Cup of Joe: How To Deal With Alligators



Alligator When I was a kid my father used to take me fishing. We didn’t go all the time, but because I grew up close to the water, we probably went more than most. One time we went was so memorable I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a hot Saturday in the middle of summer. We decided to try our luck in an area of the marsh that we had never fished. So my father rowed our little wooden row boat out in the middle of the creek and anchored it along the bank of the marsh, right beside an oyster bed.

We were there but only an hour or so when the tip of my rod bent straight down. It was all I could do to hold on to that thing as the rod bent more and the tension in the reel started to give. I couldn’t believe it, all I could think about was the giant flounder in the other end of my line. Being only 8 or 9 at the time I could barely hold the rod let alone reel this monster in, so I handed the rod off to my dad and let him reel. My father pulled and reeled as hard as he could, and slowly the line got closer to the boat. Before long the line was practically touching the boat and we still couldn’t see a fish in the water. My dad finally gave the line one last hard tug and what came out of the water was quite a surprise!

There inches from the boat was the head of a 5 ft alligator with my line still coming from his mouth. My father yelled, “Knife!” and I handed him the bait knife that was in the tackle box. He reached over with it and immediately cut the line. The alligator’s head then slowly sunk into the water out of sight. My father then looked at me and said, “Well I think its time to go now.” Even though our trip was cut short, I couldn’t agree more.

There were other times that we had caught eels and sting rays. But this was my first alligator! I remember one of the best lessons my father taught me during one of these fishing excursions. “Most of the time when you put your bait in the water, you can’t control what you are going to attract.” Now of course you can pick and choose baits based on what you are trying to catch, but the truth is there’s no guarantee what will take your hook.

Over the last couple of months we have increased our incoming leads at least 150%. Which is great for business but has also been a huge learning experience. Because the truth is, you don’t want everyone as a client. I don’t mean that as a swipe at any particular person, but the truth is some clients are just not a good match for your offerings. And unfortunately some aren’t a good match for anyone’s offerings! ;)

With this in mind its very important to be selective when vetting leads. Always remember that you are shopping for the right client just as much as they are shopping for the right vendor. But you can’t properly vet anyone of you don’t know what to look for. So my best advice is to always trust your gut. If you feel that a particular lead isn’t a good match, or will cause problems down the road, find a trust worthy colleague to refer them out to. But don’t worry, the more alligators you encounter in your career, the easier they are to handle. And the bigger fish are right down the stream!

[photo credit]

  • Anthony Pensabene

    Hey Joe, long-time listener, first-time caller. I don’t own a business; so, some may think my opinion is not warranted. However, I’m highly interested in reputation management and branding; I think accepting a client you see as an “alligator,” one with suspicious intentions and low quality to offer just to keep the revenue stream running, is a huge mistake.

    As you suggest, play the game, politely direct them down another road (no reason to let them know you’re understanding of them is ‘above water’ – or, conversely, “telling them like it is may be the best business advice for them). There are other ‘worthy’ clients out there, worthy of both marketing services and the customer exposure marketers help them attain. Thanks, Joe.

    I remember reading some great discussions in the comment section of Rand’s post related to this:
    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/seo-pricing-costs-of-services

    • http://joehall.me Joe Hall

      Thank you Anthony for commenting! Please don’t be a stranger!

  • http://joinwomu.com WOMU

    Hi Joe! How are you doing? So nice story you have told us. I really enjoyed reading your story of childhood getting experienced with alligators. Thank you buddy.

  • Scott

    Hi Joe – can you expound at all on what you’ve been doing to increase your leads so dramatically? Thanks!