I was wrong about Sinister's sales team. They aren't hopeless. It is the Vice President of Sales, Tom. He's hopeless. The thing about some "techie" or "engineer" professionals is that there are so focused on their own fields that they are often socially maladjusted. Social ineptitude is often, I am told, a sign of great genius. Sinister's sales team seems to be a data point right on this regression line.
After being tasked with managing this entire sales call, as if I were a sales guru, I snagged the last hotel room at the Peninsula and hand-held the team through at least a passable presentation. This was no easy task given the fact that I knew exactly nothing substantive about the product. I learn quick, or at least that's what my resume says, so at the very least I could talk the talk by the next morning.
The day started off with a 20 minute panic as we waited in the hotel lobby for Tom. I got tired of saying "Where the hell is he" after the third time and, instead, sat brooding and thinking to myself that I would rather be just about anyplace else at all.
20 minutes after our appointed departure time Tom waltzed in with a Starbucks Latte in his hand. Not a care in the world. "Hey guys." I could have killed him. Later, when I described the incident to another Sinister employee the reply was, "That guy moves like old people fuck, and if you put a latte in his hand, you have to half that speed."
We all piled into a taxi (I took the front seat) and lumbered through the city to our destination. On the way I handed a massive bag of danish, bagels, banana bread and granola bars I had snagged from the local upscale coffee shop to the back seat. I thought Dave's eyes were going to bug out. He set upon the bag like a big cat on the Serengeti. There was nothing left by the time we had traveled 2 miles.
As we got closer, I shot a cross look at Tom. "I will do the talking today. You need to just be a fly on the wall." I turned around and gave him the back of my head before he could reply. All the while, I imagined him making obscene gestures behind me and almost spilling his latte.
You know a hedge fund is bursting at the seams with money when the refrigerator that holds the soft drinks for the late working employees is a Sub Zero(tm) with digital temperature controls. This hedge fund was clearly bursting at the seams with money because I found four such refrigerators in the short span of our visit.
The presentation was a bravado performance. I had completely despaired of it being even mildly successful. The presentation slides were weak. I feared Dave would be eating the entire time. I feared Tom would break in and offer to reduce the price of the product to half of our cost. I feared our techies would veer off into the never-never land of tangential trajectories. I feared the audience would see through our thin veneer of competence and confidence. In reality, I had nothing to fear.
I am still convinced that it was the breakfast bag I had handed Dave that saved the day. Once I made the introductions I had been prepared to lead the entire discussion, referring to Dave and Hal only when necessary and completely shutting out Tom. Totally unnecessary.
Dave took the floor and threw himself into the presentation with full force. He delivered succinct and effective points, highlighted the exact features of the product that the quant guys in the room wanted to have and spun any barbed questions into a triumphant outline of why the product was the best thing since the discovery of portfolio management theory. The passion he had for the product, heretofore concealed beneath a silent and brooding exterior, hemorrhaged from him and filled the room with the sweet, oxygenated plasma of enthusiasm.
By the end the quant guys were begging for more details, looking up into their eyebrows and imagining all the time and effort they were bound to save and all the money they were going to make for the firm.
It dawned on me. Tom was the problem. Hal and Dave weren't sales guys. They were the technical, Q&A and presentation guys. Give them just a little direction, put them in front of the right people and keep them fed and fireworks would follow. Tom, who was supposed to be the grand leader, the sales guru, was in fact useless.
I dreaded the debrief with Armin.