Fable Friday: God, Milton and your business plan

The great English poet John Milton (1608-1674) was a man of great faith and devotion to God, and in today’s Fable Friday I’ll share a story with you on how his sonnet “When I consider how my light is spent,” connects to your obligation to create and implement a plan for your customers.

When Milton was still a young man, he learned that he was going blind, and in 1655 he wrote the sonnet that has come to be called, “On His Blindness.” Here it is:

“When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Let me draw your attention to lines 3-7 first, because Milton is referring to Matthew 25: 14-30, a parable by Jesus in which a servant who is given a talent (sum of money) to invest, buries the coin and is able to provide no return, and then is scorned by his master.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedSo Milton concludes that God doesn’t need us to do anything for him as he is all-powerful. All God asks of us is that we do all we can, make the most of our gifts, in service to one another, rather than bury our talent.  As Martin Luther said, “God doesn’t need your good works; your neighbor does.”  And then Milton closes with one of the most famous lines in English literature:  “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

What does this have to do with you and your work?  I often see people in direct sales positions who seem to follow the last line of the sonnet, believing that they serve their customers by standing and waiting for them to need something.

A branch manager of a bank told me once that he doesn’t make outside calls because if his business customers needed anything they would tell him. Rubbish!  He had the worst sales performance in the bank.

Perhaps you sell some ancillary financial service, like Treasury, Foreign Exchange or Derivatives.  Don’t tell me you are dependent on the Account Manager to schedule your calls.  Source them yourself.  Create your own plan for this year on how many outside calls you will make, how many will be to retain your best clients, where you think you can penetrate the relationship more effectively and who are the most likely prospects to need your expertise.  Then tell the Account Managers what you plan to do.  They can agree to come along or not.

Just know that you are not serving by standing and waiting.

By the way, Milton didn’t stand and wait either, despite that famous line. He wrote his two greatest works, “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained” after he was completely blind.

Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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