The Right Rake (Issue 705)

Taking a risk I may lose the desert denizens and apartment-dwellers in the crowd… In which we are reminded to adjust our questioning to the circumstances rather than using ‘one size fits all’ profiling methods.

Our garden is a leaf-lovers’ paradise. The leaves begin dropping in early October and finish with the oak tree leaves in the middle of November. Many is the year that I have finished clearing leaves from the lawn just as the first snowflakes were falling Thanksgiving week.

As a result of this experience over years of time, we have developed some distinctions about grass and leaf rakes. We have quite a variety (you’re surprised, right?) ranging from plastic to bamboo to metal. Each of these has its own distinctive characteristics.

The green plastic leaf rake, for example is great for clearing large volumes of leaves on even, cut-short, deep-rooted turf or a driveway. However, the curved rake blade, itself, is completely inflexible. It’s good for control but it’s very hard to be subtle with that rake. The middle of the curved blade tears up a lot of grass while one is moving the leaves.

The triangular metal grass rake, on the other hand, while not as wide as the green plastic rake, is much more flexible, allowing subtlety. One can lightly sweep the leaves from the grass without disturbing the grass, dig surgically for leaf bits or embedded acorns, or whisk piles of leaves onto a tarp – the ‘spring’ in the metal rake tines propels leaves forward and multiplies one’s muscle effort.

This is more than you probably wanted to know about rakes. Apply the same logic to our sales questioning.

If we use standard “these are the questions we must ask our prospects” profiling questions, same questions every time, regardless, that’s a lot like using the green grass rake. Gives us a lot of control, helps us cover a wide area, but it’s neither flexible nor subtle. The process can feel rough and impersonal and we aren’t able to get any embedded bits below the surface.

The “metal rake” approach is much more flexible; we can vary the direction, pressure, and speed of our explorations much more surgically to dig out interesting bits of information, embedded points of view, and other perspective. However, we may not be able to move as quickly through a large volume of prospects or customers.

So, on the lawn, using the right rake for the purpose can make a big difference. The same can be said when we’re exploring issues with our clients.


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