In my last post about the mathematical formula to life, I had mentioned the necessary variables that ensure a healthy and happy life. One of the variables was “R&R.” It was basically an abbreviation of “Do not React, give a structured Response.”
Today I would like to elaborate on what I mean by this simple thought with an illuminating story from my own life. This is a true incident but I’ve changed the names of the person and places for the sake of privacy.*
My regular readers already know that at one point in my life, I was a promoter of my own tea business in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. This specific story dates to 2002. I, along with 3 members of my marketing team, was on a business trip to another Great City* in the state.
We had so many things to do on that day, but we wanted to start with the most important activity first – finding out an incumbent who can represent our company as our registered dealer for the Great City!
Of course, our business already had quite a few dealers in neighbouring towns around Great City, but the proper city was so far left unrepresented. So, our goal was to finalize a dealer for the city during this trip. We zeroed in on a well-known firm in the city to visit so that we could explore the possible options and hopefully, convince this firm to represent us as our agent. We were keen on cinching this deal for our business!
My team and I drove to this firm’s premises. Things seemed to be looking up as we were standing in front of their shop. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, I approached the head of the firm, Mr Yogesh. I told him the purpose of our visit as I sat across him on the table. I presented a sample of our product to him so that he could form his first impressions of our product.
Before I could elaborate any further, something happened that left all four of us in utter shock and disgust! My colleagues and I were not the only ones in the room with this dealer, but his subordinates were present too. They were equally taken aback by his behaviour.
This is what had happened. Mr Yogesh had just given a cursory glance to our brand’s tea-packet and thrown it away in full force. Our packet had fallen on the road right in front of his shop! Not only that, he also uttered these derogatory words – “Yeh sab yahan nahi bikta hai! (Such products will not get sold here!)”
My team sat there with me, stunned at this aggressive turn of events.
At this point of the story, I generally ask students to analyse this as a case study. What is shocking about the dealer’s behaviour? What was expected of him, and what did he do? What would they have done in this situation?
I gave him the benefit of doubt. As the biggest dealer in Great City, Yogesh thinks that our product will not have demand in his market. Maybe, in his marketing opinion and expertise on Great City markets, he is right. But one thing was certain: the way he greeted us, talked to us, and behaved in the meeting was absurd. The person had a bloated ego and self-aggrandizement tendencies. He probably had even forgotten the norms of normal behaviour!
I was in a difficult situation. My three colleagues working under me were present in the room, waiting and watching my actions. I always advised them, “You must demonstrate tact in handling delicate and sensitive situations.” Here I was, confronted with a complex situation, where even I felt that the matter had gone a bit too far. I had to think of a structured response and there was no time! However, I had to lead by example!
I knew that there was no point reacting or retaliating against this man in his office. It would only make matters worse. I wanted to avoid any ugly verbal exchange.
I remained calm. I continued to address the angry dealer politely.
I said, “Yogesh Sir, we have come from Lucknow to meet and talk about business with you. You are right Sir, that this product will not sell in your markets! I have no intention of challenging your expertise. But, since this problem has arisen, and if you allow Sir, I have three favours to ask of you.”
To this, again he hastened to react – “Bataiye! (please tell).”
HERE IS WHAT I TOLD HIM:
“FIRST, please send a person and ask him to bring back our product pack lying on the road outside your shop. We love our product, and this is causing us pain.”
“SECOND, if you feel that it is okay as per your custom and culture, serve us a glass of cold water for each one of us as courtesy. It is very hot in this city and we have taken a long journey to see you!”
“THIRD, I can understand that you have had a hard day and you are upset now. But I request you to keep these samples of our product with you. You can take your time to judge the product and let us know if you ever change your mind. We will come back again if it means we could do business together.”
My calm demeanour gave the chance to the dealer to react coolly again. He may not have wanted to budge from his position, but he had to oblige out of decency. So, one of his men picked up the sample from the road. We were offered water. The situation was still a bit awkward and tensed. I thanked him anyway, “Okay sir. Thank you for everything.”
I placed fresh samples on his table and got up to leave. As I turned my back, he called out to me, “Wait! Stay to have tea. Let us try your tea!”
I can’t tell you at what moment the dealer decided to change his tunes and correct his response. Nonetheless, this demonstrated to my colleagues as to how giving a structured response was better than being caught in the heat of the moment.
Over tea, the dealer and us had a long conversation on our business, our marketing strategies, our trade policies for dealers and our company’s plans for the future.
They say all is well that ends well. This adage came true in our case. Our structured response managed to secure an impressive first order from our new dealer, Mr Yogesh. We continued a fruitful business relationship of mutual benefit with him for a long time thereafter.
The moral of this story: When the going gets tough, the tough gets going! Always remember to respond to a situation by remaining cool. It may be a high-stakes business deal, or a low-stakes tiff with a friend. Never let your buttons be pushed!
Let me know what you think in the comments. How would you have reacted in this situation? How do you generally deal with conflict in your life?