Squirrels (Issue 595)

In which we are reminded to slow down – plan our approaches to clients and prospects deliberately – to reduce the impact of unexpected actions.

I saw them from about 75 yards away.  A group of four bushy-tailed grey squirrels picking at something on the edge of the pavement in my lane on Barrett’s Mill Road.

I slowed down a bit, from 30 miles per hour to a little over 20 miles per hour as I approached, expecting the squirrels would skittle into the grass to my right.

As I reached 10 yards distance from the squirrels, three of them did skittle right. The fourth pivoted and broke left across the lane in front of me.

Since I’m revolted by running over small animals in the road (and I’m not much better at “beat them with a shovel after you’ve run over them”), I should have swerved right, to pass behind him as he fled. Instead, with less than a half-second to react, I swerved left.

“CRUMBS,” my inner voice shouted!  I swerved more sharply, hoping my left front wheel would pass in front of him and my right rear wheel would pass behind. I stiffened, anticipating under-wheel thumps.


I looked in the rear view mirror.  Road clear.  Soft exhale.

I drove on, shaking my head.

“You should have slowed down more… and earlier…., you moron!”  My now-sputtering inner coach, reviewing the close call.

“You know… you KNOW… squirrels are completely unpredictable.  You want to avoid squirrels?  Plan ahead!  You had 75 yards! What’s this last minute ‘swerve’ bit? Slow down so you’re moving slower than they are!  [I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today. Always in a hurry…”].

Sometimes in our daily sales frenzy, we approach client management teams (sometimes found feeding roadside in small groups, but never mind, that’s another story) too fast, assuming that they’ll move one way or another together, only to be surprised when one of the key client influencers or decision makers breaks from the group, bringing a buying / selling conversation to a halt, particularly if our fast and assumptive approach catches him or her the wrong way and they feel (ahem) run over.

Best not to make assumptions,  particularly on large, important opportunities.

From the squirrels we learn: Approach more deliberately, give the “squirrels” a chance to show themselves – their preferences, their strengths, their thoughts – so that we can react deliberately and avoid last minute swerving that spikes everyone’s adrenaline and irritates ALL the management team squirrels involved.


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