"I took the road less travelled and that has made all the difference" - Robert Frost.
In his poem 'The Road Not Taken' Robert Frost spends most of the day contemplating a fork in the road trying to decide which one to take. He observes most people take the well worn path, the sure way.
This is the same in business and sales. We look to see what works and use this idea ourselves. Can taking the road less travelled, however, help establish a business or make better sales?
I was picking my parents up at the airport last week. On the way out we joined a very long line to pay for our parking. I was interested in this as there were two machines where you could pay for parking, but for some reason there was no one lined up at the other machine.
The second machine looked to be working so, being a bit of a maverick, and seeing there would be a long delay waiting in line, I decided I would try it. As I was about to move over, however, the person in front of me said "I wouldn't try it, mate. It wasn't working this morning as well."
I saw the line stretching out the door behind me and I relented not wanting to lose my position in line. I waited a few more minutes as a few people looked with longing at the other ticket machine with not a sole in line - but no one dared make a move.
I could see the video display on the machine seemed to be working normally, but my mind kept saying to me 'there must be something wrong if there is over a hundred people lined up here and no one there'.
This was ridiculous. I plucked up my courage and all my parents' luggage and walked over to the machine and paid for our parking. You guessed it; within a few seconds there was a mad rush to get to the front of the line for this machine now it was obviously working.
The world is full of naysayers and people who line up with the crowd.
When you are building a business or selling it is your courage to be a bit different, to set yourself apart that creates the value for you and your clients.
I had just started working for an Australian systems integrator and observed one of their long term clients, a subsidiary of a global resources organization, had spent nothing with them for sometime.
During one of our sales meetings I asked if I could have this account. When the laughter in the room died down and I was asked if I was sure I wanted this account with no potential I said "Sure, a company that size always has a requirement for our type of services. You just need to help them discover it."
My first visit to this account confirmed what my colleagues had said. They had signed a global deal to implement a new enterprise wide system at head office and their Australian subsidiary was to be an early adopter.
After meeting a few of the local players and understanding the business better I discovered the Australian operation was the only part of the global organization running well and they were concerned this very expensive project was going to drive them to the wall.
Here I had an Australian manager, being paid based on profitability of the local subsidiary, being told to accept an expense that would take money from his bonus - perhaps even all of it.
Together we put a plan that would allow him to meet the global objectives of the company as well as keep his local costs reasonable. Instead of spending tens on millions with an overseas company he invested hundreds of thousands with a local company.
At the end of the year this company no one wanted as an account, who I was laughed at for asking to take it on, was again in the top five client list in terms of revenue and number one in terms of profit.
Can taking the road less travelled make a difference? It sure can. And it can be very profitable as well as there are fewer competitors and clearer measures of success.
Today's Question and Actions
The next time there is a decision to be made ask yourself, "What can I do differently to make what I do stand out?"
- Make it a habit of always look for one more alternative.
- Pose a contrarian view to help see other potential ways of doing things.
Being different does not always mean you will be better off. Taking the road less travelled, however, can make all the difference.
Have a great week, Greg.
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