You would have laughed if you hadn’t cried (with laughter!)
We were a consultancy presenting to a pharma company, a pharma company also heavily involved with OTC (Over The Counter) healthcare products. They were in a period of change and were interested to know what we could add in the way of speeding and adding value to the outcomes, at the least making sure that the outcomes actually transpired. Consultants often argue that change is better managed by consultants. It’s like surgery and surgeons, they say. A surgeon can always operate on himself. It is generally much more messy though. It is much more painful and the outcomes can be uncertain. Better to rely on an expert. There were 3 of us and maybe 5 of them, each heading up different departments that were partners to the change, fortunately, as it turned out, an all-male conclave
The aim of this first meeting was to set the field for future discussions. We would hear from them the areas they were looking at, their approach, their methodology and timetables; and the deliverables they were seeking to deliver. We in turn would learn from this to make our PowerPoint presentation relevant. We would talk through our approach and methodology and give examples of the types of projects we had run for similar companies in similar areas, the deliverables we had achieved both expected and unexpected; and the likely return on investment. Our USP would be that we would undertake a short review of the nominated areas to identify and agree together the level of benefit available. Then we would take ownership of the project and personally manage the benefit delivery to time schedule in conjunction with the internal teams.
Our desired endgame for the meeting was to identify specific areas where we could facilitate project outcomes before meeting separately with the divisional heads to agree the way forward in each situation. The Financial Controller stood up and went to the white board. The company had decided to divide itself into 4 Divisions each with its own Divisional MD and structure: Sticking Plaster, Wound Management, Orthopedic Casts and A another (the name escapes me). All serious stuff. We sat there mulling over the words written on the white board. Then a voice. “Which Division will the tampon business be attached to.” Silence. Then a nervous giggle from the table. Then another as the implications of the question became clear. Then uproarious laughter.
Anyway, the meeting did continue when the laughter had died down except for an occasional chortle as the situation was remembered. The good news is that from now on all inhibitions had gone. The meeting came to a successful conclusion. Projects were identified and, in due course, successfully delivered.
It all points to the power of humour in the sales situation (though some of us might have preferred a better subject!)