There is a saying in Hindi language, which came from a folk tale — “Boond se gayi, woh haudh se nahi aati” — which translates to “An entire tub full cannot retrieve what the drop took away!”
The real meaning is to watch out for your first interactions as well as instinctive reactions, as they give away your character. What is lost in these, can never be recovered by any subsequent intentional and planned actions.
In the business scenarios, we normally get one chance to put our foot in. Getting that first chance itself takes lots of effort and not sure how many months or years of persistence by the sales representative.
Then it depends on whether we grab it correctly, or not!
If we have the wrong first impression — then we have wasted the entire effort put in by the sales representative.
I have seen many making blunders and losing out when they had real chance. Sometimes it was overconfidence and sometimes it was chaotic planning across the team members.
It did not matter whose fault it was or why it happened the way it did.
Reality was that they did not get second chance.
Do you ever want to be in that situation?
The folk tale
Akbar the great — a mughal Emperor in India, who reigned from 1556 to 1605, once received the gift of a rare perfume. As he opened the bottle, a drop of perfume fell to the floor.
Akbar instinctively moved to retrieve it by wiping the floor with his finger.
As Akbar looked up, he noticed a bemused look on Birbal’s face… his eyes seemed to mock the Emperor for being scrounging.
In order to change Birbal’s perception, Akbar summoned him the next morning to his bath.
He asked his attendants to fill up the bathtub with the best of perfumes.
Akbar sought to show Birbal that as an Emperor he could afford to waste as much perfume, as he wanted.
Birbal, when asked to react, said the immortal lines, “Boond se gayi, woh haudh se nahi aati” (An entire tub full cannot retrieve what the drop took way!)
Birbal sought to tell the Emperor that his earlier instinctive action (that exhibited miserliness) could not be undone by an intentional action (aimed at big-heartedness).
In my past jobs, there were three different occasions, where we were looking for alternate IT services solutions provider.
I wish the teams from two of those providers, had learned very well from their prior experience of many years, what this folk tale’s morale teaches.
You can see why from the scenarios below.
Existing provider approach — Over confidence
There were issues all over in the existing services which were escalated a few times to the top level in the service provider organization.
Clear ask was to come up with a solution on how to fix and a well-prepared project plan for it.
The new team leads came in for the discussions. We were expecting the proposed solution with a time-bound plan.
They had the guts to say let us start over again.
Instead of coming up with solutions on existing issues, they started with a notepad asking basic questions about requirements.
Right up front they blamed the earlier sales team and existing working team on how the entire work for the last many months was completely wrong.
Throwing the team under the bus.
Trying to play smart.
No consideration about the time and money spent until that point.
I will never forget the reaction they received.
Our executive almost threw them out of the door.
They tried to come back a week later promising a better solution.
But they had lost at the first time itself.
First competing provider approach
The next meeting was with another provider organization who were waiting for the opportunity to replace existing ones.
Their team members flew from all over the country. I later came to know that some of them were meeting each other for the first time in our reception area.
They had a full hour with them.
Enthusiastically, their leader started with the pitch.
Then came the turns. Each of the guys who flew from various places thought they were the best. So every one of them went way over their allocated time trying to prove their worth.
Our chief executive had a hard stop at the hour.
The team hardly finished their pitch by then.
They did not even spend a minute to ask what our team was looking for.
We never met with them again.
Second competing provider approach
This team also had team members who flew from coast to coast.
They also had an hour.
After a brief introduction from both sides, they spent first 15 minutes in asking questions about what we were looking for out of this meeting, in addition to whatever was already shared with them.
Then, only a few of them gave their pitch by modifying it to suit to our specific needs, for half an hour.
The last 15 minutes were used for Q&A.
This team went on to have multiple discussions in the next few weeks and finally won the deal.
Get the foundations right. Do your study. Give justice to the efforts done by everyone involved earlier.
Don’t just show up well dressed.
Show that you have the best character also.
Even if you have a tub full of things to waste.
Nobody cares about what you have.
Everyone cares about how you will take care of them. Right from the first interaction!!!