The Fast Lane: Wooing the technical staff

 

This article first appeared in The Zweig A/E Marketing Letter (ISSN 1549-9588)
Issue # 126. Originally published
10/17/05

 

Find out why going along to get along is a necessary skill for all marketing professionals.

 

If you looked at the title of this article and thought, “I really hate having to do that,” I sympathize with you— and I agree with you. Unfortunately, it is something many marketers have to do at times.

 

So what’s with the wooing? Every marketer has had an instance where someone in their firm needed special treatment in order to realize the kind of cooperation that results in high-quality proposals going out the door in the most efficient manner.

 

There are a number of reasons to undertake such a wooing process. For example:

 

• When people come from firms where marketing is a solo individual activity, they have no knowledge of what they can ask of the marketing staff, and have not yet developed trust in the product their marketing staff can produce.

 

• When we acquire other firms, it takes some people longer than others to realize that they have a new employer, to make the shift in their mindset and join the staff of their new firm. Often, it is the marketing group’s responsibility to assist in this “morale building” effort.

 

• When we are joined by a new staff member who has established name recognition and trust in his or her technical area, it takes time for them to develop trust in the other staff and capabilities of the new firm, and to begin recommending these capabilities to their previous clients.

 

• Finally, I learned, in a Dale Carnegie Course® more than 10 years ago, that it is possible to be sorry something happened without accepting blame for it. Therefore, when a person has been (or perceives that they have been) offended or in some other manner wronged, wooing may be a form of apology that helps you get them back “into the fold” of following the established process.

 

Almost 20 years ago, I informed my supervisor of a concern I had over a proposal process in a branch office. I had no idea that she would take that concern to the operations VP, who took it to the executive vice president, who then came down very hard on a very senior person in that office. Two months later, when one of my family members became ill, I had to request a transfer to that same branch office. And that same senior person was still there, leading a major department that I would have to support.

 

At first I thought to myself, “Being a professional also includes the ability to work effectively with people I don’t particularly like.” Now, that attitude might be OK as far as it goes, but it will never help you build the kind of trust and respect a marketer needs to have in order to ensure timely access to technical information and help in the pursuit of work.

 

The wooing process was actually simple. It involved saying “hello” when I passed him, whether he responded to me or not; making an effort to include him in decisions where his participation was appropriate, whether he chose to contribute or not; offering help when I learned he needed something that I could do, especially when it seemed a reasonable part of the marketing job description; and commending and recommending his expertise at every reasonable opportunity.

 

The wooing took about four months, until one day he stopped by my office to tell me a joke. It wasn’t a particularly funny joke, but I understood the significance of the effort.

 

A few years ago, I participated in an SMPS-sponsored roundtable discussion about marketing in the AEC industry. At one point, the discussion focused on how to ensure that the proposal’s technical leader couldn’t take credit for the marketer’s work. There were a lot of suggestions offered around the conference table, most of which involved subjecting the technical person to varying kinds and degrees of hallway embarrassment so that he or she wouldn’t be tempted to steal credit again.

 

After listening for a few moments, I suggested that no project is ever won through the efforts of a single person. Someone finds the lead, marketing staff write the SOQ, some technical people join the group to write the proposal, the group changes to develop and make the presentation, another person or group negotiates the contract, and the project is ultimately performed by a group that includes many people who never participated in the marketing effort.

 

What ties all of this together is that the marketing staff must have solid relationships with all of these people for the win-work/do-work process to be effective. And since not everyone comes to a new job situation ready and willing to cooperate, wooing absolutely has to be one of the skills in a good marketer’s magic bag.

 

Bernie Siben, CPSM, is corporate marketing director with Quad Knopf, Inc. (Visalia, CA). Contact him at (559) 733-0440 or at BernieS@quadknopf.com.

 


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