It Should Have Been Easy (Issue 915)

In which we are reminded to plan ahead…and confirm…before our sales calls.

It should have been an easy drive. Several years earlier, I’d driven from the airport to my client’s off-site conference center multiple times, navigating the inner and outer beltways around the city from memory.

This morning, catching myself just briefly at a traffic light before merging onto the Interstate from the airport. I thought, “Well, just to be sure, I’ll use my mobile phone navigator to guide me.” I punched in the location, 3500 Tailwind Boulevard, Smithville [all names changed to protect the innocent], and off I went. Plenty of time. Beautiful morning.

I felt a moment’s unease when the navigator directed me past what felt like the exits I should take, and I followed the navigator. Following…following….following… this doesn’t look like the right neighborhood… …following…. And I ended up in front of a community center …at exactly the address I’d punched in… 3500 Tailwind Boulevard, Smithville.

I punched it in again. “You have arrived at your destination. Your destination is on the right,” came the reply.

Burning precious minutes, I called my client’s cell phone. No answer. I called her assistant. No answer. I called one of her colleagues. No answer. I called one of my colleagues. No answer. I called the main switchboard at the client’s company. Couldn’t help. I called a lawyer (seriously!) who lived in the city for directions. No luck.

I pulled the car shifter into “drive” and headed back toward the airport, thinking I might see a sign, a landmark, something that would tell me which way to go. My socks felt cold.

I called another colleague – she answered. Her laptop was creakingly slow (following the “law of diminishing responsiveness” which tells us that the processing speed of any computer or hand-held device declines in inverse proportion to changes in the level of stress we are experiencing).

For 45 minutes, she navigated for me on the phone as I drove. Finally, following her instructions, I arrived at the correct meeting location at 3500 Tailwind Boulevard, in Robertsville…. 10 minutes late.

It turns out…. that the official, legal, web-navigable address of the conference center is in Robertsville… while the mailing address, everyday street address (on all of the company’s literature, etc. etc.), is in Smithville. It was as if, to get to “two o’clock” on the clock, I’d started at “one o’clock” and driven all the way around the clock counter-clockwise to reach “two o’clock” when, in fact I had been only one exit away.

But, I assumed I could do it, quick and easy, with few keystrokes on my phone when I got there rather than planning things out ahead of time…. say, with a map…. or by confirming directions.

These days, because we’re crazy busy and because we’ve learned (and been encouraged) to trust content or instructions that others have posted or programmed on the Web, we’ve stopped thinking and planning, to some extent. “Oh, I’ll just Google it when I get there”, or whatever.

Trust but verify, my friends. Trust but verify. Whatever comes up on the first page of our searches or on our phone navigation systems, we’ll still do well to ask, “Does this make any sense?” and “Are there other perspectives out there?”, and then make our plans in advance rather than leaving them to the last minute.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to sell services to business clients through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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