Shared Experiences (Issue 592)

In which we are encouraged (tight budgets notwithstanding) to continue investing time and money in “getting out a bit” with clients and prospects.  

We were somewhere over Vermont, I guessed, flying Toronto to Boston through pitch-black sky.

The first ‘thump” came with only the barest of warnings, a little like a sudden cannon boom of thunder that catches us after  what seemed safely distant rumblings. I’d guess we lost only a dozen feet of  altitude, yet the moment felt and sounded like Thor had whacked the top of our 70-seat plane with his open hand…. then reached beneath and scooped us up…up…up….and up….. and let us fall. After a moment, another wrenching creak, followed by a hard shove left ..  another dunk down … a few seconds of rattling shakey-bake … then a pause…..

We flew on for a few seconds, then another under-scoop…. up… up………….up…. drop.   Across the aisle, passenger 16D had already white-bagged once and looked like she was headed for a second round. I looked seat-back for mine, then found a blinking red light on the port-side engine on which to focus… I counted clockwise the rivets I could see around the light, then counter clockwise, then started humming to myself…. something vaguely Gregorian, I thought, as we pitched and rolled on.

At the next free-fall, I switched from Gregorians to counting and paced breathing, my cold forehead sweat lightly brushed by overhead vent air.  16D was now clenching hands with the complete stranger sitting next to her. I looked at my seat-mate, to whom I’d said only ‘hello’ when she sat next to me in Toronto.  Eyes closed, pale faced, grimacing slightly.

“How are you?” I croaked.  She opened her eyes. “I hate flying and I’m scared ****less.”

The plane plasti-creaked and roll-yawed left. 16D suddenly lurched toward us, snapping my seat-mate’s white bag from its place, and putting it to immediate use.

“Why are you flying to Boston?” I asked my ****less seat mate.

She’s an epidemiologist, on her way to see a friend in Rhode Island. Though our lurching descent to Boston (that felt like it had started in Vancouver and was continuing to Cape Town), we compared life histories, work histories, life plans …. topics that most adjoined seaters would not have touched.

As we parted company at the jetbridge, I thought: Whether troubling or delightful, shared experiences open a LOT of space for conversation.

In the business world, standard strategies – golf outings, sporting events, and concerts – are now somewhat endangered with budgets tightening and business life bumping, much like our yaw-inspiring flight.

But we can choose … One banking sales team we know includes “one social experience with client and significant other (if applicable)” and “one bank-sponsored group social event” as standard elements of their relationship management plans for “A” clients.… and should continue investing creatively in shared experiences to open conversations and build relationships that will carry us past the “fiscal cliff,” whatever thereafter follows, and into the trailing expansion.

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