Simple, Neat, and Wrong (Issue 1045)

In which we are reminded to look at the big picture of our clients’ challenges, beyond the first symptom.

I was in Texas last week, taking care of a dog for a traveling friend. Prior to his departure, during a “training exercise” for me with the dog, we walked through a tree-shaded portion of the Austin Greenway, a narrow dirt footpath partially obscured by tall grass. As the three of us were walking, I asked, “Are there deer here? Are we at risk for deer ticks and Lyme Disease?”

 “I know that’s a big problem in New England, where you live,” he replied. “Yes, we have deer in Austin and there are ticks but there aren’t many cases of Lyme Disease in Texas. Yet, at least.”

“Ah, good to know,” I thought, scanning my legs.

“Besides, even up in your area, deer are not the problem,” he responded.

“When people think about Lyme Disease, they think of two things: ticks and deer. Although ticks and deer are important in the spread of Lyme Disease, they aren’t the ONLY two pieces. We could reduce the deer population to almost nothing and we’d still have the problem. The ticks would find other mammals on which to feed.”

Which is, I guess, good news for the deer. “Hey, it’s not us! Stop shooting!”

Turns out… Deer don’t carry the Lyme Disease bacteria. Ticks carry the bacteria; they become infected because they ingest blood from infected white-footed mice, other small mammals, and birds. The mice and other small mammals and birds are the reservoirs for the disease.

The deer carry the ticks – sort of like Uber for insects. The infected ticks feed on the deer and reproduce on the deer…. and the deer do not become infected.

So, there’s a complex system in play. It’s not just ONE thing. Many people misunderstand the root cause – they think it’s the deer. Thus, the solution is not simple, and it takes years to reduce rates of infection. But we like simple, fast solutions, i.e., Shoot the deer!

When we’re selling, we see both simple client problems and complex client problems. The challenge is, sellers and buyers also like simple solutions. So, it’s good to remember (with thanks to writer H.L. Mencken), “For every complex problem, there is solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.”

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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