How to Handle “Mortal Enemies” When Presenting

By: Matt Torescolaer-model

Imagine: You are presenting to one of your largest clients or prospects. In attendance is the chief decision maker and his or her associates. It’s going fantastic. You’re addressing all of their needs and pain points, heads are shaking in agreement with what you’re saying, and you feel like you’re winning over the room … except for that one person over in the corner – ladies and gentlemen, meet the “Mortal Enemy.”

The Mortal Enemy is the person who disagrees with everything you propose or discuss, and it can be one of the most frustrating times in the life of any sales person or account manager.

Most people respond to this situation according to Newton’s Law, providing equal but opposite reaction to the Mortal Enemy. If they disagree with you, you wholeheartedly begin battling the Mortal Enemy, hoping to win them over. However, their agenda is to ensure that that does not happen. Ultimately it’s a futile task that leads nowhere.

So then how do we deal with the Mortal Enemy?

At The Brooks Group, we believe in following the LAER Model. The LAER Model – Listen / Acknowledge / Explore / Respond. Here’s how it works in execution:

  1. When the Mortal Enemy attempts to throw a roadblock, listen to what they are saying (instead of ignoring them and crafting a comeback).
  2. Acknowledge. Show that you understand what has been stated by the Mortal Enemy – but that you do not agree with what has been said.
  3. At this point, utilize the rest of the room. As you have been speaking with the audience, you have been reading the room and identifying supporters. Explore the opinions of these supporters with regards to the Mortal Enemy’s roadblock.
  4. Once you have elicited feedback from a number of supporters, Respond. Your response is not directly to the Mortal Enemy, but rather a recap of all the supporting statements that have been shared. This ensures that the decision maker has heard their fair share of support for you and you can move on. Again, do not re-engage the Mortal Enemy.

Sounds easy, right? That’s because it is – and that makes it the ideal method for successfully combating Mortal Enemies time and time again.

Intrigued by this approach? In our industry-leading Executive Engagement programs, attendees run through simulations on how to read an audience, and then they practice responding to the Mortal Enemy. Practice makes perfect, and by the time you encounter this situation in an upcoming meeting, you’ll be prepared to respond appropriately.

Learn more about our programs on our website, or reach out to Peter Haines to discuss how our programs can work for you.


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