Swing for the Heart

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Vancouver 2002

The Indian Summer had turned out great that year. Vancouver shrouded itself in the fall cloak of a harlequin and let itself be caressed by the sun’s rays. The sea was still bringing in warm wind, and even though nobody went swimming anymore, many were enjoying a nice evening walk.

Jenny stopped on a bridge across the bay and gazed into the red sun, spilling in the distant waves. She’d never seen anything like it, and felt emotional as she witnessed this miracle borrowed from space. She felt as though God had indulged only her with this show. Only for a short moment, before stars would sparkle above the port city. Jenny sent a text message to Ray, knowing that, despite the time difference, he wasn’t sleeping.

RAY, THANK YOU FOR THE HEARTY MOMENTS. WITH LOVE

He wanted her to experience such a touching moment. Jenny is a hard-worker and brings results. He also knew that she would effectively network with new potential clients at the congress. He needed to get his company’s name out there. Good reputation, tradition, and stability are the sort of high currency that works in today’s competitive market. Excellent rapport between customer and provider can then ensure longevity of business. As soon as he makes his breakthrough, he’ll be able to start things up. His intuition and personality told him that Jenny was to be respected as a partner; treat her fairly and understand her needs and interests. She works for him and isn’t his property, but rather a key personnel in the newborn firm HeartGong Ltd.

October seemed like a particularly suitable month for promotion. Before the end of the year, clients would want to use up their resources, to seemingly decrease their profits for tax purposes. In October they’ll explore the market and potential suppliers, in November they’ll brainstorm in their home hospitals, make purchases, and in December they’ll pay.

Jenny began walking towards Horseshoe Bay, following the paths all the way to a luxurious part of town overlooking the lusciously covered hill-side down to the sea. She was thinking of the strategy principles the way Ray had indicated. The first rule of thumb never to be forgotten was business ethics. Still, there are certain tricks that do not contradict trade propriety. The airplane. That was the mysterious comment. It is a well known technique in business to make the buyer think that the seller may disappear from reach. The sense that the plane is about to depart, metaphorically. Lightly suggested, not forced. But this principle is not always valid, and that’s where certain sensitivity is required. When thinking of Ray’s comment ‘neighbour’, she recalled his advice. To let the customer know that he wouldn’t be the first to make the decision to buy. And place a sample in his hand. So that he can touch and see for himself. That way he feels as though he’s already got it. And his comment ‘the last one’, what was it? When the situation arises – even though she has to tell the truth – she’ll underscore that supplies are almost depleted. And after the deal is closed, she’ll add something as a bonus. Even if they’re just their little promotional calendars, it’s important for the customer to remember them. But the client needs to leave thinking an exception had been made – just for him. Lastly, she can’t appear desperate in closing the deal. If not, it’s not the end of the world.

Jenny smiled to herself, Ray was a good strategist. But still, he emphasized: “Jenny, the nature of our product is such that, sooner or later, the client is forced to purchase it. Be aware of this. If we remain ethical and professional, we can be truly successful. First achieve a positive balance within ourselves, then surely in our bank account too.”

Night had fallen over Vancouver, but the air was still warm. Jenny felt happy and safe. She was looking forward to the congress and was prepared to deliver excellent results. That is also why Ray sent specifically her to represent their young company. He knew he’d act in a highly professional manner, but Jenny would offer their products with real sincerity. And therein laid the strength of their professional relationship. She returned to the hotel well after midnight. She knew she’d get up easily, because she had had a nap on the plane and the congress didn’t start until ten. It’ll suffice if she’s there at eight to prepare their booth.

In the congress hall before eight in the morning, she found only technical personnel, other exhibitors, and a long table lined with navy bags and lists of all participants. Each bag also contained promotional materials about pharmaceutical products, surgical instruments, valves, cardiostimulators and other medical materials. There were also three different pens, a calendar, keychain and some other stuff.

