A couple of years ago, when we were able to be out and about and travel the world, I went on a photo safari vacation to South Africa with my daughter. We spent the better part of a week in the bush, coming face to face with prides of lions, serene giraffe, wild dogs right after a kill, and even some mating leopards!

I was fascinated to watch how our rangers and trackers scanned the dirt for tracks, examined the foliage to look for breaks, and even tested the temperature of dung to determine what animals were nearby and how long ago they had come through. The clues were so subtle that it was amazing when they spotted them. But the rewards that came from that attention to minute detail was the difference between an incredible game drive (or survival in different circumstances) and just a lovely drive in the woods.

It made me think about our own business and all of the subtle clues that our clients, prospects, and employees give off. I wonder how many of them we blindly walk by, about to enter into a danger zone we’re not expecting? I think most agency owners are very astute at picking up the signs — unless we’re moving too quickly and are too distracted to be present. Which is pretty much every day.

So what are we missing?

One of the traits of the tracker and ranger that took me some time to get used to was the speed at which they worked. Slowly. Sometimes painstakingly slowly. As a Type A kind of guy, I was pretty antsy in the beginning. But then I began to understand the method to their madness and saw some parallels to our world.

It got me thinking — what if we:

  • Scheduled a day a week in the office with no scheduled appointments or commitments? What would we learn and what unexpected conversations would we have?
  • Walked into our next meeting with an employee and intently observed their body language to see if it matches their words?
  • Spent part of a day in a client’s environment, observing the climate, threats, and challenges that they deal with every day?
  • Honed our prospect tracking skills? Who is a common connection on LinkedIn? How do I gain their trust by being helpful before they even know they need an agency? How can I interact with them before they even think about issuing an RFP?

You know that when you slow down, dial back the multitasking and really focus in — there’s no better tracker than you. I think all too often we think of that time as a luxury we can’t afford. I think we’re looking at it backward.

By the way — for those of you who are always wishing your AEs could be more strategic — this is one of the reasons they’re not getting there. They are following in your footsteps and juggling too many things at once. That doesn’t give them time to hone their own instincts about which thread to pull on during a conversation with a client. Maybe you’re teaching them the wrong habits?

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