Acapella (Issue 707)

In which we are urged to carve out the time needed to research and prepare for sales calls.

My wife and I traveled recently for what we call “Parents Weekend,” a fall tradition carried over from our children’s college years: A planned two day visit to hang out together and reconnect – we eat, go to concerts or museums, talk, eat, help fix things in our children’s apartments that they haven’t gotten to, walk, talk, eat, and then go home in time for them to catch their breaths and prepare for their upcoming weeks.

On this particular weekend, we were thinking about “what to do” on Saturday night. Through a quick scan of the local newspaper, we spotted two acapella concerts. We are big fans of acapella singing, particularly in the jazz and Great American Songbook genres, so we chose “concert” in lieu of other activities. One of the concerts was connected to a local university, the other was not.

Since many of the college acapella ensembles we’ve seen favor hip hop and a relatively narrow range of Top 40 hits from the last twenty years, I favored the “not university” show for a change and pitched the rest of my family on the idea. They agreed.

We called the theater; secured tickets for ourselves, our child, and one of the child’s friends; enjoyed dinner at a nearby Lebanese restaurant (the hummus was amazing!!!); and went to the show. Settling in our seats, we opened the very nice program booklets and discovered that we’d come to a concert of…. Barbershop Chorus and Barbershop Quartet music.

Now, I enjoy that style of music from time to time; I was about due for another dose so, for me, this discovery was a delight. For the rest of my family and the child’s friend, not so much. I think they’re at the ‘once in a lifetime’ or ‘once every two decades’ level of appreciation.

“Did you NOT check this out on line BEFORE you ordered the tickets?” I was asked.

I hadn’t, I replied. I’d just quickly decided based on past experience and my interpretation of the brief newspaper announcements. In the midst of our other activities together, I hadn’t taken the… hmmm… five minutes to poke around on the Web to check out the performers.

A pointed stare dressed with arched eyebrow said all that needed saying.

Interesting: Earlier in the week, I’d heard a senior HR leader from a major company say, “Typically, I find that vendor sales people are not that well educated about us and, in this day and age, it’s not all that hard to [do some research].”

This theme was expanded by the Global Head of Sales Effectiveness at a large insurance company who said, in part:

“I have not had a productive call from a sales person in three years. They are looking for what they say is 15 minutes with me. When they call, they are ill prepared: They’re looking for me to inform them and they push things for which there’s no basis.”

So, back to the Barbershop Chorus concert: while there were a few bright moments in this particular show, I heard my child whispering apologies to the friend as we left the theater, “I’m so sorry, this was a bust you, I’m glad you came and I’m so sorry…really, I’m SO sorry.”

My heart sank. Just the thing you hope for on Parents Weekend, eh? Hearing your kid make excuses for your parental blunder.

Just five minutes, even TWO minutes, of research …..

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