I recently had a video conference call with the worldwide sales lead of a company that I think is destined to become a major player in the big data search space. I was genuinely intrigued by the organisation and would have even joined it, such is my belief in the level of their potential dominance in this market over the coming years.
The meeting went badly.
First off, you can never trust video calls. If they’re not showing “nasal-cam” shots, there’ll be a glitch on the line, especially when there’s an electrical storm in leafy Surrey – which there was at the time. It meant we had poor reception and the constant repetition of questions and responses became pretty boring after a while. Far better to turn off Skype and have a decent phone call…
Secondly, I had been sponsored into the meeting by an ex-boss of mine, who knew what I could do and was keen to see if I could do it again. (The year I worked for him I ended up at 6x of target – which is always a fun reference to make in a meeting.)
We started by him agreeing to what I thought of them and where they were in comparison to the market leaders. All good so far – we had established a baseline of where they are now.
Given my belief in “desired state” selling, the next step was for me to ask where they wanted to be in three years’ time.
The sales VP threw that one straight back at me. We didn’t have time to cover his aspirations in the call. Suddenly the amount of time he had available was cut from an hour to 20 more minutes only and in the time remaining, it was down to me to explain how I could add value.
Of course, without a detailed knowledge of what he wanted to achieve, it’s pretty hard to be specific about would work. After he’d picked me to pieces for the rest of the call, we thankfully called it a day and the video link was dropped. At least I was close to the office kitchen so I could find something to revive me.
So what’s the takeaway here?
The key point was that I hadn’t aligned expectations on both sides. If I’d taken the time to set up an agenda and ask for information prior to the call, then I’d have known exactly what the gentleman wanted and how he was likely to respond.
Why hadn’t I taken this quite elementary step? I was being sponsored into the meeting so I took for granted that somehow I would get an easier ride. The reality is that a sponsored meeting should attract at least the same if not more scrutiny as the conversation helps to reveal something about the sponsor too. I probably let my ex-boss down by not doing my homework as well as not getting the deal.
I’m still smarting from the fact that I didn’t get the opportunity to work with a company I genuinely respect, but I guess I re-learned a few things.
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* No consultants were actually physically hurt during the writing of this blog post.