05 Mar 2015

A small startup asked me to come out to London to train their sales team a couple weeks ago. Naturally, I was happy to oblige. As we worked out the final details − dates, travel, and accommodations − I learned their US-based team had rented a house for a couple weeks. Since they are a young, not-yet cash-flush company, they asked that I take the most economical flight − even if it meant me staying an additional night or two; the house had an extra bedroom, so that cost was fixed. It sounded great to me; I’d get to dust off my sales enablement skills and get to spend a weekend in London (and this time [theoretically] without the burden of a broken ankle). So I booked my trip and off I went.  

 As the last of the cohabiting quartet to arrive, I got the least desirable room. Not entirely unexpected, but I tell you what: I’ve never missed the simple luxuries of the Holiday Inn Express so much. Let me paint the picture for you… 

This ‘house’ they rented wasn’t a “whole house” as they − and AirBnB − would have us believe; instead we occupied the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors of a house that our host continued to inhabit the bottom two floors of. The first few floors had high ceilings making our space, from a stair-count perspective, more like on the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors. 

My room was in the clock tower. To reach it, after climbing five normal flights of stairs, I had to ascend a series of stairs so twisty and narrow my carry-on suitcase barely squeezed through. At the top I found a small room with a bed, a table, and a door. I sat down on the corner of the bed to remove my shoes and settle in for the evening. It didn’t go well. 

The mattress gave way and we fell straight through to the floor. The ‘bed’ − which was basically a mattress on top of a plywood rectangle, slatted haphazardly underneath − broke away like a movie prop. I retrieved a piece of the splintered wood and used it to prop up the corner of the mattress. There was still a visible sinkhole mid-mattress, but whatever, it’s only a week − I’d live. 

It gets worse … 

Shortly after snuggling in I realized the radiator didn’t work and the window was missing a pane. The plastic patch they provided sort of blocked the breeze, but did very little to combat the 35 degree London air seeping through the wall. Moreover, the patch did absolutely nothing to buffer the church bells that chimed the time − every hour on the hour. So far not ideal sleeping conditions, but with enough jet lag I was still confident I could sleep through it. 

Then the water started … 

Behind the door that I assumed (hoped) was a closet resided a 150 gallon tub. Picture the love child of a bathtub and an oil drum − giant, black, and metal. About a foot above this monstrosity resided a spigot that ran CONSTANTLY. Mostly as a trickle, but any time anyone used any water − sink, toilet, whatever − it kicked into high flow mode. So there I am trying to sleep next to a not just running, but flowing-from-a-height water on water sound effect. 


The next morning, I went to take a shower. As one of my housemates put it: “the head packs all the showering force of mouse spit.” Boiling mouse spit is more like it! Somehow the engineering of this tub allowed for perfectly temperate water to spew out the spigot, but only scalding hot H2O to reach the shower head. Even if the pressure was sufficient to wash and rinse hair, the temperature made the process all but impossible. By the third day I could avoid shampooing no longer − I had to cave and take a bath. I felt like I was nine again, trying to bathe in three inches of water at my Grandma’s house. 

As I sat, sad and defeated in the tub, I couldn’t help but think about the finer points of contract negotiation. People always say “be thorough” and “put everything in writing,” but it wasn’t until now that I really appreciated sentiment. It made me wonder how often do we gloss over contract details because we assume we mean the same thing as our clients? Do things as simple as ‘accommodations’ and ‘renewal option’ mean the same thing to everybody?

Clearly not. I can safely say I’ve exceeded my lifetime corporate camping quota; from here on out I vow to always specifically write a proper hotel into future contracts. And I’d encourage you to do the same − know what you need to be successful and ask for it.

So this week, make sure the fine print plays in your favor. We too often breeze over such details in good faith, but unless you want to risk the sales-equivalent of playing Rapunzel, give your contracts a second thought. It certainly can’t hurt. 


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Last modified on Thursday, 05 March 2015 01:03
Erin Wilson

I find great amusement in everyday absurdities and am constantly surprised by how my bar-ventures, my travels, and even my food-qusitions relate to the shenanigans that is software sales. I am grateful for the opportunity to leverage the Sapient Salesman as an outlet to share with you my follies, and I hope you can enjoy the schadenfreude.

Website: ebullienterin.com/
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Erin Wilson is the author and publisher of the Sapient Salesman

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