What I Learned While Walking with Sadie

Updated: Jun 28, 2019

A Dog Walker's Thoughts on Business and Life

For many years, we had dogs…I would have said owned, but there was some question as to who owned whom. Let’s just say we “co-habitated.”

Our last dog, Sadie, was an eighty-pound German Shepherd mix we rescued from a local shelter. Most mornings between 7:00 and 8:00, in all kinds of weather, Sadie joined us for a two to three-mile walk or some days, time permitting, I would take her for a longer run. From prior experience with our other dogs we knew how important walks would be to her overall health and happiness. What we didn’t know at the time was how much we would learn during these daily outings.

I started to write down some of the things I learned while observing her on these walks because I quickly recognized how these things applied to sales and life in general. I hope you’ll agree.

Chasing Rabbits, Catching Voles

Living on the cusp of a small town and the country, we passed a lot of open fields when we went for a walk; fields that Sadie loved to explore. Many of these fields were open space or wetlands, however, and had posted signs that were intended to prohibit people and their pets from disturbing them.

Luckily for us, there was a big open area close by where Sadie could roam free, sniff, run, stretch her legs, and basically do what nature intended…no…the other thing…hunt. Now I have to tell you, that I am not a game hunter myself, but Sadie was certain that she was. She would go about this task with great energy and even seemed to have developed a plan of action.

Upon entering this open area and being released from her leash, Sadie started to hunt, looking for specific areas; places where she’d previously smelled a rabbit or seen voles (a variety of small field mice). She had a goal and went about it in a very organized fashion.

Step One: Know Your Territory

Sadie knew this territory because she’d spent time studying it. She’d sniffed every hole and ditch she could find. She went where she knew the rabbits and voles hung out. She’d seen them and smelled them before, so she knew where to start. While always looking for new places, her experience had taught her to continue to check the places where she’d had success in the past.

Step Two: Learn Something New Each Time You Hunt

Sadie seemed to learn something new each time she went hunting. The first time we went to this field she discovered that the voles liked to dig many holes. She often would chase a vole to a hole and lose it there. After a couple of visits, however, she discovered that they have an escape hole that isn’t too far from the entrance. She had some success by chasing the vole to the entrance and then staking out the escape holes. This seems to have taught her that if one path didn’t work, another one might.

Step Three: Enjoy the Hunt, but Stay Focused

Anyone who isn’t sure how to “live in the moment” only needed to watch Sadie for a few minutes. When she was hunting, she was completely living in the moment. She was totally focused on what she was doing, giving her full attention to the task at hand, her senses all on high alert, and only thinking about what she needed to be doing now.

Step Four: Don't Quit Just Because You Didn't Catch Anything Today

Luckily for Sadie, she didn’t possess something most humans do…self-doubt. She never thought, “I can’t do this, or it can’t be done.” She always thought she could succeed, and it was very easy to see the pleasure she derived from the experience; even when she didn’t find anything to chase.

It didn’t happen every day, but Sadie has found a lot of jack rabbits to chase. She never caught one; they were just too fast for her…but that didn’t stop her from trying. Each and every time she saw one, she went after it with everything she had and even got a little closer each time…at least for a few yards.

It is doubtful Sadie would have ever caught a healthy adult jack rabbit, but while she was out looking for rabbits, she discovered voles…and those she did learn how to catch. So, her persistence did pay off.

Hunting for rabbits and voles isn’t that different from sales. Each day a salesperson is faced with the same challenges as Sadie faced…learning about the territory, gathering new information, finding the right targets, staying focused, and maintaining a good attitude, even when nothing new is closed.

A salesperson may not find a big opportunity every day, but by following a plan, they will find smaller opportunities that add up. By staying the course, they will likely run into a few bigger opportunities and when they do, their persistence will have prepared them for what they need to do to succeed.

Jim Heilborn is a business consultant specializing in the commercial furniture industry, working nationwide with dealers, manufacturers, and service providers. He has been conducting training on behalf of INDEAL since 2011 and can be reached at 916.434.8711 or jheilborn@indeal.org.