Editor’s note: Terri Grauer is a consultant and writer specializing in the application of technologies to business challenges. Sanity Check is a regular feature in Local Tech Wire.
________________________________________________________________________________________We’ve all read the books about dealing with difficult people in the work place; the troublemaker, the gossip, the sad-sack, the manipulator, the saboteur, and the collegiate debater.

We’ve met all these people to one degree or another during our careers in technology, whether we’ve recognized them or not.

Usually we find an innate way to deal with these people without much fuss, but there seems to be one personality type that gives most of us a fit no matter what we try — the ‘agent know it all.’The ‘agent know it all’ is the person who always tells you why something won’t work — why they can’t fix the problem — why the solution is flawed.
They have ‘logic’ on their side and they’ve ‘researched’ their point of view extensively with the commitment of a bulldog clamped down on a bone. The problem is they tend the read between the lines of the material they’ve used to research their position and have ‘interpreted’ the meaning of the author, rather than reading the ‘black and white’ and taking the face value of the subject matter.

The other problem is these individuals are for the most part the absolute brightest, smartest and most intelligent people in their fields, so it’s extremely difficult to discount their opinions.

Exercising Mental Weight Lifting

As a former technical instructor I used to meet these people every week. They were the students who would sit front and center of my class, raise their hands to answer every question, and ask questions of their own (designed to ‘stump the instructor’).

Their main purpose in attending technical training was not the learn new subject matter as much as it was to flex their ‘big brain’ in front of other big brains. Sort of like a ‘mental weight lifting’ competition for academics.

For the first few months that I taught I was frustrated by these ‘agent know it alls” until I began to understand their personalities. They want to ‘show-off’, they want to ‘take the floor’ for a few minutes, they want to be recognized as the ‘smartest person in the room’ and they will NOT be ignored.

However, the conflict arises because emotionally they are very reserved, quiet and soft-spoken, except when they can use logic to prove a point.

Eventually I learned how to ‘deal with’ the agent know it alls — most of the time. I tried fighting ‘logic with logic’ — to no avail. As I said before, they tend to read between the lines and interpret the message into their own meaning, so my interpretation of the same message doesn’t necessarily hold water. I tried “Because that’s the way it is” (my mother’s logic) — and you can image how well that bombed.

Eventually I tried the “Hear Yourself Talk” method — where I remained quiet until they finished arguing with themselves, and then I continued on with my point — which surprisingly worked very well. Turns out the agent know it all just wants to be heard and not necessarily agreed with 90 percent of the time.

The Sales Challenge

In business situations, like selling technology solutions into accounts with a ‘agent know it all’ sitting across the table, this can be an extremely frustrating.

Sales people are not usually equipped to deal with this type of difficult personality, because they are built entirely different. Sales people are logical, but for the most part they are driven by emotion, by the will to succeed, by desire.

Technology ‘big brains’ or ‘agent know it alls’ are emotionally reserved, driven by logic and reason and the desire to be ‘safe and right’. The thrill-seeking sales personality is in direct conflict with the comfort seeking technology professional — which intensifies the ‘conflict’ during the sales cycle.

The sales personality will have to compensate for the technology type — in order to meet the sales objective, because the other side is not motivated to meet them ‘half-way’.

So the next time you (as a sales person) find yourself in a situation with the ‘agent know it all’ who wants to argue about everything, you have two choices — bring in another big brain (who is on your side) to argue for you; or sit quietly until the one-sided argument is over.

Terri Grauer is a consultant and writer specializing in the application of technologies to business challenges. She can be reached via email at terrigrauer@hotmail.com