Don’t Burst His Ears!
Sometimes, all that looks delicious is not edible!
Every successful organization has at least one original geek who has stuck around from startup days. Scott Leonard was one of those ‘originals’ for DoubleClick . He was there long before Google took a couple-of- billion-dollar worth fancy for DoubleClick. He was there even before DoubleClick could afford to employ a small army of engineers to steer its pioneering advertising technology towards corporate hall of fame.
Yes, Scott was one of DoubleClick’s original architects when it all started from Kevin O’Conner’s basement in Atlanta (Of course, “starting from the basement” narration has a lot of dramatic merit; who is there to scrutinize whether it was a luxury basement of a sprawling mansion?). Then, when young DoubleClick struck gold and logically graduated to the crowded skyline of Manhattan, Scott got talked into relocating to Big Apple—a big step for DoubleClick, but a giant leap for a person who abhorred stepping out of Atlanta. Later, when it was the turn of young Cybage to strike gold by signing an outsourcing contract with DoubleClick, Scott was cajoled into repeating the favor. Only this time, the giant leap was over a couple of oceans!
This was Scott’s first exposure to a developing nation; I drove all the way to the Mumbai airport to ensure that his landing was smooth. As we sat sipping coffee at an airport hotel, I realized that Scott was running a temperature—partly because of his travel exhaustion, but mostly for having psyched himself about traveling to a third-world country. Once we started our drive back to Pune, I politely tried to create a diversion, ‘How do you feel about the drive?’ I enquired. Scott aptly summed it up, ‘I feel like I am right in the middle of a CNN documentary!” The rest of the drive was mostly in silence.
Over the next several days I saw little of Scott. He was busy working, and I was not getting the opportunity to take him out for lunch or dinner. You see, he had come all prepared: lots of canned food to last his two-week stay in Pune. Towards the end of the trip, he finally started getting the hang of India—even started smiling a bit. On one occasion, while driving from his hotel to Cybage, he witnessed two guys pedaling the same bicycle, together using the solo paddle, and burst out laughing!
Seeing him loosen up, I gathered enough courage to take him out for dinner on the last night of his stay in Pune. To ensure a grand finale, I chose an upscale Indian restaurant at a premium 5-star hotel. No hospitality gesture was left unturned on this gala dinner night for Scott. He kept hesitating, we kept encouraging. So he ate and ate, and then ate some more. As the sumptuous dinner came to a close, the hostess served paan—a stimulating preparation of betel leaf that, perhaps, Wikipedia is better suited to explain. Scott was not prepared to push the experimentation this far. He confusingly looked at us with a plea. We persuaded him to go for it—how can one have a grand closure of an Indian meal without the traditional paan? And that’s when it happened, and it was over before we knew it!
No sooner had the paan disappeared behind his lips, Scott’s facial shades underwent lightening changes. His expressions were visibly distorted, a helpless darting of eyeballs—all indicators pointing to an inevitable ‘throw-up’ of our expensive dinner! Panic buttons were activated, a napkin hurriedly handed over to Scott, who fortunately had the presence of mind to quickly spit out the paan before swallowing it. After few awkward moments of recovery, Scott uttered the betel words—‘Once I am back in US, I will issue a warning in public interest: ‘Don’t fall for any Indian hospitality gesture that includes paan—that green stuff is not edible, it’s a Christmas decoration!’
Soon after his return back to US, Scott quit DoubleClick. While I am sure that his quitting had nothing to do with his infamous experience with young Cybage , the current Cybage character has surely a bit to do with its experience with Scott.
When it comes to being overbearing—be it on a personal hospitality front with an existing customer, or a professional presentation being delivered to a prospect—too much pushing is always counterproductive. For when we push too far, we end up reducing our customer or prospect into a second Gandhian monkey… one who chooses to close his ears to your forceful advances.
Now before we hop over to check our last standing monkey, it’s time to extract yet another valuable business lesson from the learned readers. Pushing too little or too much of ‘quantitative’ information to a prospect can backfire—Cybage now understands that well. But what about the ‘qualitative’ part? Which of the following positioning of your presentations to your prospect has the finest pragmatic balance? a) Speak the honest truth about your strong as well as weak areas; b) Speak the truth about your strengths, but maintain silence about your weak spots; c) Inflate the truth about your strengths, while deflating your weak spots; d) Not only spruce up the truth, fake your weak areas also as being strengths?