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Level the Playing Field

Make sure people in positions of power value your experience and judgment.

This story appears in the June 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Entrepreneurs often deal with who have the authority to shape the financial success of their businesses. Whether it's a distributor considering your product or a manager deciding which company gets awarded a project, their decisions affect your bottom line. To succeed, you may feel obligated to let them control the flow of conversations and tell you the best way to secure a contract. But you don't have to. Instead, you need to level the playing field so people in positions of power value your experience and judgment.

  1. Focus on the goal of the project. Always begin conversations by stating the mutually desired outcome. This simple act will push aside personal agendas and focus on the project at hand. Show how your skill set, products or services can help achieve the stated objectives. When you speak from experience, people tend to support your efforts and respect your viewpoint.
  2. Express your insights with . You have the ability to convey information through your unique . In our competitive, information-based economy, your expertise and knowledge are the keys you need to even the odds. Sharing your fact-based, insightful ideas, even if they are contrary to prevalent beliefs, makes you an indispensable part of a team.
  3. Personalize the discussion. Do not fear a person's title or area of responsibility. Remember, you're both human. Leaders don't let superiority impede . Earn respect by making the sale or business discussion about personal and business objectives, not just your product or service.
  4. Listen to and consider other people's perspectives. An entrepreneurial leader takes the experience and knowledge of other team members into consideration. Being curious and open to the opinions of others is a sign of respect. It comforts people and assures them that they are making a positive contribution. Never speak negatively about your experience; you'll just raise questions about your ability to get the job done.
  5. Seek solutions; don't point fingers. Mistakes and misunderstandings are inevitable. Rather than laying blame, move the project forward by taking action to correct the situation. If you have a legitimate complaint, speak to the appropriate person privately and in person.

Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write to him at

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