Recently we had an order put on hold at our office with a request to return the materials. The purchasing agent had informed us,“The process is simply too high!”and,“We can do it ourselves at a fraction of the cost.” After my being aware of the situation I instantly thought perhaps she should check her numbers; the freight and labor back and forth would absorb any cost savings of doing the process in-house and then some. Soon afterward I happened to be in the lobby when the driver arrived to pick up the materials.To my surprise he took great interest in how it came about that he was picking up the materials, so I obliged in filling in the gaps. He then asked, “Say, do you mind if I give the purchasing agent a call? I’m not so sure we will be saving anything by taking these materials back.” I said,“Sure!”as I thought to myself, you’re about to be chopped liver for questioning her command. This is what ensued:
Hey Jeanette, this is Bill the driver, have you got a second?
Great, I am over here picking up these materials. Before loading them, I gave them the once over and to my surprise they are worse than I anticipated and will require a good bit of labor to get them correct. Now I’ll most certainly load them up immediately but I thought it may be best if I notified you of the condition first to make sure we’re getting the savings you desire.
Uh hum… yes… I see… no, I think I understand and I am beginning to agree with you… we probably should leave the parts here and let them do the process.That seems like a good call.
Great, I’ll do as you have instructed and tell them to get started right away!
It was one of the most incredible examples of persuasion I had ever witnessed. This is what the truck driver did:
- “Hey Jeanette, this is Bill the driver, have you got a second?” The opening statement was pleasant and asked for permission to talk, establishing a polite, submissive, nonthreatening tone.
- “To my surprise they are worse than I anticipated.” It was to his surprise, insinuating that she may have known better but if not, he was caught off guard as well. This alleviated her need to justify the decision because after all, who could’ve known?
- “Now I’ll most certainly load them up immediately…” After establishing the concern, he immediately reaffirmed it was ultimately her decision and he would submit willingly, again removing the threat.
- “…to make sure we’re getting the savings you desire.” It wasn’t about his desires, but hers.
- “No, I think I understand and am beginning to agree with you… that seems like a good call.” After the decision had been made, he gave her credit for the idea, letting her take ownership of it.
- “Great, I’ll do as you have instructed.” He finished up by reaffirming she was in control and that he would submit to her instruction.
With that type of tact I would not be surprised at all to find out he is running the company one day (if he wanted to). This finesse requires humility– humility to forfeit credit and being right for the greater good of the organization. It was yet another example that pride is the quickest compromise killer.
Thanks for the lesson, truck driving Bill!