He was a large man. He was out of shape and had a tendency to lumber when he walked. He had longish, jet black hair that was unruly and strayed down around the corners of his eyes at times. I remember thinking on more than one occasion as he was instinctively brushing his hair off of his face, that he probably needed an introduction to a good barber, but it would not have done much for his appearance. He was not a handsome man.

Prior to meeting him, I had only heard rumors from the more senior account team members. Actually they were all more senior than I was. I was the newest member of this large account team, and fresh out of the company’s Entry Level Training Program. I had done well throughout the training program and was highly regarded by the company and my branch, so much to my surprise my first active assignment was to be assigned to one of the premier accounts in the branch. That was the good news.

The bad news was that I had yet to prove myself to the members of the team. I therefore got the assignment that no one else on the team wanted. I was assigned to cover the downtown data center, which meant that my primary customer was the downtown Data Center Manager that I began describing to you in the opening of this article.

He was infamous for his abuse of end-users, data center engineers and technicians, peer managers, and sales people in particular. I use the term “abuse” figuratively of course, because he was a smart man and he knew just how far he could go. In fact, to be perfectly honest, he was more than just smart… the man was very likely a genius, who could do amazing things in planning, designing, and managing that data center and all of the related systems connected to it. You just had to be able to put up with his quick wit and his lack of tolerance for anything less than perfection.

As one of the principle vendors supporting the data center, he had already run through just about everyone on our team. Each of them had their own horror stories of either watching him seek and destroy someone during one of the weekly operations meetings, or of how he personally took them to task himself. So they could not wait to throw the new guy to wolf in this case… namely me.

I’ll never forget the first day I met him. I was nervous, but confident in my skills and in my training. He kept me waiting for almost a half hour beyond the time of our appointment. When he administrative assistant showed me into his office, it was a shock to the system. I was all prepared to find photos or pictures on the wall to use as the basis for establishing rapport. Instead, the walls were full of white-board with various systems diagrams and charts that I did not understand, piles of books and magazines and clutter were everywhere. There was no empty chair for me to sit in so I just stood there looking around kinda wide-eyed.

He was looking me up and down like a bad caricature, and literally sneering at me but he didn’t say anything. When I offered my hand to shake as I introduced myself, he didn’t really shake my hand as much as he dwarfed the whole thing with fat fingers and a hand like a catcher’s mitt. He still hadn’t said anything.

Finally, in something that sounded a lot like the cartoon villain in a bad “B” movie, he grinned while saying, “What the “#&$%” did you do wrong to get assigned to me?”

I remember thinking that he was wearing a really ugly tie, as I explained to him that I was fresh out of the company training program and newly assigned to the team.

He responded with something like, “What makes them think that I want some squirrelly rookie hanging around who doesn’t know his ‘@$$’ from a hole in the ground?”

My reflex reversal was spoken from the heart. I said, “That while I have no idea what they were thinking, but that I was thinking that I couldn’t wait to show whoever was lucky enough to be my first customer all that I have learned in training and everything that I could do. And if you’re looking for someone with absolutely no baggage and willing to do anything he can to prove himself, then I am the guy for you.”

With that I began taking him through a classic, highly interactive sales call like I’d been taught, and the rest is history. He decided he liked me and we put in more equipment in that data center under my watch than we had in the previous five years. I was there for about three years before moving on to a new assignment. I caught more than my fair share of abuse during those years as well, but it was worth it.

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