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Stop When You Get to Yes!

March 29, 2012

That’s classic sales management advice, yet I have seen countless sales professionals ignore it at their peril.

The advice applies outside of sales too, and I just witnessed it yesterday in a whole new context on my flight to San Francisco.

We are all buckled into our (relatively) comfortable exit row seats and the flight attendant had just finished giving us the instructions for operating the doors. As per FAA regulations, she said that she needed to make sure that each and every one of us understood the instructions and that we were ready, willing and able to assist in the event of an emergency, and then she began checking with us one by one.

When she motioned to me in the window seat, I looked her in the eye and said “Yes”, as did the poor guy stuck in the middle seat next to me.  When she turned  to the man seated in the aisle seat, he looked up quizzically and said “Hmm?”.

The flight attendant asked him again if he understood the instructions and if he was ready, willing and able to assist in the event of an emergency.

The passenger replied in a thick accent “Yes. My English is not that bad”.

The flight attendant replied that she was concerned that he might not be able to understand instructions in the chaos of an unlikely emergency and that she was going to have to move him to another seat.

He protested with a few sentences in fluent, if heavily accented, English; trying to assure her that he did understand.

It was too late. the flight attendant had to make a judgment call on the potential safety of passengers, so she moved him.

The guy in the middle seat shrugged and slid over into the now vacated aisle seat, giving both of us the next best thing to first class– reclining exit row seats with an empty middle seat between us.

He knew how to stop when he got to yes.

And I did too.

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