Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Money on the Table

I received email last week encouraging me to enroll in a free on-line promising to train me to “never leave money on the table” when dealing with customers or clients. I was flabbergasted and saddened. Memories stirred of someone I once worked for. I recalled that someone one day walked into the back of a room full of 80 people we were about to serve, and not realizing I was standing off to the side, asked “Well, how much money do you think we can get out of these people this week?” I stepped out and looked straight at her and replied, “I think you’re asking the wrong person.” That stunned her. She could have inquired about who was attending our program, what were their backgrounds, what I knew of their desires and dreams, or what our plan was for serving them, i.e. what we could do for them. But that’s not what happened. That was sixteen years ago.

Between then and last week you and I witnessed blatant self-serving on grand scales: Enron, sub-prime loans out the ying-yang, a global economic crisis that pales everything in comparison ‘cept the Great Depression. Yet, with today’s news that the stock market has greatly recovered from 2008, our collective assumptions, mind sets and actions really haven’t changed that much!

The person who sent me the email is in the service industry, in fact - the seminar business, and has made a lot of money. He knows that clients and customers smile only short term for those who sell yet attempt to squeeze for every nickel and dime. But over time, those ostensibly served do not suffer slick fools. Their smiles and nods eventually walk away, as do their bodies and the bodies of those they would refer.

What’s the deal here? People aren’t stupid. Just as every husband or wife knows (on some level) when his or her mate is cheating on them, so people know (on some level) when someone else is slipping a hand into their pocket for more and more and more. “Islands are connected, and so we are connected,” goes the motivational story. “Above the water, what we see is an illusion. But when we drop deep below the surface we find that we are joined in oneness; we are in fact the same!” preaches the self-help guru. Yet many a self-help guru has set this concept, this ideal, aside when then the glitter of gold is sitting before them on the table. Yes, it’s important to make money. But, at what cost? What’s the deal?

I’m not against self-help, human potential organizations. Quite the contrary, I think they are a great idea. I personally engage in that work. But we have to return to and remember it as a work full of people, not an industry full of units.

Lawyers suffer the brunt of “ambulance chaser” jokes, and for some rightfully so. People not in the legal profession, yet who live by the credo of the never-leave-money-on-the-table syndrome, suffer a similar come-from, a sense of lack, akin to the illness that can drive a hustling get-whatever-you-can barrister into a shallow existence of full pockets and lots of beautiful people, but leaving a trail of burned-out former employees, and former clients who will out of loyalty agree that, “Yes, I gained a lot from him, and he effectively wiped out my competition (or X-wife/ husband/ etc.), but I wouldn’t recommend him to you as a friend or someone you would really want to know – or, for that matter, trust – because the bottom line for him is, well --- just a bottom line.”

When did it become a cosmic mistake for an organization or individual to leave money on the table during a negotiation or a sale? Is abundance in such short supply that we have to grab and hang on to every thing, every vote, every scrap, every dime and every human being that we touch, leaving bare the table? Talk about a zero-sum game!

People are savvy. Many will actually watch how others handle a negotiation or a sale just to see who is going to grab for the last buck. They do, don’t you know? I’ll buy once or twice from someone to test his or her understanding of service, and see if he or she is motivated by that kind of greed. But once I understand that the person I’m dealing with is more interested on how much she or he can get, i.e. scrape off the table, as opposed to how much she or he can serve -- well then, I take my needs somewhere else. What about you??

1 comment:

shakira said...
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