Once upon a time, I was on a business trip. One of many, at that time. 05:50 in the morning I stood at the station. Dark, cold, and wet. Hopped on my two-and-a-half hours train ride to my customer’s headquarters. Big meeting ahead.
Had to deliver my value pitch, as a result of two weeks of intensive preparation. Talked multiple times to Frank (low voice guy) from finance, Ivy (nose piercing) from IT, and Sam (buttons down shirt) from Sales. Filled pages and pages of virtual paper with their situations, complications, and ideas. I translated that into a software solution design, a customer journey, and a business case. That’s what I do.
Finally taking my seat on the train, I recapped my presentation. For about an hour. The second hour I slept. The last thirty minutes of my ride I prepared mentally. Went through the probable flow of events, the people I was to meet. (And made sure I didn’t sleep through my destination.)
We stop. I exit. Grab a black/ cream coloured cab. We drive to the site. Check-in. Meeting room. I plug in my…WHERE IS MY LAPTOP?!
I blush, my heart races. Knees get weak. I sit down. Take a deep breath.
The meeting host enters.
I close my laptop.
Fight or flight?
Nine and a half hours later, I pick the keys to my home from my pocket. Unlock the white massive door. Get in, and let the door fall into the lock behind me. Open my right hand and let my business back fall to the wooden floor. Take a deep breath.
What a meeting.
When the host started the session, she looked at my closed laptop, looked at me. At the laptop again. “Shall we begin, then? What have you found during the last two weeks”?
I told her. All I could remember, at least. Not the polished pitch version. My version.
I told her how low-voice Frank gets loud when Ivy doesn’t stay within her IT budget. How much coke Ivy drinks when she’s being pressured by Sam again for a new sales system – but not getting the funds from Frank. About Sam’s black circles around the eyes when he’s trying to hit the quota but clicking, writing, reading so many things that won’t help him accomplishing that. Vicious circle.
I told her this can all be avoided. Went to the whiteboard and showed her how. That Frank, Ivy, and Sam could all be made happy. Which I’d love to help with, cause they’re all kind people and decent professionals.
One week later she called us back.
She told us how she remembered this meeting. That Solution Consultant (me) all sweaty and stuttering at the beginning. Not very professional. (Damnit.) Who then went solid when he reported his analysis on her organization. (Yes!) As if he cared. (I do.) That’s why she decided to see us again – to deliver the business case.
“I saw that he was in trouble”, she concluded. “But I liked that he dared to continue, that he cared, and that he was creative enough to bring his points across a different way.”
From that moment on, I kept my laptop closed in 83% of the important meetings I attended. Helps me leaving out the boring stuff. Helps me focusing on people, positive impact. The Why and How. Helps me showing that I care.
(And I had hard copies of the business case with me ever since…)
Presales Lesson Learned: You don’t need a laptop, slides, and excel calculations to inspire people. Expand your personal toolkit. Learn how to write and sketch on whiteboards, how to create a short video, how to tell a story that sticks, how to speak even.
I can help with some of it too.
Dare to create the way you are.
One more thing…