I arrived at Terminal 2, The Queen’s Terminal, London Heathrow International Airport. I tried to shift into UK mode. I played Bohemian Rhapsody in my headphones.
I was here for a meeting with Decanter Wine Awards, a division of Time Magazine. The largest deal our company ever had a chance of signing, the deal that would bring us European operations if we won it, and most importantly the deal my company trusted me with to deliver on.
I switched to Estelle — American Boy featuring Kanye West.
Who the hottest in the world right now.
Just touched down in London town.
Bet they give me a pound.
Tell them put the money in my hand right now.
Tell the promoter we need more seats,
We just sold out all the floor seats
Who Killing em in the UK.
Everybody gonna to say you K
As I made my way to my hotel, I started to reflect on how this opportunity came about. Nearly 2 years earlier a business development rep sent a cold email to a bunch of places in the UK, Decanter was one of the few to respond.
The demo got passed along to Jordan, the same Jordan that brought Oracle for us in 2018 would now be responsible for nurturing Decanter. Spring and Summer of 2018 continued with several demos and a confirmation that Decanter would move ahead with us. Then, radio silence….
Jordan continued his outreach, every few months, until the winter of 2019 when a new IT person from Decanter reached out claiming, now was the time. We re-did nearly every demo and call we had in 2018 for this new person and by April we were told once again Decanter would move again. Then, delays. More delays.
On one of the last calls before this meeting I flipped out, with the customer on the line I said, “I’m done with these calls. You can talk to Jordan, but I’m done until further notice.” Jordan looked at me in horror, I was rude to his prospect.
He continued on, isolating me from any more calls until we had a draft agreement. Two more months continued with a technical proof of concept which would culminate in my trip to the UK.
I was jet lagged and tired out of my mind from all of the prep, but I had to let the world know I was in London. I purposely picked a place on Leicester Square so I was walking distance from sights I could document “for the gram.”
The weather was perfect and I made my way over the river Thames towards South Bank. For these two hours, I stopped thinking about the deal. My mind wandered back 11 years, when I was last at South Bank. I was still working at the government and my dreams of starting a business were still just that, dreams.
I woke up, showered, ironed my clothes, and started to make my way to Canary Wharf to the offices of Time, Inc. I got there early, around 8:30 AM and found a small cafe run by Italian women to prepare at. I enjoyed my espresso, omelette and sourdough bread.
I was nervous and reflected on the chat I had with Tim the night before. He told me that the whole team was rooting for me. Jordan and I tried to stay low key about this deal, but this one deal would be larger than every other deal we signed that quarter, combined, it was clear that all eyes were on us, and because the close was on me, I felt all eyes on me.
I felt my reputation was on the line, bringing this deal home would be expected, but failing, failing would make me a has-been at my own company.
The meeting starts and immediately I felt different than any other meeting I have been in. The managing director, senior IT staff, and a few of the day to day staff filled the room as I figured out how to connect my monitor.
With 6 counter-parties in the room my nervousness dissipated. My mind shifted into auto-pilot and I realized, I was trained for this moment.
The sales process I spent years learning came back to me with full tactical force, I went through the steps of the Sandler Submarine.
- Bonding and rapport
- Upfront Contract
In the United Kingdom, rowing is a well followed sport. You may remember from my previous post on our name that in rowing the term “Open Water” means a victory so far ahead of the competition that you can see open water behind the winning boat.
As the meeting ends, one of the people in the room asks, “so what is OpenWater?” I demonstrated using 2 TV remotes as rowing shells. I showed two remotes fiercely battling until one pulls away creating a blank space on the table.
As I finish my explanation one of the Decanter employees takes the winning remote to the edge of the table and points at me:
“This is you…., and that remote way back there,
that, that… that is [the competition]”
This victory was not just OpenWater. It was OpenWater-on-Thames.
We won the deal. We celebrated with a dinner. We went back to work. By the time we fully deliver on our agreement 2 years will have passed, we will have a full fledged European operation, and we will have forgotten the amount of hard work that went into this milestone.