Each bag also contained a large, colored one-sheet flyer. It was folded three times, so that when opened, it revealed heart chambers and valves. But the valve was symbolically represented by two palms. Graphically effective and immediately appealing. Simple information about an assortment of valves, patches and cardiostimulators. On the back was information about oxygenators; on both sides at the bottom was their contact information, and on top their slogan: ’Swing for the Heart. Inside was also a little corner pocket – the business card of company HeartGong.

Every participant received this flyer in their bag, which – among the promotional materials of large corporations – looked like a small child among grown-ups. For HeartGong it had meant a significant expense. But Ray knew that the investment would pay off. He had arranged a bag also for Jenny for her to bring back. He wanted to know how others presented themselves.

Jenny called at quarter after ten, as per their agreement.

“So, how does it look, Jenny? Booth is up?”

“Yes, I think we have a really good spot. I was able to rent out small reflectors for twenty dollars, to mount them on our stand. One is illuminating the little shelf with the cardiostimulator model and the other our poster. Is that alright?”

“Of course, great. Maybe, Jenny, the poster doesn’t need to be lighted, it attracts as it is. Aim the other light on the HeartGong logo, somehow. That will be better. And if it even hits the text ‘Swing for the Heart’, all the better.”

“Ok, I’ll do that, Ray.”

“And how do you like Vancouver?”

“Gorgeous, it’s too bad you can’t be here too. Really a fantastic city.”

“Is it rainy? In Vancouver if it’s not raining, it’s drizzling, and if it’s not drizzling then it’s an exception and it pours.”

“It’s a beautiful day.”

“I ordered it that way just for you, Jenny. So stay there, and keep your smile for three full days.”

“I couldn’t stop smiling even if I wanted to.”

“That’s good. Ok, go run along and meet the other participants. We can call later.”

Jenny felt like a captain of a ship. Almost literally, considering the immediate proximity of the Pacific Ocean.

Physicians in suits stopped by her booth, others were passing. Some grabbed the prepared plastic bag with a HeartGong logo, filled with promotional materials and a pen. Even that can indirectly work. There were those who immediately hid the bag in another, thus hiding the logo. Others showed real interest.

Like that man who was behaving somewhat oddly. He grabbed the bag and Jenny saw that he went off to the side with it, carefully studying every sheet of paper inside. He came back even during the break. He didn’t say anything; he watched Jenny as though he wanted to say something. But he remained silent. At one point Jenny even thought he wanted to ask her out for coffee, but then she recognized it wasn’t that type. When he disappeared in the crowd, she called right away. Ray never overlooked even the strangest of customers. That’s why he asked Jenny for all the details.

“Is he interested in you or in our valves?”

“He’s acting a bit strange. I don’t think he’s registered, either. I didn’t see him with the blue bag. Maybe he just put it away somewhere. I’m not sure.”

“Is he wearing a name tag?”

“No he’s not. I was looking for that right away. He’s not saying anything, but appears as if he wants to.”

“Try to find out as much as you can. It’s also possible that he’s trying to find out about an employment opportunity with one of the firms.”

“Do you think that he might want to work at HeartGong?”

“Perhaps. But we don’t have money to hire anyone else right now. We’ll see how he’ll turn out. Did he take our business card?”

“He did. He studied it very carefully.”

“I think that he’s looking for work. It’ll be someone with a bit of business experience, probably someone local from Vancouver, who frequents such events. I could understand that. How does he look? Respectable?”

“Quite well. I would say he’s younger than you. He looks serious. Almost sad, I’d say.”

“That’s the face of a guy without a job. That’s what he’s about, I bet. But the trouble is that we can’t take anyone, no matter how capable or qualified, even if we wanted to. You’ll see when he approaches you. Maybe he really only wants a cup of coffee with you.”

“Am I allowed to have a cup?”

“One – a very weak one. So it doesn’t fire you up too much,” he laughed.

“I’ll let you know what happens. I think he’s coming towards me. Yes, yes, that’s him. I’ll let you go then.”

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