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Pitching A Company

The last post really sums up the description of the week I’ve had. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen that often but whenever I’m between jobs, my days fill up with a dizzying number of tasks. I’ve been flat-out exhausted many nights this week. Guess I just can’t sit still.

Speaking of not sitting still, I’ve been refusing to let go of Oculan. Vicki Parker of the N&O has called me nearly every other day, fact-checking the story she’s writing about the Oculan crew for the Sunday paper. It was right after the first story ran of Oculan’s closing that she mentioned getting an urgent voicemail from the head of a local company interested in contacting Oculan’s CEO. On a hunch I asked her who it was. When she told me, I suggested some people that the man could contact. Then I thanked her and hung up the phone.

Well, I thought, she’s a busy reporter, probably juggling multiple stories and facing deadlines and the like. Why not just call the guy myself?

So that’s what I did. I looked up the company number and asked for the CEO. In a few moments, he was on the line. I began thinking, what the hell am I getting into?

“Excuse me,” I began. “I used to work for Oculan and heard you were trying to get in touch with someone there. Maybe I can help you?”

Rather than hang up on me, he listened to what I had to say. I gave him the office number of Oculan’s CEO and talked up the company as best as I could on the phone.

“I’m really glad you called,” he said. I began to breathe a little easier. He then gave me his office and cellphone numbers. “What is it that you did there again?”

“I was a sales engineer,” I said. “My job was to give demos. If you’d like, I can show you what the product does.”

“That sounds good,” he answered. “How about 9 tomorrow morning?”

Wow, this guy works fast, I thought. I was about to agree when I remembered the home inspection I had scheduled for 8. I offered ten and he agreed.

It then occured to me that our demo site might not be around. “Wait a second,” I said. “Let me make sure I can deliver what I promise.” Sure enough, the site was down. I’d have to improvise yet again. “At the very least, I can show you a PowerPoint demostration,” I told him. It wasn’t ideal, but I knew I could at least do that.

“Okay,” he answered. “We’ll see you here at ten, whether for a PowerPoint or demo.” With that, we each hung up.

I was nervous as hell. I’ve done product demos, but not entire company demos. Then again, I thought, what did I have to lose?

Not long afterward, he called me back. His technical people couldn’t make ten o’clock, so four o’clock would have to do. That at least gave me time to round up some resources.

I cringed at the thought of simply a PowerPoint. The Purple Box doesn’t sing when viewed through PowerPoint: a demo would be the only thing to do it. I remembered my buddy Greg mentioning he took home an Oculan 250, perfect for a demo.

“Hi Greg,” I said in a way that telegraphs some outrageous request will follow. “Can you bring that box and an Oculan shirt and meet me at 4 PM?”

“What are you up to, Mark?” he asked with rightful suspicion. I filled him in and we agreed to meet near the demo site at 3:30.

Once we met up, I figured the CEO would be bored watching us configure the box from scratch. We went to the conference room a bit earlier than our appointment so we could hit the ground running when he got there. A few techies wandered in to help us with the projector and other essentials.

Greg had reset the management settings on the box, which should have given us a clean slate except for the license. Unfortunately, the license wasn’t being recognized. For a few nerve-wracking moments, it looked as if we’d have to skip the demo and stick with the slides. Fortunately, Greg worked some magic just by rebooting the box. It was showtime.

There were probably 7 to 8 people in the audience as I launched in the description of the box. Things soon steered off the path as Greg and I got peppered with questions about the technology, product line, and business relationships we’d forged with our partners. I could feel my voice cracking as I answered some of these. Greg was cool as usual. I think it helped that he knew one of the participants from a former job. Or maybe he’s just cool that way, I don’t know.

At one point, Greg jokingly brought up my financial bind, with a new house under contract and a baby on the way. I sighed and admitted that the timing couldn’t be worse for me. Hearing that, the CEO laughed and said “well, you wouldn’t know it listening to you.” I mentally gave myself a pat on the back for keeping my optimism.

Before we knew it, it was three and a half hours later and folks were bowing out to head home. We thanked them for their time and, from the looks of it, we had impressed them with our presentation. We left as the CEO was quizzing the others on their thoughts.

I suggested to Greg that we grab a beer at a nearby bar and compare notes on the meeting. We decided we’d done a pretty good job with what we had done, though neither one of us was in a position to negotiate anything or close the deal. That seemed like the only part of a sales call that was missing, albeit a huge part.

No one had asked me to this stuff; to set up a demo and run with it. No one had to, really. Strange as it may seem, I thought it was somehow easier to revive my old job than to find a new one. I believe that the staff and the product are too valuable to let go. Everyone who sees the product would agree. It rules!

The two CEOs met the next morning. Later, I heard feedback that the demo was much appreciated. I don’t know what will come of it, if anything. That’s not my decision to make. But I gave it my best shot.

Even if nothing comes of it, I know that I will never be the same. I saw an opportunity, seized it, and pushed myself farther than I ever have before. I stepped into a new role and I liked how it fit.

My future looks very bright, indeed.

  1. That’s awesome Mark, i hope things work out for you and the Occulaners.


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