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Is Your There, There?

September 22nd, 2010

I ran into a business acquaintance recently, the founder and CEO of a successful company, at a networking event. We hadn’t seen each other in a few months so we spent some time catching up on our respective businesses and the activities of our mutual acquaintances. 

John mentioned that Derek, an inveterate pitchman we both had known for years, had recently contacted him once again. Derek was involved in yet another business and had another proposal for John.  “Did you consider it?”  I asked.  John shook his head. “Why not?” 

John stammered something about the services not being a fit for his company and being too busy while I listened in silence. Then he shrugged, palms up, and sighed, “Because there’s no there, there.”

John had articulated a hard truth.  And it spoke volumes about the difference between a pitch and a meaningful business dialogue. This kind of candor doesn’t often surface in casual conversations, and the fact that it did set me to thinking. What does it mean to have there, there?

No there means you’re not here.  If a prospective client, customer or business partner thinks that you have no there, it means they’re not willing to invest the time, energy and ultimately their hard-earned cash to work with you. 

It’s often said that every business relationship involves give and take. I prefer to think of it as an exchange.  If what you bring to that exchange isn’t a blend of substance, character, and space for the prospect’s point of view, then there’s no there, there.  And no chance to develop the mutual trust that keeps the there there for both of you.

Of course it’s important to craft a simple and compelling statement of the value your product or service brings to the exchanges you have with prospects, clients and customers. But when a prospect starts to feel like Dorothy wishing for a little dog to pull back the Great Oz’s curtain and reveal the person behind it, perhaps it’s time to dig deeper than the pitch. 

Where’s your there