So how hard is it to talk to somebody? In the business environment it’s a lot harder than it appears. Several years ago I had an incidentat a trade show. I was on the floor of the booth, not really doing much. The show was very slow, pretty much the only thing going on was assorted customer meetings in the booth’s conference rooms. One meeting ended and the independent sales rep brought the customers over to talk to me. He had to make a call to his boss and asked me to show the customers our new products. I went into Vanna White mode and wandered around the booth showing off our latest and greatest. They were one the largest manufacturers of ATMs and a very large customer of ours. They probably bought close to ninety million dollars worth of product from us every year.
My job was really just to keep them busy while the rep made his call. When we got to the section of the booth that was showing the product they bought we stopped and they started asking a few questions. Nothing important, so I thought. One the senior guys asked “When will there be a new version of this product?” We had just sent out a press release the week before announcing the new version, so I figured it was safe to talk about it. “Right now! We’re getting samples next month. I can arrange to have a sample shipped to you if you want.” I got a completely different reaction than I was expecting. Instead of the usual, “that’d be nice please ship it to…” I was met with dropped jaws and looks of confusion. Huh? The senior vice president curtly said thanks and the group walked out of the booth a short distance away. The rep showed up and headed over to talk the customer. Thinking my job done I wandered off.
About fifteen minutes later the sales rep came stormingback into the booth. He was angry, really angry. I’ve been yelled at shows before. My personal record is to be yelled at simultaneously in four different languages (German, English, Mandarin and Japanese). But this is the first time I ever felt my personal safety was in jeopardy. This guy was bulging vein, wild eyed livid to the point of being incoherent. The only thing I could pick out of his ravings was “Why did you tell them about the new version? Uhm, because they asked.” I may have just cost this guy a quarter of million dollars in commissions with that comment. That will get your ass beat.
Shortly I was in a meeting where I was the only person there without word president in his job title getting grilled. I found out they had just reached an agreement for the ATM company to buy a major upside of the existing version. The customer didn’t know about new version, that is until I told them. Now they were upset about being lied to. The upside sale was tanked, not to mention damaging the customer relationship. The rep raged at me “You fucking idiot you NEVER TELL A CUSTOMER about an unannounced product”. This is where Google is awesome. I pulled out my smart phone, Googled the new versions part number and pulled up a copy of the press release on a new site. “We did a press release last week” shoving my phone into the middle of the table. “it’s on the web. I assumed an important customer had been told about this rather than finding out randomly from a news site”. I looked at the rep. Tag, you’re it, asshole. Quickly the presidential firing squad changed targets from me to the rep.
This is a long story pointing out that a seemly safe comment can still get you killed. Trying to make conversation is really hard for me. It’s even harder when you’re trying to control the conversation. It’s tiring trying to steer the topics around touchy subjects with jerks that just won’t let something go. I’ve often thought that this has to be one of the more taxing parts of a Dancer’s job. The floor of the strip club is a business environment. The girls are there to make money and what they say directly can impact how much they make.
There is a level of stress associated with conversations like this. There are real consequences to everything you say. The worse is when somebody intentionally forces the conversation to things you don’t want to talk about. For me on the show floor its pricing. Every price in my industry is negotiated. There really is no fixed price and yet, people will pound me into the ground trying to get me to give them a price. I hate that. Dancers have to deal with customers who constantly ask for their "real names" along with a number of other annoying personal questions.
I also hate the idiots that insist on arguing with me. I hate physics majors at trade shows. They ask questions that either I don’t have an answer to or I can’t tell them because it’s proprietary. Or they’ll tell you that your product specifications are wrong. That’s it is impossible for a product to do what it’s claiming to do, even though its doing it right in front of him. The first couple if times it was fun debating with the guy. The 952nd time I have this conversation I’d rather bash his skull in with a brick. I think most dancers would agree with me that bashing the guy with a brick would be very satisfying but not profitable.
Since a business conversation is something you can’t just walk away from or tell the person to fuck off (usually), I'm forced into a contest of wits and will. It may be just talking at a show but the most exhaustive days I’ve had working at a show have been dealing with relentless know-it-alls that just want to argue. I try really hard not to be one of those guys when I talk to dancers. I hope I succeed.