Why Game Day in U.S. succeeded
With each round of analysis, presentation and critical review the team became more confident of the project‘s potential. More and more they identified with it personally. And Mark can really sell, balancing emotion and inspiration with facts and analysis. He is a firm believer in the motto „sell yourself first, then your product or service“, something his father preached time and again.
But he also made sure that the analysis was close to airtight. Sure there were risks involved, but he and the team never saw them as problems, in fact, they very consciously phrased problems as opportunities. Mark asked his team to always speak positively, to be optimistic. „Always look for the silver lining in a dark cloud!“ he would say.
Whenever they communicated the status of the project – whether in a formal presentation, a written report, in face-to-face meetings – the team made sure to have a good mix of hard facts and analysis along with stories and anecdotes. They believed that professional experience – past projects as „war stories“ – were just as relevant.
And the team had a few members who could tell those stories so that they really came alive. One of them, an engineer, was particularly good at explaining the most complex technical aspects so that the „man on the street“ could understand them. They called him the „Great Simplifier“.
But Mark made sure that no one spent too much time talking about the past. For him it was all about the future. He would even go through the respective presentations slide for slide counting how many were devoted to the future, to the present context, and to the past.
Innovation was key. They had to sell their ideas as something really new even if much of it was incremental in nature. It had to come across as a leap forward. The team thought long and hard about how to speak to the imagination of those they were trying to persuade. Some would joke that Mark should have gone into either politics or advertising, comparing him to the character Don Draper in the U.S. television series Mad Men.
He did not have a problem with leaving out certain facts which argued against what he was selling. He took an American approach to the weakpoints of whatever his team was presenting: „Hey, if our audience doesn‘t ask the critical questions, we‘re not obligated to voluteer information about the weaknesses of our plan. They need to pull those out of us. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware!“ he would tell his team with a hint of a smile on his face.
Will Mark and his team’s approach work in Germany? In other words, is being persuasive in the U.S. the same as being persuasive in Germany? If your answer is yes, simply respond with those three letters. If, however, the answer is no, what are the differences between how the two cultures fundamentally persuasde?