Regardless of our backgrounds and upbringings, we are all taught to treat others with respect, and in some cases deference. Professionally, we often find ourselves in a structural hierarchy with others in positions or ranks that are senior to ours. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this. In fact, it quite often facilitates getting things done. Unfortunately, when you get into the role of Business Development, it can become a hindrance.
Someone once said “put Kings on Kings and Queens on Queens”. This philosophy implies that certain prospects should be considered “royalty” and if you consider yourself a “commoner” then you see these people as more important, more knowledgeable and sometimes more powerful than they really are. Consequently, you feel incapable of engaging with these types of individuals on an equal level. To be successful in BD, you always need to see the prospect as an equal, and they need to see you as an equal. It is very risky to put your prospects on a pedestal where you see them as more powerful, more senior or more important than yourself. Not only does it put them in a role they didn’t necessarily agree to, it also puts you at a psychological disadvantage as it creates an unbalanced relationship.
It is always important to adhere to the appropriate “protocol” for the level of individual you are engaged with, but always remember that prospects are not royalty or “gods.” They are just individuals with a challenge or problem to solve. They want to deal with an equal who understands their problems from their perspective. Putting them in a superior position often makes them uncomfortable, and they will have less confidence in your ability to assist them with their issues.
In dealing with any prospect make sure that you aren’t psychologically “genuflecting at their altar” and giving them powers they don’t have, and more importantly, powers they don’t want.