One of my sales managers way back in my formative years mentioned that when I went into an office on a sales call that I should observe what the person had hanging on the wall or sitting on the desk or shelves. The goal was to pick up on something I might have in common with the person to whom I was speaking, therefore increasing the chances that I would bond with this person. I thought that was a pretty solid idea until a couple of years ago.
I was in an office waiting on a prospect and noticed the usual things: picture of family, some trophies, several business books, some industry mags etc. The prospect came into the office and we started the usual informal, social dialogue. And that’s when I mentioned what a great family the gentleman had. Silence. He then mentioned that he and his wife were going through a divorce. Silence!
Please direct me to a small hole in the wall so I can crawl in and disappear-now! The sales call, what was left of it, pretty much went down the shoot. I walked out of the office having learned a valuable lesson. As in the title-be careful what you mention. The principle of using items in the office as a reference point for establishing rapport is not necessarily bad although I would never recommend it as the main way to bond with the prospect. There are other better ways to do that.
I would certainly note the various things on display in a person’s office but I wouldn’t refer to anything unless the prospect or client brings them up first. What you can do is gain insight into the kind of person the prospect is by noticing what they have in their office. Are there family pictures, trophies, school plaques, association plaques, nothing?
The other reason I don’t do this anymore is that it feels too canned or obvious, as if everyone is doing that just to make friends with someone before trying to close them. It feels too slick, for want of a better word. And I hate slick!
The Final Thought: Observe a man’s actions; scrutinize his motives; take note of the things that give him pleasure. Unknown