Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Test This!

As a consultant, often I go to potential client sites, selling my services. Usually these potential clients have a real need for a writer, so the only thing I’m selling is why I’m better than the rest.

Usually this “sell” job is much like a job interview. It consists of them reviewing my work, checking references of past clients, and meeting to discuss the project. Once they have chosen the consultant they want, there is a final meeting to discuss terms.

Today, I had a meeting to discuss a project with a potential client. The potential client had reviewed my work samples and was ready to meet to discuss their needs. This is where I go in, and wow them with my expertise and show them how I can solve their writing problems.

I knew things were off to a bad start when the person I was supposed to meet wasn’t even in the office during the time when we were scheduled to meet. “Maybe he’s still at lunch,” said the receptionist.

I said I could wait a bit, but that I had other meetings to get to later in the day.

Eventually this bozo shows up, about 10-minutes late. He’s lucky – he came within my fifteen-minute rule. I have a rule I use when meeting clients, friends, pretty much anyone. If you are late, fine, happens to all of us. I’ll wait fifteen-minutes, and if you’re still a no-show, I’m outta there. Gone, quick as lightening.

Luckily, this person arrived within my fifteen-minute rule, so I was still there. A little less enthused about this client, but hey, these meetings are for both parties to decide if there is a fit, so I gave him the benefit of doubt.

He quickly introduces himself, shakes my hand and leads me to the back. Pure and utter awkward silence. I try to make small talk.

“Nice office you have here,” I say, as their offices are in the distillery district, a historic area of town with lots of quaint shops and eateries.

“Um,” he says.

“How long have you been at these offices?” I ask, attempting to make small talk again.

“A while,” he mumbles.

Finally we arrive at a computer workstation – though I had my laptop with me. I always take it to client meetings.

“Here is a test I want you to do,” he finally opens up.



What test?

I’m a professional, I have an extensive portfolio of work, I have presentations, I have exceptional references from current and past clients – no body said anything about a test.

Tests are great for kids coming out of school and looking for their first gig. Tests are good for paranoid employers looking to weed out those that have nothing to prove they are who they say they are.

But a test to someone with my experiences, my portfolio, my references, a test to someone like me is an insult.

Not to mention we haven’t even met to discuss what exactly they need or want, and whether or not I’d be just the person to provide those services.

I look at my watch – I’ve set aside an hour-and-a-half for this meeting. He says this test won’t take more than 30 minutes – still leaves us an hour to talk shop.

Begrudgingly, I take his silly little test. They have given me two scenarios and want me to write a quick sample to show how I’d tackle these two scenarios.

Okay, so I write their test. It takes me 45 minutes.

I go and get Mr. Untalkative and show him my test. He prints it out and we go to a boardroom to finally talk about what I came here to discuss – my writing services.

Mr. Untalkative finally starts to talk, he goes over my test like a school teacher grading an exam. He tells me I did well, but asks me why I chose this and that, and few other things.

Time is ticking away. I don’t have all day – unlike Mr. Untalkative, I work for a living.

I mention to him that I do have other meetings to attend to, and if he’s got any other questions for me, he had better get to them.

Taken back, he tells me he’s booked off the whole afternoon, the least I could do is the same. Yeah, right – book off a whole afternoon to talk to some potential, non-paying client when I can be working at some current client making real money?

Yeah, right, this meeting is toast.

We do talk about his needs, and I whip out my laptop and go over things that I have done, which he is in need of. He seems happy, though he’s got a lot of questions, and time continues to tick away.

As he’s asking a few more questions, I see the time, and I start to pack up. He asks me what I am doing. I tell him that although I enjoy this discussion, I do have to be somewhere.

I think he is annoyed, but I think – I THINK – he realizes that the world doesn’t revolve around him, and he understands.

He tells me they will make a decision by Thursday.

“Of this week!?!?” I exclaim, partly because usually companies take a couple of weeks to make a decision, and partly because of his lazy-ass attitude, I couldn’t believe they’d make any decisions that fast.

He says, “we aren’t as big as some of your other clients,” which is true. I’ve got a few big names under my belt.

I thank him for his time, and he shows me out. He shakes my hand and tells me it was nice meeting me. I say the same, not quite sure what to make of this experience.

First he was late, then he was silent as all doom and gloom, then he springs a test on me without evening figuring out if we are in the same ballpark.

Did I mention, I hate tests?

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