Spot Check Required

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Pay attention.

That’s my new message to myself when I go to visit client prospects. “Pay attention to where you are,” I tell myself and I do a spot check of what is on my person.

I do this now because of what happened last week.

I was with several colleagues, meeting with a potential corporate client. We were discussing our work with nonprofits in the areas of messaging and media relations, and the conversation was developing nicely.

But then he asked me, “What’s that?” in a tone that wasn’t too pleased. And he pointed to the pen that was lying on top of my notebook. It bore the name of his firm’s fiercest competitor. I wanted to crawl under the conference table.

“Are you a customer of theirs?” he asked me. I nodded yes.

I moved the pen under a flap in my binder. I also turned red, and he commented on this phenomenon and then he let me off the hook. The conversation continued in a positive direction.

My learning is to be more aware of my surroundings when I head into a business meeting. I consider their competition. I check the materials I’m carrying in my binder. Is there anything I should tuck away? Do I have competitor’s business cards that are visible?

I think it’s also a good idea to consider your bumper stickers. Buttons you might be wearing on an overcoat. You never know what kind of message you might be sending without being aware of it.

Do yourself a favor and tune in and do a spot check every time you call on a client or a prospect.

It could save you embarrassment, and rejection.

We were lucky. All was not lost in the Escapade of the Pen. We were invited to submit a proposal for media relations services.

And as we left the prospective client’s office that day, I threw the offending pen in the trash bin just outside the elevator.

Since then, I have discovered others in my purse, my car. I have discarded them all, intentionally leaving them behind at meetings and giving them to friends.

I think from now on, I will only carry Bic or Beetle Press pens. They are safe.

And I will pay attention.

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