On my last day of work in 2010, I’m reflecting on what went right and what went wrong. Here’s one of the latter, destined to take its place, when my career ends, among my Top 10 Sales Gaffes.
After working on relationships at a major government contractor for two years, our inside “coach” finally was able to arrange for us to be considered to handle bid-protest and other types of government contracts legal issues. When he arranged a phone conference call at which he and his boss, the General Counsel, would interview two government contracts lawyers from our firm, I sensed the finish line. Naturally, I did the legwork – intensive investigation into the company, its issues, its recent responses to government RFPs, etc. We were ready!
At the appointed time, my two lawyer colleagues and I sat together in an office on a speaker phone, while our in-house counterparts did the same.
Did I mention that I had recently acquired a new cell phone and, as a joke, set up a ring tone especially for calls from my wife: “WARNING, WARNING. WIFE IS CALLING! WIFE IS CALLING!” – like the “DIVE! DIVE” alarms from World War II submarine movies.
One third of the way through the call, sure enough, my wife phoned, setting off the alarm. Luckily, all who were on the call feigned amusement, most of them knowing me in person if not by reputation.
This would be a tremendous story if I could say we got the work, despite my gaffe, but we didn’t. In a debriefing session, my in-house coach let me know that another firm was selected. He swore that the decision hinged on the other firm’s bench strength at a time when some heavy-duty bid protests were in the pipeline. I’ll always wonder.
One thing is certain. The potential buyers (not to mention potential sellers) will never forget this particular sales call. And, hopefully, another certainty will emerge from this experience: I’ll never forget to turn off my cell phone again when important sales meetings are in the offing.
Happy New Year!