As in real life, “Snipers” are dangerous and calculating opponents. Snipers don’t face you head-on. They lurk in hiding or in the protection of their surroundings.
They take aim at you and, when the opportunity presents itself, they take the shot.
Snipers are most dangerous when we are making a presentation to clients or proposing something new to a group of peers, as in perhaps a staff meeting.
So how do we stop Snipers from shooting us down when we are front-and centre and the most exposed?
First, expect them. Be prepared for something to suddenly come at you from left field. The best way to do this is to be prepared. This goes back to exercising those negotiating muscles.
If we have done our research and preparation thoroughly, there won’t be much we haven’t considered. We know the strengths and weaknesses of our position and we know what questions people are going to ask, whether they are Snipers out there or not.
Unlike other types of difficult people, Snipers need to be out of the limelight and among others. It’s when we are in the spotlight (and not them) they are the most comfortable.
So, here we are presenting and a Sniper has taken his or her first shot. All eyes are now on us again. If the question is a legitimate one, then we should just answer it and then continue. We might remind the group as a whole that we will be happy to answer questions at the end of our presentation.
Still, it is a good idea for us to watch our rear. How we handle the first Sniper may affect how other potential Snipers behave.
If the Sniper persists and we feel it is being disruptive to our message, we need to deal with the problem ‘now’.
One way is to concentrate attention on the Sniper. Ask questions back.
“Oh, is this something of interest to you?”
“Would you like to further explain your concerns?”
“How would you address this issue?”
“I’d very much enjoy you sitting down with the presentation team and management to outline your views!”
With the spotlight now on the Sniper, that person will scramble to get back into hiding. If the Sniper is sincere, he or she will indeed want to talk to us later and is likely to quiet down so as to learn as much as possible.
If the Sniper is indeed just a troublemaker, he or she will not want to be put in the spotlight again. Knowing what to expect from us may well make other potential Snipers think twice before interrupting again.
Finally, as a follow up, we should assess the motives of Snipers and determine “why” they are taking pot shots. It usually isn’t hard to figure out and may be something we can use going forward.