Into every business life, a few disasters will fall. But, recovering gracefully from disasters can still enable you to win the deal or forge a relationship. Here is our story…
WINGS for Growth is a young organization, and is focused on mentoring young women to be leaders, however we are fortunate enough to have several connections to some large and well respected companies. Recently we were engaged by a large, respected, Luxury Fashion Company with whom we hoped to forge a long-term relationship and possibly financial support. We were invited to present our program to their senior leadership. They offered us 90 minutes of their valuable time. This meeting was a significant milestone for us. Our team was working hard for weeks to ensure that our presentation looks top notch and all loose ends were tied.
Finally, the day has come!
We left 3 hours before meeting time allowing for any delays. The bad news is there was a bad accident in the tunnels leading to New York where the meeting was to be held, and we had no way to get around it. The result was we were stuck in the tunnel and were over an hour and a half late for the meeting. We called our senior contact in the company and asked what we should do. She was not very happy about the situation. Perhaps, she was feeling let down. They asked us to get there when we can, and then they will see if they still have the time for us. This was clearly a non-committal response, still much better than having to turn back.
When we finally arrived, everyone seemed to be impatient and agitated, and although they were trying to be polite, we were informed we only had 10 minutes left. Now it was our turn to feel tense and stressed. We had just been through a very long and uncomfortable ordeal to get here and now we only had 10 minutes? As a main presenter, all heads turned to me to take control of the meeting. We had two choices – recover gracefully or give up. Taking a moment to regain composure, we decided to make the most of our time with the fashion company by staying positive and not giving up, our last weapon to recover gracefully.
South goes North
Rather than launching into our prepared pitch, our senior advisor suggested we hit the highlights at this point and see if we can win them over.Speaking very much from the heart, Varsha put away the prepared presentation and instead told them briefly about our organization, our experiences, what we could bring to the table and what we felt they could bring to the table. Bob, our senior advisor played quarterback by carefully watching body language and providing color commentary when needed. Mathangi, another team member, focused on highlighting aspects of our program that were relevant to their goals and objectives, Looking back, we truly had our “A” team at the meeting and this helped us to regroup and find a new way – – FAST.
Using a team approach, and openly showing our passion for the organization, the most extraordinary thing happened. Not only did they appreciate our deep values and strong commitment to the success of the program, but they were so taken by our passion, they granted us extra time!Not all of the invited executives could stay, but enough of them did stay to allow us to forge a strong relationship with them. They were thinking of using a large consulting company to help them with mentoring their leaders – but our passion and experience convinced them to give us a serious consideration.
In a few short weeks, one of the senior executives from the fashion company spoke at our December Mentee Orientation. We were thrilled to have her and she gave a very inspirational talk to our mentees on how to become a good leader.
Graceful recovery tips
What did we learn from this experience? Every so often, things will “go south” on you. What you do about it is up to you. If you choose to recover gracefully, here are some things to consider.
1. Be prepared to deviate from your prepared plan
2. Teamwork is a key. Ensure all your team members are on side with the “new plan” and their role in it
3. When things don’t go as planned, try to connect with the people in the room as quickly as possible. Listen carefully for sound bites that will connect you with your audience. Observe body language and modify your pitch to make it relevant.
4. Being honest and open while being passionate about your believes could be the game changer
Recovering gracefully is not an easy thing to do, but it is often a choice that can lead to positive outcomes.
Even if you cannot close a deal, it could at least lead to another meeting where you will have more time.
If you had an experience with recovering gracefully, please share it. We would love to hear from you.