The Open-ended question

In the last couple of weeks, I am seeing some different trends emerging. The VP who was least interested in having any interface with me started responding to my emails. A few times he called up on phone too. The VP’s activism is matched with complete silence of the Cartel. Production guy who was friendly to me also is not taking my calls on his mobile. B too did not reply to my calls.

I am not sure of the reasons for change of style. Is the cartel remaining silent with some reasons or objectives? Or is it the order of VP to have single point inter-face with me?

The CEO and the director are on a month long overseas trip. They are meeting each of our existing customers in Europe and in North America. I had also fixed a few meetings for them with the clients that I intend to develop for the company.

A couple of days after their departure, I had got to finalize a deal with a customer in Patna. The deal was very profitable. But somehow VP was finding some reasons to object. One by one on each day he gave reasons not to accept this order.

– We can supply the product only without labels as supplying with labels will ruffle the existing clients – I resolved it by convincing the client to accept the product without labels.

– The price is not attractive – I proved that the price is very lucrative by arranging invoices of / quotes from the competitors.

– Apart from A grade product that we will be supplying, VP wanted the new party to buy B grade by-product also. – The new client agreed to this also due to my persuasion.

This dilly-dallying lasted for 7 days while the customer helplessly had to wait for finalizing the order. I did not like this particular high-handed approach with a first-time customer. At the same time, I played along with VP as taking a confrontationist approach would not help.

Luckily for me, immediately after this deal, I finalized another order with a client based in Jaipur. Then, I received documents for an annual tender from a big Spanish company to supply them with 500 tonnes of product. The outcome for the tender is still not known yet. My informal interactions with the Spanish client had been positive so far. I do hope to receive a positive answer from him soon.

Why has VP suddenly become responsive? My wishful thinking is that after two quick deals, the VP may be sensing that my stars may be rising. So he may want to align with me slowly. Another guess is that the CEO was on the copy of all emails pertaining to the Patna deal and he would have noticed the VP’s trying to make things difficult. So it was possible that CEO may have called the VP from overseas and have asked to co-operate with me. If my second guess is the reason which made VP responsive these days, then it may last only for a short-term. Let us see!

It is not that VP’s responses are always qualitative. His English is rather poor and half the time, I do not understand what he writes about. VP finds it convenient to reply only those emails which concerns about domain he is comfortable with. Any projects which requires study of technical feasibility and which has a long-term scope does not elicit any response from him. Either his confidence is too low or he does not want me to succeed on those deals! There is a high probability that the former is the reason!

CEO had become very excited about the month-long trip on the eve of departing. It looked very childish to me. He neither prepared himself for various customer meetings nor collected copies of correspondences etc. One can be extempore in a public talk, but for business meetings? Need one not be prepared?

After every meeting, he used to call me on phone and brief me in a weird way. He has this tact of talking absolutely bereft of points or sense.

“I met XYX Corp’ Director. I asked him to buy from us. He says he cannot buy all the products from us. I told him he need not buy all the products, but few products from us. He is landing in India tomorrow for some personal work. So you can call him up on his US Mobile number and persuade him to buy from us”

My head started spinning. If I have to call up the customer on his phone to canvass business, when he is on a visit to India,  What was CEO doing in New York? How can one have a conversation with a customer in such a general fashion like the excerpt shown above? Shouldn’t we be talking about the past discussions with the customer, about the products discussed on the last occasion the customer visited the plant, and more specific details, etc? How can one have open-ended discussions if one wants to have some outcome? Are CEOs made this way? If CEO can’t conclude anything, why is he traveling in the first place? Won’t it make more sense to allow me or B to travel? At least, it gives chance to CEO to ask for results from us. Now who can ask CEO about results of the trip?

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