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Friday, March 28, 2014

Hanging with the Big Boys

Once upon a time, my former company provided merchandise to various major corporations for promotional use.  This often included custom apparel and other merchandise branded with the company logos, and we sometimes had the opportunity to attend events and sell the merchandise on site.  This means "entertainment" time with our customers.  Whether you are male or female, you had better be able to keep up.

Las Vegas is a big meeting/conference destination so I've spent many more evenings in Vegas than I care to remember, with several different customer groups.  It sucks to work in Vegas because it's almost impossible to get from one place to another, very difficult to meet up with people because there's no real lobby or one bar where everyone hangs out - you have to make specific plans to meet.  This can require meeting at Clubs, including expensive bottle service and limos, paid for by the supplier.  Almost without exception, customers are way more fun with a few drinks in them than they are behind their desk - and they probably feel the same about suppliers.  Seasoned professionals like myself can usually manage the situation better than the younger employees that we bring with us to work trade-show booths or sell the merchandise.  More than one employee has held another's hair while she threw up, and then both showed up in sunglasses the next morning.  This usually impresses customers.  (Digression about Vegas:  I'm not a gambler, so instead, I go directly to a store in the Venetian called Shoooz, buy a pair of shoes and then pretend that's the money I lost gambling. Also best to share this type of information with your husband so that when you get home, he doesn't see the mail and wonder why you're getting thank-you notes from shoe stores in Las Vegas.... To be fair, Dave doesn't question thank-you notes from shoe stores at all anymore).

I have applied temporary tattoos to visitors at the Woodward Dream Cruise, sold shirts at drag races, demonstrated blenders at trade shows, packed lunches into coolers under the bleachers at the Brickyard 500, labeled trophies in hotel conference rooms, hung out in countless hotel bars, ate pizza and cleaned out mini-bars with customers in the wee hours - not very glamorous, but for the most part, almost always fun.

One memorable trip was to the Suburban Reunion in Austin, TX.  I was there with a a couple of guys from the brand team and a couple of other suppliers. These were big drinkers and the reality is that I'm a lightweight.  I can't drink that much and I find that it's a good practice to keep my wits about me, especially with customers, so here's how it worked:  As soon as we were situated at the bar (another supplier was getting this tab), I pulled the server aside, handed her $20, told her I'd be ordering vodka/cranberry and to please bring me vodka the first time, then cranberry juice and water on the rocks after that.  Hope my Chevy contact isn't reading this because I never told him what I did - he still thinks I matched them drink-for-drink.  The other supplier was passed out on the bouncer's stool at the end of the night - we had to carry him to the car.  The Chevy contact was barely able to walk under his own power (good thing I was the designated driver) and I got serious street cred for being able to "hang", get everyone back to the hotel safely AND show up bright-eyed and functional the next morning.

Business girls have to be resourceful.

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