Look Ahead (Issue 901)

In which we are reminded to look ahead, far ahead, in our strategic accounts, to anticipate conflicts and opportunities that may affect our sales progress.

It takes about 3 seconds to drive 100 yards at 70 miles per hour. Thank goodness for Mr. whatever-his-name-was, my high school driver education teacher.

When I began to drive, I (apparently) focused my attention on the 30 yards of pavement directly in front of the car. “Look up,“ he would bark to me and my fellow novice drivers. “You can’t avoid what you what you don’t see.“

Last Tuesday night, I was driving on a four-lane, southbound Interstate. 9 o’clock in the evening, dry road, moderate-to-significant traffic moving at 70 miles an hour. We were driving through a construction area; the first lane (slow lane) of the Interstate was partially reduced by Jersey barriers. I was driving in the second lane. As I looked down the road 100 yards, I could see a car in the first lane, tail lights on, no blinkers, motionless – stopped dead, the right side of the car pulled up tight against a Jersey barrier. To my right, passing me in that same first lane, was an enormous, silver pickup truck.

“Oh, my goodness,“ I thought. “That guy’s gonna run right into the back of that car.” I quickly looked left, saw space, and begin to shift left, to lane three.

I was about halfway into lane three when the pickup truck, now about two car lengths ahead of me, without any effort to change lanes or slow down, piled into the back of the motionless car. I jerked my steering wheel hard left just as the pickup truck pinwheeled clockwise toward me, missing the right side of my car by short inches.

What to do? It seemed like stopping was out of the question, I had cars behind and around me, all of us driving 70 miles an hour. No safe place to stop or pull over, and then where would I go? The right shoulder was occluded. I kept going, counting on the people behind me to stop, safely, and help.

“Where was that driver looking?”, I wondered. “Could he or she not see….?”

While our sales world crashes are usually less catastrophic, the crash is a good demonstration of what happens when we have “tunnel vision” in an account, focusing on the buyer or the problem immediately in front of us, unaware of or not reacting to activity in other parts of the organization. If we don’t look ahead, if we don’t look outside of our immediate lanes, we run a significant risk of colliding with other initiatives that can stop our sales progress cold.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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