Making the Connection (Issue 572, originally published June 2009)

In which we learn to think about connections in companies we call on.

[Note: Dear readers, as part of Memorial Day remembrances, I share this column written in 2009  to recall the memory of a prospect.]

June 10, 1993 was a to-live-for summer day in Boston; the view from mid-way up the 52-story Prudential Center was spectacular. That morning, I called on a senior sales training manager at Gillette on the 25th floor.

This call was a VERY big deal for me  – large company, enormous sales force, highly profitable, and one of THE Crown jewels in corporate Boston. He was tall, lanky, and crisply dressed, his moustache precisely trimmed.

We met to discuss sales force business acumen and cross selling. We were sitting at his desk, me in the side chair facing him, he in his desk chair.  Our conversation developed well, generating several promising ideas.  I felt elated.

As the meeting drew to a close, he paused, smiled at me,  and said thoughtfully,  “I’d like to show you something.”

He reached into his upper right desk drawer, fished around for a moment, and pulled out a box large enough to hold a pen. In fact, as he showed me, it contained a pen. He held the pen up, just in front of his face.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked.

“Yes. A pen…..”

“Made by….” he asked?

He motioned for me to hold up my pen. I was using my favorite gold-colored Cross pen. He held his pen next to mine.

“Made by Parker,” I beamed, correctly identifying the pen.

“Yes,” he said, smiling.  “Gillette owns Parker….  Cross is our direct competitor.”

Looking directly into my eyes, he extended his arm and passed his pen to me.

“Next time we meet,” he said, voice hardening just slightly, “I suggest you use the Parker pen.”

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