Hidalgo (Issue 509)

In which we are reminded: Like great movie writers and directors, our clients and prospects sometimes spin stories that are not completely connected to the truths they purport to represent. We can be entertained, and we should verify before contracting.

Movie night. My daughter and I did a “rent a movie” night at home. The chosen movie, Disney’s 2004 release, “Hidalgo,” a fantastic  tale of horse endurance racing in the early 20th century. Based (we read at the beginning of the movie) on the life of Frank T. Hopkins and Hidalgo, his trusty Mustang horse.

An 1890 Arabian dessert race against a hundred Bedouin riders covering 3000 miles. A cross between Indiana Jones and Seabiscuit.  We whooped and groaned and ate far too much popcorn and, at the end, pronounced that we’d enjoyed the movie. All was well.

“Let’s find out more,” my daughter suggested. We headed to the family computer, searched for Frank T. Hopkins and discovered….

A web site, http://www.frankhopkins.com (currently “down” for an update) , that presents Frank’s life in great detail. Pictures. Maps. Stories.

A web site, http://www.thelongridersguild.com/outside-text.htm, that debunks the movie, citing “The Hopkins Hoax.”

“Hogwash,” was the term of choice. The race never happened. It’s not clear Hopkins ever rode a horse.

We were stunned. First that the film’s creator might have played so completely fast and loose with the facts, saying the film was based on real events. Second, that these two web sites contradict each other so completely, leaving us with the question, “What’s really true here?”

Which is the same position we’re in frequently when we’re exploring a new opportunity with a prospect.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been approached with a request for “sales training that our people really need” only to find out, with a little digging, that there are eight other issues that should be addressed to get the desired result. Or that the request for sales training was a complete hoax, an obfuscation, a diversion, an avoidance, an “MBO” somebody needed to check off to look good in a performance review.

Have you had similar experiences?  Prospects who are either naïve or disingenuous? Either way, we can waste a lot of our time following invigorating story lines only to find out later that they were mirages.

The hard lesson is, “don’t trust nobody on nuttin.” Meaning, listen to your prospect’s story, then verify and assess what you’re hearing. Before you submit a proposal on anything from a copier to a loan to a training program, talk to the prospective victims or beneficiaries of your services, talk to the finance people, to operations, to whoever may have a perspective. Then decide whether you want to propose and how.

I’m delighted to inhale bowls of artificially buttered popcorn and swallow fantastic stories on a Saturday night with my daughter. That’s relationship building. I’m less inclined to inhale the popcorn when  prospects are playing our wallets. Trust and verify.  Hidalgo.

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