Call Waiting

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” But in my case I would expand on that phrase a bit: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned or ignored following a new business meeting.”

The story starts as I was making my way through my cold calling list and I got a call back from a voice mail message that I had left just minutes earlier. It was a high tech company and the VP of marketing was returning my call to say that he was interested in our services. Yippee for me, I hooked one! Sack dance time! Steve chatted with him on the phone, discussing a potential project that seemed to be an ideal match for our capabilities. He happened to have an opening the following morning so we made an appointment to meet with him the next day.

We met for about an hour and during the meeting, the VP frequently commented that “we really understood what he was looking for,” and he nodded his head in agreement to the points Steve was making. We finished the meeting all smiles and he took us on a tour of their facility, introduced us to some of his staff, and acknowledged that the timing of my phone call to him was fortuitous. We even chatted about our children of similar ages.

For an engineer, he seemed almost bubbly about the prospect of working together. I know that one good meeting doesn’t make someone your new best friend, but I certainly felt like we had made a connection. When we left, he said that he would be talking with the president of the company, and if we didn’t hear back from him, to give him a call in two to three weeks.

More than three weeks goes by and we don’t hear from him so I call and get his voice mail. I leave a message that I’m just checking in, and we’re still excited about the opportunity to work together, etc. I imagine what he’ll say when he calls back: “You’ve been on my mind constantly, I’ve just been very busy but I can’t get along without your services a moment longer so let’s schedule another meeting so we can immediately get started on the project.”

The reality is that I don’t hear back from him that hour, or day, or week. When I mention to Steve that I’m really bummed out because he didn’t return my call, he reminds me that we had a meeting not a date and I can stop checking my cell phone for missed calls.

Three more weeks pass and I call and leave another voice mail and again, he doesn’t call back. I’m thinking, “Why would a guy who seemed very polite not return my call?” In my mind, there’s only one legitimate reason: total incapacitation ““ in which case I want a note from his doctor. “Dear Steve and Colleen, please excuse Tom’s inability to return your calls. He has been hospitalized for the past six weeks without access to a phone. However, his prognosis looks good and he promises that you will be the first call he makes upon his discharge.” Nothing short of this will placate me.

Back to reality, I’ve already left two voice mails ““ how long should I wait before I leave another? When does following-up become stalking? I decide that driving to his office before dawn and waiting in the parking lot to ambush him when he arrives for work to ask him why he hasn’t returned my calls would probably fall into the latter category.

Steve, who has been in this business a couple of decades longer than I have, reminds me that I can’t get too invested in any one prospect. “After all,” he says, “haven’t we had more than a dozen equally good meetings with every bit as much potential for business?”

Yes, he’s right. If I slow down and set aside my indignation I know that you have to kiss a lot of toads to find a prince. And the truth is that since we haven’t talked with him since our initial meeting, this guy could in fact turn into a prince”¦he could just be a late bloomer. I should know better than anyone about taking a longer term view of things; some new business contacts I made more than two years ago are now bearing fruit.

And what if I leave him a couple more voice mails and we never hear back from him and that’s the end of it? Was that meeting a waste of time? When I think back to how I felt when he responded to my cold call, I remember that it totally re-energized me. That meeting was not a waste of time, it gave me the encouragement I needed to keep making calls, and getting meetings, and making more calls…



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