Getting Your Signals Straight!

Signals straight

“The middle finger is not a pitch”

Anyone that has ever been on a business pitch with me knows what an excruciating ordeal one of my famous “pre-call planning” sessions can be. I use a kind of Boolean system, denoting a system of algebraic notation used to represent logical scenarios. If they say this, do that, if they say that, do this. I always have my partner try and sit across the table from me so I can guide him or her in or out of the conversation. “Wait for my cue” Yes, I’m a control freak.

Verbal cues, gut instinct, emotional intelligence, body language, eye contact and even that tell tale loooong exhale. Never get to the yawn, shall we? If you get to the point when your prospect looks at his watch, just go to lunch and try again tomorrow. If there is a tomorrow.

The care and feeding of someone elses time is the most important consideration you can give to a prospect you’re trying to “move”. This ain’t bean bags and wasting someone’s time with a lack of preparation or a well executed presentation, guarantees you won’t get on the roster a second time. No base on balls in this game.

If you schedule the meeting, that’s one thing, but if they call it, it’s serious business. It’s either new business, a contract dispute, or a chance to rectify a service or pricing issue. In every calamity there’s an opportunity I always say. Any face time is valuable time. Try to get as much up front information as possible from your friends and (hopefully) coaches. Prepare thyself, always. Be especially guarded if you’re climbing through new construction. You’ve been warned.

Now, in my time, I have been both delighted and frightened by some of the “experts” the corporate office had in its stable, whose merit increases depended mostly on how many site visits they made during the year. Needless to say, they were always anxious to hit the road. The only obstacle they had was me. I can lose business all by myself, thank you very much. I’ve had managers almost put me out of business. To them, your territory is a blur.

Some, were a delight to travel with, they showed up in the hotel lobby well before departure and were extremely helpful with technical issues, created enduring relationships and were responsible for a good many product conversions. A joy. I would weep at the airport drop off.

But then I had what I would call “challenges”. No people skills, little to no knowledge of a particular issue, a condescending attitude and worse, always late. They always made last call though at the bar the night before. I knew when the waitress would answer his room phone it would be a long day.

For these pukes, I showed no mercy. If a clinical specialist made me late, I would always open the meeting with, “George would like to take a minute to apologize for the late start”. If looks could kill.

Some would get into an all out argument with a client, especially egregious if it was a cardiologist. I shouldn’t have to explain the outcomes of those little screw ups. Those idiots got left in the parking lot with directions to the airport. Or else they made the two hour trip to Tucson in my trunk. The road could get lonely but those little encounters would cure me for months.

I had a wild time in sales. The stuff people confided to me was better than an iron clad service contract. I stayed single most of the way through my 13 years of roaming the desert with an occasional hit n’ run here and there, until I met Susan near the end of my tour of duty. Never caught anything either. Someone once said of me, “When O’Hearn walks in the room, the fish stop swimming,” can’t even claim plausible deniability. Nailed it.

But, as usual, I digress. Once you and your appendage get your shit together and you’ve slugged it out behind the hospital dumpster, you finally understand each other in a deep symbiotic way. I used to have a mandate that even if you’re gonna fly over my state, you better call me. That’s why they call them territories.

So I’ve put a little list of no-no’s that might be helpful if your dragging a newbie or in house puke, fresh out of Dartmouth, through your territory so they can understand those spreadsheets.

Here they are, in no particular order.

  • Never close the hotel bar
  • Be ready and prepared on time
  • Don’t plop a load of Skoal in your yammer as we’re entering the building.
  • Don’t sleep in your suit
  • No martinis at lunch
  • No fettuccine Alfredo at lunch
  • Black, reversible underwear are not professional (plus, you can smell them on day 5)
  • Don’t hit on the hotel cleaning ladies, girls who work at Hooter’s, the hotel counter, the waitresses and especially, my female customers. What stopped that cold was I told them that “whatever you did to them, I would do to you”. (Finito)

I was in the Army during Vietnam. I understood from that experience what working as a unit and being on the same page meant. You were on a mission and you’d better have your shit together and your signals straight.

If you got it wrong, you couldn’t reschedule.

If you have any questions or need personal advice, please feel free to view my work here.

Bob O’Hearn

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Please note: I welcome comments that are offensive, illogical or off-topic from readers in all states of consciousness.

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