A Forty-Foot Cliff & My 5-Year-Old – Sales Timing & Openness

A Forty-Foot Cliff & My 5-Year-Old – Sales Timing & Openness

I can still remember that day when I was stuck on the side of the mountain with my 5-year-old boy, carrying what felt like a 55-pound backpack. Obviously, I had taken the wrong turn, a shortcut. My excuses really didn’t matter at that point. I found myself inching my way up the mountain by placing my boy on a rock and then on top of a shrub, until I could go no further. We came to the face of a 40-foot cliff and the risk of getting off this mountain was mind blowing.

In 1990, cell coverage sometimes was sparse. I had thought the lack of connection to the outside world on the trail was no problem. The hike was familiar. I had completed it once or twice a year growing up with my older brothers and I wanted to create similar memories with my boy. There was a spring where we planned to refill our water bottles. The landmark leading to the spring was the remains of a shale rock slide on the right side of the trail, just before the next switchback. The path to the spring was a small shortcut that quickly reconnected with the trail.

I had turned way too soon at a similar rock slide, and did not turn back soon enough. I thought I could bushwhack and climb my way out. Finally, after what felt like 60 or 90 minutes of wresting with the difficult climb on the side of that mountain, we found ourselves barley sitting on what you could call a 12-inch mountain goat run, at the bottom of this 40-foot cliff. I could not see a safe way out. The sun was setting, and we should have been setting up camp by then. I was trying to hold my composure for my 5-year-old. Knowing the severity of the situation I had gotten us into, I was overwhelmed, and I was about to lose my composure.

My emotional state was indescribable. There were so many feelings stirring around inside of me. However, a miracle began when I had enough sense to ask my boy to offer a prayer for help. It was a short, simple prayer of faith from a 5-year-old to his Heavenly Father. He’d finished and I opened my eyes to a rope dropping down from the sky and resting against the wall of rock in front of us. The rope hung there for a moment, long enough for me to start repenting for the words I had just said under my breath before his prayer. The rope was bright yellow with some blue woven throughout. Not completely humbled by the miracle before my eyes, my thoughts instantly went to: “What am I supposed to do with this rope?” and “Am I supposed to try to climb this cliff with my boy?” My thoughts of doubt stopped when the rope began to move. I looked up and saw a young man repelling his way down. I could not believe my eyes, nor the faith of my little 5-year-old, and his prayer for help. I offered a thank you prayer and felt the peace that comes with believing things would be okay.

Because the rope landed exactly between my boy and I, we needed to move 18 inches or so to the side to make room for our new friend. He looked down and was surprised to see us as well. I explained we were stuck and asked if he knew how to get us off the mountain side. He explained how, for the last 15 minutes, he had been scouting the cliff for a safe way to come down and to get back to the trail. He pointed at some scrub oak and said, “We need to go this way!” In less than 90 seconds, my boy and I were safely back on the right path.

There are many lessons I have learned from this experience. I would like to share two, “Timing” and “Openness”


In the sales world, we spend time thinking and planning how our product or service can be someone’s yellow rope and a path off a cliff. These days, it is still tempting to some to rattle off the features and benefits of their product, essentially throwing their rope down and hoping their clients grab a hold. When the potential clients are desperate enough, maybe they will grab onto your offer. But with this type of thinking by entrepreneurs, by the time their clients finish their descent, I doubt they’ll be satisfied with the experience.

By this time, you get the analogy.  Your “rope” is your product or service and your “path off the cliff” is a direct correlation to the fit your offering has in relation to a customer or demographic. If we can get even more specific, your extension of your rope is designed to serve your ideal customer or a well-defined demographic.  In other words, you have invested the time to (1) find your ideal customers and (2) know how to articulate the value of your product or service to those customers.   Most companies will be able to identify and prioritize several different targeted demographics.  And these demographics will be able to see a “high value” in the company’s offerings.  This means, it is a fit and worth both parties’ time.  This is who you want to throw your rope down to and then spend the time repelling into their world with confidence you can get them off the cliff.  You know the value is a fit as it relates to this client.

You still need to factor timing, and they may not be ready because they are going to put out a different fire.  However, this is a fit, and you will call back on and nurture the opportunity without reservations.

Remembering this analogy has the potential to keep you motivated to continually put yourself in front of your most ideal clients until they are ready to grab onto your rope.


Regrettably, 25 years later, I don’t remember the boy’s name, but I do remember his yellow rope, his preparedness, his surprise, his willingness to help, and being very humbled by a 5-year-old. I’ve shared this story in discussions about how we are all placed in each other’s paths or lives to help each other through tough times, helping each other get back on our paths, and to look back and notice the progress we have all made on those paths.

There have been several times in my sales career when I have asked for help and the yellow rope has appeared, a person has been placed in front of my face with needed advice and answers. Even though the very thing I asked for appeared, sometimes I still ignored it. Looking back, I am sure I had my reasons for staying at the “top of the cliff,” perhaps they were fear, pride, or the satisfaction thinking I was a victim.

I have learned that in order to be at the top of my profession, I need to recognize and take advantage of help when it arrives.

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