Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is That Your Final Answer?

That’s what I was thinking as an exhibit vendor stood in front of me at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary, Alberta today.

The GPS is an amazing show for anyone who is anyone in the oil and gas sector.  The organizers of the event have created a world class event that is HIGHLY recommended.

The vendors that I spoke to in a wide gamut of disciplines were engaging, smart and experts in their field.

The wares that they displayed today provide a compelling example of how brilliant the human mind can be when there are complex problems to be solved.

All except for one vendor.

He had just finished telling me how his company could capture my data and store it on their servers until ready to blast it over to mine.  Yes – “blast it over” is a technology term … somewhere. :-)

Intrigued that he would be storing my client’s data on his company’s infrastructure and recognizing that my clients in the Fortune 25 space are HEAVILY regulated when it comes to data security, I asked him about his strategy to ensure the security of the data given my client’s regulatory requirements.

His response was a single word, “encryption”, to which I responded “Encryption is not an answer to a question about your strategy for data security, integrity and privacy but since you mentioned encryption, what type do you use?”

He replied “What difference does it make?”.

I indicated that his answers make all the difference in the world in regards to proving that his solution meets my client’s needs to which he responded “Who do you work for anyway?”

He just lost a deal.  He might have had the best product in its space (I doubt it) but as CEO of his organization, he would have to work extra hard to prove that to me by that time.

We Are Not Always Speaking To Whom We Think We Are

When we provide answers to questions, we are not only providing answers to the person we are speaking to directly but to every person that that person comes in contact with personally and professionally.

It reminds me of the Monk and Nagle song “The Twenty-First Time” when, as the singer turns his back on a woman collecting welfare, he wonders if he is turning his back on Jesus disguised as the woman.


Monk and Nagle–The Twenty-First Time


And so it is with this vendor’s flippant response.  He didn’t just respond to me – he responded to everyone in my network without caring to know who they are.

Unfortunately, unlike this blog, he won’t be anonymous in my interactions with my network.

I won’t be fighting to defend his answer or to give him a second chance either.  Why should I?  He burned all his lifelines with simple, indifferent and potentially ignorant comments.

Conventions Are Tough

Having been on the selling side of the convention circuit many times, I know how easy it is to get tired and frazzled when peppered with questions.

But we always have to keep our game face on – personally and professionally.

Especially when it is difficult to do so.

If we don’t, we may never know what we are throwing away or what might have been.

And so, when faced with a question that may be disarmingly simple, we should think before we respond.

Otherwise our final answer may actually be an answer that results in finality.

As for this vendor, I’m not too concerned.

There are plenty of highly-competent, super-intelligent, savvy vendors at the Global Petroleum Show who are happy to pick up the business that he throws away as he proves that Darwin’s insight on the survival of the fittest proves true in business.

In service and servanthood,


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