It used to be that if you brought a laptop to the office party, you were either a freak or a geek. Now, provided the article in question is a shiny new iPad, it’s perfectly acceptable. So, dear diary, I will be updating you direct from Integrity’s Christmas party at one of Hong Kong’s finest hotels.

The mahjong tiles have been shuffled, the karaoke machine has been abused, and we real men have been at the bar for nearly two hours.

It has reached the stage where I no longer recognise everyone – but that doesn’t matter, they all recognise me of course. From my vantage point at the bar, I survey the landscape: people are filtering towards the dining tables, the waiters are refreshing the bottomless glasses of wine. Off in the distance, the glockenspiel chimes its three notes. Time to partake of the banquet, dear diary, so more later.

******

Just finished the seventh course, and have nipped out for a WikiLeak. Too much wine too quickly, I’m actually feeling a bit drunk already. But in this job, a good tolerance is critical – I know I can drink through this stage and keep my wits about me.

Dear diary, you know that I never stop working, I never switch off. So I’d like to share with you the problem which has been vexing me all week. Integrity’s Asian regional CEO Kim has asked me to promote one of the two MarComm girls into a sales role. The lucky winner will be trained up by yours truly. The two young ladies in question, April and May (if only we had a June!), have very similar levels of experience, and both joined Integrity at around the same time.

The issue has made me think about what works in this business, what makes a great salesperson. Naturally I think about myself, with a blend of industry knowledge, business acumen, interpersonal skills, a sense of style and grace, and a terrific memory for faces and names. You can boil this down to two factors: beauty and brains.

To be continued – if I stay away from the table too long, who knows what people will think?

*******

We’ve just finished dessert and I’ve returned to the bar for the shooter required before the games begin. Now I am not afraid to say the unspeakable, to write the unwritable and to think the unthinkable. It is my duty to you to face the tough issues head-on and prompt thought amongst you all. Nothing is taboo.

Let me elaborate. May is smart and she understands the industry. She scores at least an 8 in the brains department. But she is, frankly, plain to look at. We’re talking a 4 here. April, however, is hot as hell. Maybe even a 9. But scores a 5.5 for brains, and I’m being generous with that extra half point there. So how best to weight these factors? Can it really be 50/50? Or, drinking outside the box, could there be other factors?

My chance for direct comparison presents itself straight away – both are up on stage for the first game. It’s the classic spoon-on-a-string game, where two teams of four race to thread themselves together by passing the spoon inside their clothes. Hardly cutting edge corporate entertainment, but it sure gets the party started. I watch April as she slips the cutlery straight down her silver top – this girl is clearly not shy, but how is she going to get it inside those tight blue jeans? Wow, by unbuttoning them right there on stage! I glance across at May, who has simply slipped her spoon through her flowery belt-loop and onto her team-mate. One-nil to April.  I think I’ll go congratulate her.

******

Christmas spirit is flowing, mostly from the bottle of Moet in my hand into April’s slender glass. We have detached ourselves from the group and watch the games from a safe distance. Kim is up on stage now, trying to mime “Alien vs Predator 2” to a bemused audience. This gives April the chance to demonstrate how dumb she is. If she guesses “Sex and the City” one more time, I’ll have to award May her first point.

I build a spreadsheet in my head – it would be rude to get out the iPad. Which girl would be better with prospective clients? Who would be easier to manage? Who is going to be more fun on a four-city tour of the region? Who could I trust to handle a consultant meeting on her own? Which of these questions is worth more points? Waiter, can I have another?

Maybe beauty is in the eye of the beholder. After all, May has been married for three years while April is complaining she finds it hard to keep a boyfriend. No, hold on, start again and re-think: that’s another point for April. I lean towards her and ask if she has ever considered moving into sales.

******

Well, that took some explaining; subtle hints are not her forte, it seems. I’m still not sure she understands what I’m saying. As the night (and the alcohol) wears on, I become surer of the selection criteria. It’s true what they say: sex sells. That’s one of the secrets behind my success, I’m sure. I’ve had more luck with female clients over the years – and I’ve only twice had to go the distance to secure the deal. I doubt May would have that commitment, but judging from the way she’s caressing my knee, it seems like April knows exactly how to get ahead in this business.

The party is coming to a close. The lucky draw is the only thing keeping people here, and the sense of impatience is palpable. Damn, I’m supposed to make the draw! I leave a slurring April at the bar and stumble up on stage.

******

Finally, it’s over. More than half of the people here won a prize, hard cash of course. I reclaim my seat next to April at the bar, nudging some young upstart out of the way. She’s nearly through the champagne and sad she didn’t win any money in the draw. I’ll tell her tomorrow about the much bigger prize she has won, probably over breakfast… I’m looking forward to 2011.

(William T. Fitzgerald is available to answer queries regarding the industry, your career and your clients. Requests for advice that mention Will’s successes and accomplishments will receive priority in the queue. You can e-mail him at wtf@asianinvestor.net.)

William T. Fitzgerald is a fictional character, as are all the other individuals and companies in “RFP Diary”. Any resemblance to the living or to real firms is purely coincidental. Will’s adventures will continue after the festive holiday.