Mom told me she was ready to start considering the move to independent living, but the first time I actually invited her feedback into my research process, she shut me down cold. That sort of thing had worked in the past, but I was no longer ten years old. Nor was I a teenager given to useless debate. Instead, I was a mature adult with strong negotiating skills. I mean I used to sell copiers!
In those days I hated my weekly meeting with my sales manager. Before the meeting I had to prepare a form listing all my prospects and rate their likelihood of purchasing in the next week, month or quarter. I never knew. I was a conscientious salesperson who knew my product line and thoroughly researched a prospect’s needs. I knew without a doubt I was recommending the right copier, at the best price, to every prospect. My competition was not so conscientious. Far too often some sleezeball would follow behind me and propose some used piece of junk, that wouldn’t begin to fulfill the needs of the client, at a down and dirty price the client couldn’t resist. When the prospect bought from the sleezeball, I always had the satisfaction of knowing they’d made a big mistake, but that didn’t help my commission check much.
When I did meet with the sales manager, he invariably suggested we jointly visit one of the prospects. Instinctively, he always chose customers I really didn’t want to take him to. Either I knew the client well enough to realize they’d hate having their arm twisted by Mr. Buy-It-Today or I’d only put the prospect on the report in desperation, knowing they were nowhere near their decision. Either way the ensuing appointment was usually painful. Every once in a great while I did walk away with a contract, however. So, I learned an important lesson, “Use your sales manager wisely.”
Mom is not a prospect for office equipment and I don’t know how to get in touch with my old sales manager, but if I ever needed him, this was it. I know Mom and Dad need to get out of that house, where their quality of life is quickly deteriorating, but if we wait for them to feel the urgency, their next move will be to a nursing facility – not independent living (and it will be much sooner than I want.)
After Mr. Buy-It-Today convinced me to bring him along on a sales call, the next question would always be, “Can we do that today?” I’d roll out all the appointments I had pending, thinking I could put the pain off until the following week, but Mr. Buy-It-Today would always find a chink in my Daytimer. After Mom shut me down, I had a busy weekend ahead of me and I didn’t want to wait until Monday and be stuck at exactly the same place I was on Friday morning, so I begged my husband to drop by their home with me on Saturday afternoon. I have a key. What were they going to do, throw me out? And I had the perfect ploy. Mom and I had been unsuccessful in a recent attempt to replace a mini-blind. I’d bring Bill in under the guise of fixing the blind and go for the jugular.
Things went pretty well, until I brought up the independent living issue. I took the position that the phone conversation on Friday had gone poorly because I had failed to fully communicate my intentions. Mom redirected. She pointed out, historically, I started a project and wanted to be through in a matter of days. She felt needed time to think about what I was proposing. I tried to explain why phase one, drive-by day, needed to be completed quickly and then the process would slow down considerably.
That’s when Bill entered the conversation. Like Mr. Buy-It-Today, Bill said things that I wouldn’t have said and others that I couldn’t agree with 100%, but he was effective. He gave her a bone. He told her we weren’t only trying to decide where they would move to, we were trying to decide if we were going to move them at all. That’s really true. There are changes we could make around their house that would make me feel better about their situation, but there were costs related to those changes, too, and so far Mom had resisted when I suggested them.
Grabbing the bone, Mom gave me some ground. We’d drive by a few of the retirement centers in her neighborhood on Monday morning, before we took Dad for his doctor’s appointment. Does it seem to you that this is a lot harder than it should be?