The Line to Get In (Issue 1005)

In which we are encouraged to consider other buyers or other account entry strategies when the usual approaches to clients or prospects are crowded with other salespeople.

From my 7th floor window, I could look down, directly across the street (two well-traveled lanes in each direction) to see a stand-alone Starbucks location near a busy city intersection.

This Starbucks is designed primarily for drive-through service. The driveway is horseshoe shaped; the “Enter” side of the drive way is about 40 feet south from the intersection. The “Exit” is about 60 feet further south.

When I rolled out of bed that morning at around 6:00 and looked out the window, the place was quiet. No cars. By 7:30, the horseshoe driveway from the street entrance to the pick-up window was clogged bumper to bumper with cars and there were three cars waiting on the southbound side of the street to turn right into the Starbucks driveway.

Things were not moving quickly. At about 7:35, as I wondered about Starbucks’ customers’ appetites and patience, one of the cars in line near the entrance broke out of line, turned around, and headed back toward the driveway entrance, now blocked by the cars attempting to turn right into the entrance.

At the same time, the driver of a blue sedan traveling North decided to turn left, across two lanes of traffic, to enter the Starbucks line. There was no place to go and s/he stopped, sideways across the two southbound lanes. Stopped. As in, stopped. Motionless. Not moving. Failing to progress. Blocking, at 7:35 am on a work-day morning in a major city, two lanes of south-bound traffic for two cycles of the intersection traffic light.

I have read a couple of books and many articles about climbing conditions on Mount Everest, particularly the approach from the Nepalese side. Nepal puts few restrictions on the number of climbers who can ascend the mountain. As a result, during the 10-day May good weather window, it has not been unusual for a line of 200 climbers to be waiting on the side of the mountain at 29,000 feet to ascend to the top. They stand and wait in near-fatal, freezing conditions, waiting to get to the peak before sunset, and blocking the path for climbers coming down off the summit. Kind of like the line at Starbucks that Tuesday morning. Or a line of salespeople standing outside a potential buyer’s office, waiting for their five-minute turn to pitch. Very special.

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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