The Whiteboard Essays. #1, “Feedback”

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Essay 2: The Do-Over // To get right to the Helpful Safety Tips, start here.
Essay 3: Bringing It
Essay 4: Training Montage!

[10 days after being hired, nearly 2.5 years ago.]

I just received my first lesson in salesmanship, and I’m a little singed around the edges, but I’m fine.

“Okay. Today we’re going to be, and the topic is [product]. You have 45 minutes, starting now.”

This is all about “Salesmanship 101”. In short, part of the certification process for me to get in front of customers is for me to do a bunch of whiteboard talks on various parts of my employer’s technology.

The twist is that these are role-playing discussions, where I’m the first post-sales person they talk to, and they’re playing the “web guy”, the “security guy”, the “CTO-who-had-no-idea-this-got-signed”, and so on. It is not meant to get ugly, but they’re skeptical.

[Note from the present: As I was to later find out, Salesmanship 101 is only a part of it. The Whiteboards are also a test of how well you can integrate everything you’ve learned into a cohesive whole. Memorization of facts will not save you, young Jedi.]

I completely forgot that this kind of talk is a storytelling session, and because I have a very large range of knowledge, I entertained and discussed all questions that they asked, as opposed to diverting the question and continuing with the story. I was given the 3 minute warning on a 45 minute presentation, and I spent maybe 5 minutes total talking about the product, and doing such technical digressions on it that I completely skipped over the most significant features.

During the feedback session at the end, they said “We didn’t have to distract you. You distracted yourself, which is a new one.” Every person on the panel said something like “You have an exceedingly deep well of knowledge, and you felt compelled to display it, as opposed to using it to inform your storytelling approach.”

I will admit that I felt pretty beat-up at the end, and I’m getting a do-over on Tuesday. No one thinks poorly of me for it… I fell into a standard-issue smart-person trap that others fell into before me, just with a double-twist and a half-gainer (difficulty 2.6).

It’s very much like the Neo-Morpheus fight scene in the The Matrix, where Morpheus said “How did I beat you?” I could see what was happening while it was happening, but I couldn’t find a way out in real time. This is all Salesmanship 101.

The funny part is that I’ll probably be able to look at sales pitches much more analytically, now. Practice Increases Resolution.

Okay. Back to prepping. I have a story to tell.

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