Short Cuts (Issue 713)

In which we are encouraged to stick with our proven sales processes rather seeking short cuts.

I’m one of the 70% (or more) of drivers who believes he is a better than average driver. [I proudly point to the facts: In 40+ years of driving, no collisions, no fender benders, merely two speeding tickets and a dozen parking tickets. Some of us may conclude I could have loosened up a bit, but never mind.]

I confess to a couple of weaknesses, however, both born from my experience navigating Boston streets. One of them is: I H A T E sitting in traffic, crawling at 2 miles per hour, stop and go. When I’m driving at times other than rush hours when all streets are clogged, I will look for shortcuts if traffic bogs down. I’ll take the nearest traffic-free exit off the highway or turn down a side street or try some other way to avoid waiting, even if I don’t know my way through a particular neighborhood.

Initially, I feel delighted with my free movement down my exit ramp or side street alternative.

And, then,…. long traffic lights, one way streets, confused GPS directions, endless stop signs, delivery trucks stalled across two lanes of traffic, broken water mains, or unexpected coyote sightings create delays. Most times, I conclude that the road I left was still the fastest way to reach my destination.

Similarly, on the road to engaging decision-makers at target accounts, we can feel like we are crawling along at 2 miles an hour, for example, dealing with decision-makers’ gatekeepers who aren’t impressed with us.

We feel frustrated, we begin thinking about side street short cuts, for example, circumventing gate keepers by calling decision-makers before sunrise or after typical working hours, or blitzing decision-makers with emails and telephone calls.

As in driving, short cuts are successful SOMETIMES. [And remember, variable reinforcement schedules are VERY powerful.]

Most times, I conclude that I’d have been better off staying on the main roads that have served me well in the past, e.g. working through my networks for introductions or referrals, rather than taking short cuts. [Various studies have shown that buyers are much more likely to meet with new vendors if the vendors are referred by decision-makers’ trusted associates.]

This doesn’t mean “stop thinking” or “never go direct.” If there’s new information, e.g. critical events in target companies when we can make a difference immediately, then changing routes makes sense. But, absent that, diverting down traffic-free exit ramps and side street short cuts typically leads to poor results.

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