Ah, Fall. What a beautiful time of year here in Minnesota. In the 6 years I have been here now (by way of Southern California) I have gained an enormous appreciation for how wonderful this time of year really is. However, having migrated from the land of no seasons, it’s taken quite a while to get to a level where I enjoy all of them. No matter how lovely and majestic Fall may be, for my first few years here it only reminded me of 2 things.
- Winter is coming
- Yard work
For the purpose of this post, and the fact that I haven’t found a way to stop #1 from happening, I’ll focus on #2: Yard work. You see, no one told me one of the joys of owning your own home in MN also meant fall cleanup. I grew up in a house with very little yard and a tree that never lost it’s leaves. Now I have a beautiful home with a number of trees that I believe regenerate their leaves like the cop in Terminator 2, just to make more work for me to clean up. So I decided early on that I would be outsourcing this work to professionals. And no one could convince me otherwise. So we have had a local landscaping company come and do our fall cleanup, including picking up and disposing of all the leaves, since our first Fall here. Now, hopefully this provides enough back story for the actual point of this blog post…
This past weekend marked a sweet time during the fall season where our trees are shedding their leaves like crazy, but they haven’t completely shed so the fall cleanup crew won’t come yet. Which really means that our lawn is covered with leaves and we look lazy. Which may not be entirely false, but mainly it’s because I don’t see a reason to prepare the yard for the professionals we will be paying in the next week or so. Plus I’d rather spend the time with my two small children. Yeah, that sounds better. That’s definitely the reason I don’t rake the leaves.
So perhaps you can see my initial dilemma when a young man (maybe 14 years old) from the neighborhood knocked on my door and asked if I wanted help raking up the mess that was my yard. We both knew he wasn’t offering to help for free. So my first thought was, “No thanks. We have a crew that comes to take care of it.” Actually, that was what I first said to him. My first thought was, “Is it really that bad?” But as he began to turn and walk away I realized how much I admired him for having the ambition to come to a stranger’s door and seize an opportunity. So I asked him how much he would charge. “I dunno. $10 bucks” he replied. I countered, after a slight chuckle, “Tell you what, I’ll give you $25 if you want to go for it.” He accepted my counter offer and immediately went to work.
It wasn’t that I needed the work done. Although I admit I was a bit embarrassed of the mess. But I could have easily waited out the next week or two before the pros came. But I wanted to reward this young man for having the guts to come and ask for the sale. And perhaps I was a bit jealous of his ability to risk rejection from a complete stranger in pursuit of said sale. You see, I have been in sales my entire adult career. Today I work for one of the most respected IT consulting firms in Minneapolis, and yet I still fear calling prospects at times to ask for a meeting, sale, referral, etc. Yet this kid walked right up to my door, rang the bell, then made his pitch. It was awesome. And it deserved my patronage.
As he began to work away at the seemingly endless pile of leaves I started to think differently about the situation. It wasn’t just blind ambition or pure guts that brought the young man to my door. He saw there was a need (the ridiculous amount of leaves in my yard) and then presented his case in a way that was genuine. “Do you want help with your yard?” versus “For $20 I’ll rake your leaves!” Had there been no leaves in my yard and he made his pitch it would have been an obvious no. Or had he lead with his cost and clearly shown that he was interested in helping me solely for himself, it also would have been an obvious no. Instead, he earned $25 (for a job well done) from a client who already had a vendor in place.
All of this made me reflect on my interactions with my clients and prospects. Am I doing the appropriate research to know if my services could even help them? Am I genuine in my approach to help? And if both of those are a definitive yes, do I have the guts to knock on their door and ask? It was a great and unexpected lesson on a lazy Sunday.
This entire interaction took place while my wife was out with friends. When she returned home and saw the young man raking away, she asked what was going on. And then she asked, “How much are you paying him? My only response was, “It’s not about the leaves.”