Recently, I got called out for a wimpy-assed response concerning my company’s typical sales cycle.
I was sitting in the company of fellow sales and marketing managers in my networking group. It hadn’t started off as a good morning – I had been traveling non-stop over the last two weeks to major tradeshows in Anaheim and Seattle. My sleeping, eating, and exercising habits were as scattered as the dirty laundry piling out of my suitcase. A million ideas and followups were floating around in my head, and I hadn’t had the time to organize my thoughts into a comprehensive game plan.
But really, no excuses – I had thoughtlessly spewed out some cop-out response that sounded good but had no real substance, and my peers had thoughtfully called me out on it.
First Impressions Are Hard to Get Over
First gut response: take it personally. You know how everyone tells you not to take it personally when you’re networking? I say, bullshit. Putting personality and heart into every exchange I make is the best way I’ve found for making lasting connections. If you don’t personally believe in what you’re saying, then I probably have a limited interest to hear you out as well. Knowing this, I can honestly say that it took me a while to get over the remark and its blunt honesty – that if I didn’t know my own sales cycle and couldn’t pin it down past generalizations, then my comment was pretty all-around, spectacularly useless.
I guess all of us are searching, in some way or another, for the affirmation that we aren’t useless.
Doubly so for me – I’ve learned quickly that in this male-dominated industry, you can get slotted into the just-for-looks category on barely a first impression. Since sparkling pink nails and fake eyelashes are hardly my weapons of choice, avoiding the booth bunny stereotype is my only path to success. Sure, we can go on and on about the current injustices against women and minorities in general (and this awesome book I’m reading by Susan Douglas eloquently does just that), but I’d rather focus on being remarkable while the world catches up.
It’s All In The Recovery
Recognizing the misstep is step one – changing that first impression is another game altogether. Thankfully, in this case, I had a few hours to close the gap, which is something that doesn’t happen all the time in the whiplash-fast world of networking.
That cliche, Be Yourself? I think I’ve got one better – Don’t be afraid to come off strong. As women, I think we’re internally conditioned to agree and find harmony in group settings. However, mediocrity isn’t catching, and I won’t remember people who sacrifice beliefs in the face of political correctness. I will remember and come to appreciate people who hold opinions that challenge and shock my own.
Even if we start off arguing over it.