How to Avoid the Professional Thug
How to Avoid the Professional Thug

How to Avoid the Professional Thug

I recently met someone at a social hour event who claimed to be a LinkedIn expert. After speaking with him in-person, even though I had some initial reservations, I thought I’d give his services a try. After all, I knew I needed a better presence on LinkedIn.

After holding a video conference call, reading his website, exchanging numerous emails and texts, as well as talking a few more times with him on the phone, I realized I was dealing with a Professional Thug.

So, what is a Professional Thug?

I’m defining it as someone who has the following characteristics:

  • Dresses, talks, and initially behaves in a way that suggests they are in business to address their customer’s needs
  • Uses all moral and immoral means to get the sale
  • Uses very vague language about what they can deliver, such as
    • “what we deliver is the best in the world,” or 
    • “I’m the best person at doing X in the world”
      and similar language that lacks any clarity about how they excel in their product or service delivery
  • Is unable to produce any meaningful data, even though they may provide some numbers that don’t address what you’re looking for. They may even call this “hard data”.
  • The person uses bullying, rather than evidence and positive, emotion-based tactics to convince you on how s/he or their company can address your needs. Language you hear from them could include some of the following: 
    • “You’d fail at your business unless you bought from me, “ or 
    • “You’re never going to get this right.” or
    • “I honestly don’t know what you are looking for: a genie and a lamp?”

I was able to fend off falling for this sales tactic using a particular and short list of steps. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Describe your pain point in terms of metrics you track 
  2. Stick to your metrics, rather than shifting to what the sales rep is telling you
  3. Ask for evidence of other customers or scenarios where similar metrics were the target
  4. Ask for effort level of someone with your skill set to achieve the goals
  5. Ask for a typical timeline for achieving your goals with their services or products

Additionally, I realized there was some early signs that could have saved me numerous emails, calls, texts and, most importantly, saving me precious time and decision cycles. Here are the telltale signs you should look for early on:

  1. The elevator pitch and their body language comes across as a bully in the way they corner you or want to dominate your time
  2. They attempt to gang up on you by having their “buddies” hanging around, telling you how great this dude is
  3. His/her personality and approach rubs you the wrong way
  4. When asked for their verbally proclaimed approach, deliverables or guarantees, they ask you, “well..what do you want it to be?”

The last two on this list, if taken out of context from the first two, may not be sufficient to draw the conclusion. In other words, the bullying and body language should be dead giveaways. On paper, this seems obvious. In practice, the approach may be a bit more subtle.

Bottom line, I highly recommend against making any decisions if something doesn’t feel right about the relationship, or if you find yourself trying to make excuses for the other person and convince yourself you should give the guy a chance.

What’s the moral of the story?

As Hafiz put it, “They asked me where I learned manners, I said from those without.” My recommendation for anyone who sells or negotiates, that means everyone, is to do the opposite of the Professional Thug!

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