I haven’t yet decided on some important design issues yet…what will be my visual theme…colors, fonts, and such. But let’s dive in anyway, a couple days late.
The day started with a drive through the beautiful fields and horse pastures just beyond the western suburbs of Minneapolis. Even early in the morning the skies already looked stormy and threatening and beautiful in that way. I love the drive through the countryside; in fact my route adds a few miles and quite a bit of time to the commute to see my clients in the Buffalo area, but it is time well-spent.
Along one rolling stretch of road I saw a group of purple martins gathered on the pavement ahead of me. They looked odd to me because I can’t recall ever seeing a martin at rest, especially on a road. As I quickly came up to them they shot up into the air like a burst of confetti, beautiful sharp-pointed wings and tails, like little fighter jets shooting off in a coordinated chaos…all but one. One of the martins wasn’t as quick to scramble. I instinctively tightened my grip on the steering wheel and clenched my teeth and then sure enough…in the rear view mirror I saw a star of purple feathers pinwheeling down the pavement.
That little death brought me down. It really did. With something like a prayer I apologized to the bird and looked for a reason to think of something else, but my light spirit was a bit overshadowed by that accident. Silly, perhaps, but only a moment earlier that bird and his mates where an unexpected happiness on the road, everything seemed easy and peaceful and then one dies. I suppose it is one of those things you just have to feel to understand. An event doesn’t have to be big to have feeling.
So I drove on and thought I better pay attention to where bad luck might be taking me and I kept an eye open for bigger targets. The ditches were alive with birds and animals; a lot of gophers and crows. I like crows, but I keep an eye open for rarer birds. And they are there. I saw three pheasants, in fact, flying like mechanical toys across a fence line into a field of corn. That was good to see.
Driving can be full of opportunities to spy on the world…unless you choose to take the freeway or a busy state highway. I’ll opt for the country side roads every time.
My first client didn’t show up today. My second didn’t either. Nor my third. A very frustrating part of my work is the disrespect people have for sales professionals. Someone may absolutely depend on what you are selling and raise hell if for some reason you don’t get an order placed for them, but because you are a salesman you are seen as burden, an intruder. You are always an inconvenience. Your time is unimportant, the client’s time is infinitely important. And they have no trouble making that clear.
There are people who are considerate and professional, but even they tend to expect all the personal compromises to come from the salesman. On this day my first three appointments were with so-called professionals, people who do their work on appointments and expect the people they work with to keep appointments. Doctors, lawyers, dentists…that sort of profession. Not today, unfortunately.
As a rule if a client tends to do business with his or her clients by appointment, I set appointments before meeting. If a client takes walk up customers, I will walk up. And businesses that go to clients to perform their work – contractors, for example – I will go to them wherever they are. That seems to work pretty well.
On this day, however, I am coming up empty. I make a call to a client that only insists on a second meeting (a two-call close) because it seems like the thing to do in her opinion. I let her know that I have found myself with some time on my hands and ask if I may stop over. It’s clear that I have caught her off-guard and without an excuse. I hear a couple short exasperated gasps and she concedes. “Sure, that should work. Come over.”
The meeting is short and simple. We sign the same order we sign every time, the very same order I proposed a week ago. And it is done.
Now there is time on my hands and I’m simply not in the mood to prospect for new clients. There is a park on a lake nearby. I go there.
The day is cloudy and stormy weather is in the forecast so the park is all but empty and the beach is empty. I can walk along the lake edge without making parents nervous. (What is up with adults today?)
The water has an easy chop on it. Not big waves and not rough little slappers either. The water is very clear on this lake and out on a fishing dock I watch bluegills and small bass swim through the milfoil and cabbage. From the corner of my eye I spot a large soft shell turtle rising up from deep weeds. These turtles are smart. I am absolutely motionless and still when the turtle breaks the surface and turns his head he must see me and quickly dives back down into the depths. His speed is very impressive. I wonder how he learned to spot something like me as a threat. I am wondering how he spotted me at all. A turtle must be able to discern a person from a motionless block of wood, which is saying a lot for a simple turtle. I know people I wouldn’t trust to be up to that task.
While the lake is beautiful and I could spend much time on the fishing dock, I decide it might be a better idea to try to close a few more sales. I did drive nearly 50 miles to work accounts in this area, best to get to it. But the day turns out to be mostly disappointing. The computer I use on the job was having trouble that took nearly two hours to fix. That was the start. And it was very difficult to ignore the weather. The clouds were building into wonderful towers of storminess and beauty. I stopped frequently to look at them.
One stop was on Lake Rebecca, at the boat launch there. It was getting later in the afternoon and the air was unusually hot and humid. The clouds looked more menacing, too; some blew from south to north while others higher in the sky seemed to slowly drift to the southeast. Sales just were not clicking so I allowed myself the luxury of a short walk. It had to be short…the air was soaking through my shirt and suit.
I walked out on the dock at the boat launch but there wasn’t much to see in the water. The lake was overgrown with weeds and algae here. You could even hear the weeds on the surface click in the hot sun. Not very pleasant, but a pleasant view.
I decided to salvage something from a frustrated day and went back to my car and took out a long list of follow ups to dial. This turned into the most productive part of the day. No sales, but several on the line that look good.
Time to head back to the city. I have at least an hour of paper work to do and maybe another hour again for more client follow up, appointments to set, and so on. Plus it is getting terribly hot. Not a day with a good vibe for clients, but a great summer day anyway.