Learn how to get a second bite at the apple

No, I am not writing about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the forbidden fruit that befell Adam for having been the one to take that second bite. I’ll leave that to the theologians to explain. Instead, I’m providing a few simple lessons about always keeping your options open to take advantage of another chance when needed most.

Dart throwers don’t always hit the bull’s-eye the first time, and LeBron James doesn’t always score on his first attempt at the hoop. The king of basketball is, however, superb at setting up his next shot with some quick thinking and incredible athleticism. For anyone in business who wants to sell something to someone else or convince others of anything — be it promoting an idea, finalizing a deal, closing a transaction or hiring your next superstar — the skill of quickly changing course in midstream is a sharply honed technique that can save the day.

Let’s assume you’re in a meeting with colleagues and you’re proposing what you think is a great something or other. As you continue your pitch, you get an inclination that things may not be going as planned. Your first hint is that the guy across from you not so subtly rolls his eyes with your latest utterance, or the gal at the other end of the table seems to, albeit rudely, find whatever is appearing on her smartphone more interesting than you. There are warning signs that can inexplicably pop up out of nowhere.

A good executive knows how to read the tea leaves and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. When you sense your presentation is going south, the first step is to take a few seconds for an unannounced “time-out” disguised, if necessary, by a brief coughing spell, to determine what’s gone awry. You can set up your second shot by abandoning your current effort to score and subtly refocus your storyline if you strongly believe you can change sentiments with a different approach. Or, if you’re stumped as to what to do next, a good backup for critical pitches is to have a cohort standing by outside the room to enter ceremoniously and hand you a note when summoned by your precomposed text transmitted by an unnoticeable single click of your phone.

Quickly pause, read the note and announce that some important, new information has just surfaced that will likely affect what you’re presenting, and the session must reschedule. Yes, it’s a bit dramatic, but since failure seemed inevitable, you had nothing to lose.

Next, collar a few of the attendees who might be more favorable to what you’ve presented, ferret out what the sticking points in the presentation were and recraft your approach. This is no time for ego, so ask pointed questions to get answers that will help your cause.

Many a time, a hasty retreat provides a second bite at the apple and produces a sweet taste that is never forbidden and highly savored.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax and in 16-years, as CEO, grew the retailer to sales of $5 billion in 1,000 stores worldwide. Today, as founder/CEO of Max-Ventures, his firm invests in and consults for retail businesses.