saying? “The only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you”
I’ve ruminated over the quote: ‘‘it’s better to be a lion for one day than a sheep all your life”….But it’s easier to be a sheep. I want to be a sheep so bad because life would seem so much easier, but I can’t be a sheep even if I tried. And I’ve tried, but it didn’t work. I can’t ‘play possum’—neither I nor one of my siblings can. I inherited my Dad’s doggone ‘fearless’ personality. As a little girl, my father for me was like King Leonidas of the ‘300‘ movie (2006). I grew up watching him always stand his ground. He never cowered when there was danger. When I was older, I once watched him calmly put on some gloves and picked up a defective propane canister that was spewing fire. He cooled it down at the nearest water spigot, holding it under the water with my brother until the fiery gas ran out. When most would run from a potential explosion like that, they calmly went toward it….F**cking military. Gotta love them. ….A glaring contrast to ‘the bullies from workers-past’ — spineless because of their insecurity and pissed off because my performance (although unintentional) was revealing their ineptitude.
Outside of work, currently I have a scoreboard of 4 bullies where 2 actually want me physically dead — one found out where I lived and showed up and threatened my death; the other wants to slice my neck open (I got both receipts; and ‘yes’ the police were informed). I am definitely not afraid because I know what the greatest glory I can achieve in life would be for me. Why in the world you may ask would people want me dead? It’s not a Yakuza thing. It’s that if I see someone I care about getting bullied, I will step up to protect. Just like if I see someone trying to lessen my performance at work—a job I was paid to do—I’ll call it out….So with any bullies who want to come at me, I’d say with a smile: Take a f**cking number!
TELLING IT HOW IT IS
When it comes to jobs, job interviews or offers, I’m selective or know when to cut my losses short or at least try to take preventative measures…. Remember the high paying job I declined because it was not in line with passionate work? Well, during the job interview I had asked the CEO: If hired, would anyone else be working with the same job title I’ll have? Will I be reporting to you or someone else? Because my performance unfortunately tends to inspire insecurity or jealousy in a few others for some reason—which I’m definitely not trying to do. I can work as a team, but I’m here to do the job and not deal with the jealousy’….I got an answer, and later I got the job offer.
MY TIPS FOR THE JOB INTERVIEW (Not for the faint of heart):
- When you make your entrance, be confident as f**k in your posture (no slouching) and have a voice with an attitude that screams: ‘I’m here for business, and I’m going to be the one to help you!’ — but you have to be polite and respectful. How to build that confidence? See next bullet point.
- Study what the job position entails and everything about it. You need to know what you’re talking about or the person across the table will smell blood. Your research should be liken to an all-out ‘information gathering and reconnaissance’ mission. This is how I do my research: For working for a business, study the company website and research its products and/or services. Once you figure out the industry they are in, start researching the market share and every trend that has the potential to affect the industry positively and negatively in the future… the company’s target market as well as its top (at least three) competitors… the list of possible pain points you can deduce of why the job position you’re applying for is now open. If you’re working in the sales division, you want to be confident in using that Customer Lifetime Value equation. Know how you can solve their problem because you know your craft so well.
- A few days before the meeting, figure out possible questions that might get thrown at you during the interview and how you will counter each of them. Do not use filler words like ‘uh…. ummm ... you know?’ when you talk. And don’t make statements that sound like it’s a question. That screams insecurity.
- Ask the interviewer questions like ‘Why did this position open up? (They’ll probably lie and never tell you that they treated the last star performer poorly, but remain positive — people can change…. Actually, only the ones with good hearts can change. And I find they are the most beautiful and rare.) What would a typical work day look like? What are the biggest challenges in this position? What do you expect out of the person who will fill this position? What is most important to you that needs to be considered?‘ If applicable: ‘Who are your top three competitors in the surrounding area? What is your unique selling position?‘ And I’m not talking about longevity in the business. Empires rise and fall.
- Be thoughtful but direct with ‘Here’s what I can do for you when you hire me [and go on & explain yourself]’…. The ‘Here’s what I can do for you when you hire me’ part is a carefully crafted sentence structure if you know about Neurolinguistic Programming. Also, you need to give the company a compelling reason that by hiring you, you can give a return on investment that no other candidate can offer. You need to show them YOU can solve their problem.
IF I CANT FIND A WAY, I MAKE A WAY
I can recall getting off the phone with a job interviewer. I led that interview from the get-go as soon as we got on each other’s calendar. It turns out, I ended up being the one controlling the interview and asking the questions. Then I made a final decision by saying, ‘Thank you, but I’m going to have to withdraw my application at this time [and gave the explanation], but can you please keep my resume handy if something comes up? Because what’s being offered right now, it’s not going to help me. I’m going to have to keep looking for other opportunities ….Or how’s this—will your CEO be open to ‘creating a position’ for me based on my skillset? I mean, if it’s going to be mutually beneficial? Can you ask your CEO that?’ — (For me, and what I’ve always been telling my nephews is, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’… And if I was going to lose then I definitely had nothing to lose by asking.) — Instead of giving me a ‘F**k you! Who do you think you are?’ The interviewer promised to relay my message and went radio silent…..Conclusion? Went in for a meeting and got a job offer.
When you go in for the interview, it’s always good to check for possible synergy by asking questions because you’re interviewing the company too. And remember you don’t really know until after you’re hired if it’s a good fit. It’s going to always be a gamble. That’s a risk we all have to take when we put ourselves out there. The most important thing is to always know what you want out of this. Always. And if they don’t choose you, don’t beat yourself up. It was never going to work out anyway, right?
THE ‘HERO’S JOURNEY’ FORMULA
What I’ve come to learn about rejecting job offers and interviews or leaving jobs that don’t fit one’s own M&P (Mission and Purpose)—the upside is you realize what you want and don’t want to do the next time (e.g. I don’t ever want to work at a legal firm again — no offense to anyone in that field. But it’s just not for me —-unless I’m developing business for them and they’re good people); The downside risk is being like Val Kilmer’s Mad Mardigan in the movie Willow (1988) in the scene where he’s left in a hanging cage to rot and have crows peck at him–a mighty swordsman down on his luck (especially in this economic contraction) who can fight better than anyone else when action is called for….I know I will be unleashed again….I must say the whole process of job hunting sucks, but I’d like to think it’s the ‘hero’s journey’. Good luck with yours.