SALES CLINIC: The Corporate Mask
- 24 January, 2001 14:30
Okay. So you're on the 39th floor of a major CBD building, 25 minutes into an important sales meeting where you're presenting your solution to a potential client. You've got your power suit on, the cufflinks in place, the rock star crucifix hidden under your collar and the newly applied henna tattoo safely out of sight.
To the outside world, to the client opposite you, you have the acceptable corporate look; the "Corporate Mask".
You're looking at your client across the table filled with gourmet sandwiches and questionable plunger coffee, but you're not thinking about the sandwiches or coffee or the brilliant solution you're offering him after spending the previous 48 hours agonising over its direction. Instead, you're looking at the client and thinking one thought only: "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
He's wearing the deep navy blue pin-stripe suit, the gold power tie, the Tiffany cufflinks and matching tie pin; the Corporate Mask. The hair is parted on the side (very Corporate Mask) and the handshake is firm, firm, firm.
But still there is this nagging thought: "Don't I know you from somewhere?" He is attentive to your solution-talk. You've got flashes of a guy on a dance floor doing one-handed push-ups.
He confirms he'll be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with your company with the possibility of much more. You've got images of a Mambo shirt with three buttons undone and a guy knocking back tequila shots.
You tell him how, with a few strategic changes, his problems will be solved and his potential base revenue will increase ten-fold.
Then it hits you. Corporate Guy is Buck's Night Guy. The man opposite you was Personality-plus Guy celebrating his impending marriage with "the boys" at the Icebergs at Bondi five nights ago. Now he is the stitched up guy, the buttoned down decision-maker with the personality of a dial tone - the Corporate Mask hiding his real identity.
Why do we do it? Why do we cover the true personality of the person with what we believe is the only appropriate persona, the Corporate Mask?
Two reasons: one positive and one not so positive.
Firstly and most importantly, we put on the Mask because it enables us to position ourselves and therefore our company as professional solution or service providers focussed on addressing key business issues and challenges.
Secondly, perhaps negatively, we put on the Mask because we are fearful. Imagine if the client finds out we are not what we pretend to be (think Michael Crawford in Phantom of the Opera), or they will find out that we might actually not know how to do this.
The big question is: should we ditch the Corporate Mask? Do we take the risk like the Phantom and unveil ourselves? The Mask can actually stifle your personality and creativity.
The clear downside of this homogenisation and corporate uniformity is that in a competitive environment, often the way you are differentiated and permitted to shine is through the uniqueness of your people.
The call to action could possibly be to take a risk next time you step into the corporate world representing your company. You don't have to knock back tequila shots or unbutton the Mambo shirt to reveal a soft centre, but you could let the Buck's Night Guy out for a little spin, for a one-handed push-up.
Anna Raine is a senior consultant at Rogen International. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org