Getting Out for a Look Around (Issue 743)

In which we are reminded that mapping an account – major players, points of view, obstacles, etc. – can save us from being blindsided and losing a sale.

During the last month, my wife and I have been moving 13 miles to a new home in Cambridge, MA. Since it’s a short distance and since we think we’re still 26 years old, we decided to move ourselves with the help of a couple of hired muscles, their super-sized pickup truck, and a friend’s medium-sized open landscaping trailer attached to the back of my wife’s Toyota Highlander.

One of the last major work streams in the move was “transplanting the plants” from our former residence to our new residence. And, because many of the plants in our garden are attached to names and histories – “That one was from my mother on our 10th anniversary, this was from your mother, that was from our summer on the Cape.” – two trailers full of rhododendrons, hosta, azaleas, and other plants made the trip to Cambridge.

And, because we had to be out of the house by a certain point, we’d dug up the second load of plants the day before closing, wrapping their root balls in wet blankets, loading them on the trailer, covering them with tarps, and parking the trailer beneath the a shade tree in the side garden of a friend’s house for 24 hours while we finished cleaning our house for the incoming buyers.

When we went back to retrieve the trailer at 7:30 pm on “exchange papers” day, I stopped the Highlander in front of the friend’s house and prepared to back up, across their lawn, to hitch up to the waiting trailer.

“Watch out for their mailbox,” my wife cautioned. It’s a beautiful black mail box on a solid granite pedestal.

“OK,” I said, shifting the transmission to “Reverse.” I looked out my window for the mail box and the flower garden surrounding a big rock just behind the mail box. Having both of those in clear view on the driver’s side of the car, I began to back up, slowly making the turn from the road to their lawn.

There’s a certain recognizable sound one hears when two-and-a-half tons of moving, molded sheet metal suddenly strike an immovable object, even at a slow speed. It sort of sounds like the sound you’d hear if someone swung a large sledge hammer down on your car’s hood. It’s sharp, jarring, and unmistakable.

“What was that?” I shouted… or words to that effect. “What was that?”

“You hit the mail box,” my wife said with seething calmness.

“No, I didn’t! I can see the mail box. It’s over here. What was that?”

Now… the Highlander sports a rear facing camera that automatically engages when one shifts the transmission into reverse. Unfortunately, if one is wearing polarized sunglasses, the screen looks gray. Had one been wearing his normal eyeglasses, he would have seen…

…that there was a telephone pole in clear view, close up, on the passenger side of the rear bumper . Who could have seen THAT coming?

After my adrenaline levels dropped back to somewhat above normal, I got out of the car to have a look. It was perfectly obvious, because of my intense focus on the mail box on the left, that I’d missed the larger view of the garden and the fact that there were other obstacles like the telephone pole in my intended path,  on the right.

This reminded me of a time when I actually was 26 that I was so focused on one particular buyer, her issues, our proposal to her, and our relationship with her that I completely missed the fact that other senior leaders in her company weren’t so crazy about her engaging my team to work with their bank.

Just after the engagement started, one of the other senior leaders strode into the conference room where I and my team were beginning work and said, “That’s it, boys, it’s over. Pack your bags and be off the property by 4:30 pm.” He and the others had gotten together, outvoted our client, and killed the project. Who could have seen THAT coming?

It pays to get out of one’s seat and look around at all major landmarks and relationships, mapping the account – the people, their points of view, relationships, etc. – before the intense focus begins. Turns out you can’t see everything looking out just one window.


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