Red Rover, Red Rover

Since my job is half sales and half recruiting, I spend a lot of time out of the office, trying to visit people, build relationships, get to know clients and prospects, etc. One of the things the company encourages us to do if we can’t get someone to set up an appointment with us is to stop by and say hello and bring a little gift- calendars, staplers, little magnetic desk-sculpture thingies, etc. The idea is that we aren’t supposed to put anyone to work until we’ve had a chance to visit the site where they’ll be working. Not a bad idea, really.

The problem is, my company’s US operations are based in the South. Before employees from northern metropolii go to training for a week in Georgia, our managers often warn us, “Don’t be upset when the people from the south schedule more visits than you. People are just friendlier there than here.”

But more than that, this tactic seems to ignore the fact that in most buildings in DC (and I’m guessing most in New York), you can’t just waltz in and go see somebody. You have to engage in what I like to call “Office Building Red Rover” to get past the lobby to the elevators.

The difficulty of Office Building Red Rover varies from building to building, but the players are generally the same. There is always some sort of uniformed security guard behind a large and imposing desk between you and the elevator. And most importantly, between you and the building director. This person will usually need to know who you are and where you’re going before you may proceed.

Maybe the building is like mine, where I waltz past the security desk each morning with a wave to the guard, who is only asking for IDs and sign-ins before she lets people upstairs. Maybe the building is like the RIAA’s, where the security guards call upstairs and ask if they have permission to let you into the elevator just so you can bring them some candy (not that I blame the RIAA for being paranoid. If I were Satan, I would be too). The worst case is the Hogan & Hartson building at Columbia Square. There, visitors have to be “on the list” at the front desk before being issued a proximity card that will only send the elevator to the floor you have been specifically authorized to visit. Building security at the World Bank rivals the process at most airports- when we visit that client, we offer to take him out to lunch, just to make it easier.

Don’t have picture ID with you? Tag! You’re out! The receptionist at the client doesn’t want your Halloween candy? Tag!

It’s hard to be in a relationship-based business when everyone is to busy or paranoid to see you.

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