Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Sweat Down

You've all had the pleasure of meeting Weymon, so now I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to my SE, Michael. He's 5ft 10 in tall, bald, and might be a little overweigth. No one makes me laugh so hard as Michael does with his crude humor and childish antics. If you met him, you would never expect him to be so funny because his shyness would get in the way. But over time, as he warmed up to you, he'd become one of those friends who makes too much information seem like an understatement.
Picture the two of us across a big wooden desk that fills a relatively small office. This is my second sales experience with Weymon and I am asking him to sign off on another six figure project. This time I've taken the time to make sure there are no errors in the proposal. I've also taken his cue from our previous meeting and included a discount on the pricing page. We are talking amongst ourselves when Weymon comes in, proposal in hand, and sits across from us.
He says, "I've taken a look at your proposal. No errors this time, I see."
Me, "I did triple check it."
Michael, under his breath is calling me a monkey at this point.
Weymon stops, "I see you've included a discount on this proposal. Is this the best you can do?"
I look across at Weymon and without hesitation say, "Yes, Weymon, I got that discount approved for you. It is the best I can do."
He sits there, transfixed on me, and suddenly I feel like I might be playing an unsolicited game of "blink". The room is silent. The room is silent. Did I mention, that the room is STILL silent?
Michael is sweating. His face is turning red and his hands are gripping the chair. I am twenty four years old and don't know what to do, so just sit there. Finally, Weymon breaks the silence. "Well, I guess this IS the best you can do. Alright, I'll get you a PO. Now git outta here."
I'll never forget that day. So many things were learned during that long silence. The biggest lesson learned: keep your mouth shut. Sometimes, you just have to be quiet. In this case, I didn't actually know what to say, so ignorance kept my mouth shut. Now, almost 15 years later, I still must remind myself of this lesson. We are so trained to respond with numbers, justifications, approved discounts, that we forget the value of silence.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thank you Weymon

Weymon was near sixty, worked hard every day of his life and wore his hair, silver, short to the head and kept his tongue sharp like a well oiled knife. When I met him, I was twenty four years old and had taken a marketing job working for three tech guys in Austin, Texas. Because they were techies, they called my job marketing. Weymon, my first tough customer, later told me I was in sales. The experience was one I'll never forget and will always think on with a smile.

I had a six figure proposal in front of Weymon to roll out IP. It being one of the first proposals I had ever done, it had a few errors. We were in his office reviewing it together, me, Weymon, and my engineer, Michael.
"I've been reviewing your proposal," Weymon said with a smile.
"Good, good," I smiled stupidly back.
"It has a few errors in it. For example, you mis-spelled my name."
"Oh my, I'm so sorry," I stammered.
"But the more important error, here, is where your math is wrong. You see, by your math, I'm getting a $6,000 discount. Now, if I sign today, are you going to honor that discount?"
I sat there frozen, only months on the job, with no authority to approve any discount. It seemed like time warped, him smiling wanly, waiting for me to say something. Finally, with a lump in my throat, I looked at him and said, "Yes, Weymon. If you sign today, we'll honor that discount." He sat there for a moment, eyeing me suspiciously, and said, "Do you know what you did right today?" Thinking I hadn't done much right, I shook my head. "You scheduled your close for a Tuesday. Every good salesman knows to close on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Monday's are bad, don't ever bother and Friday's everyone just wants to get home. Thursday is ok, too, but not as good as Tuesday. Good job. I'll send that PO over." With that, he stood up and shook our hands and we were on our way back to the office with a PO imminent.

Fortunately, the guys I worked for were perfectly fine with the $6,000 discount. Everything was good but there was one thing that bothered me. That word. Salesman. Weymon thought I was a salesman! Visions of used car creeps filled my mind. I'm not in sales, I told myself meekly. I'm a marketing manager, just look at my card. And with that, I closed my first sale and began a career that didn't look anything like a used car lot.