One of my favorite lessons from writing We and studying customer relationships is that the best wisdom for business often comes from everyday life. A few weeks ago I wrote a post describing an inspiration from listening to a Joni Mitchell song when I was in Europe. Today, Joni’s plain wisdom inspired me once again.

Just now, at 33,000 feet on the way from Atlanta to Chicago, I was listening to her song Chelsea Morning and heard one of my favorite passages:

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning and the first thing that I knew,
There was milk and toast and honey, and a bowl of oranges, too.
The sun poured in like butterscotch, and stuck to all my senses,
Won’t you stay, we’ll put on the day, and talk in present tenses?

One of the key components of a relationship-building encounter is that you and your customer need to both be fully present, engaged in the present moment. As I wrote in this recent post on, one of the easiest ways to kill a sales conversation is to be focused on the next step in the sales process, ignoring the opportunity to create an encounter RIGHT NOW, in the present moment.

When Joni wakes up into her Chelsea morning, she is fully engaged in the “what’s happening now.” What does she want to do? Talk in present tenses.

That’s profound. Even while you are in a discussion with your customer planning the future, or recapping the past, be sure that you are in the spirit of the present tense.

When you are engaged in dialogue with your customer, think, “Won’t you stay, we’ll put on the day, and talk in present tenses?”

Wow. Thanks again, Joni.


  • Hersh Bhardwaj
    Aug 17, 2008 - 05:08 am

    Hi Steve,
    My first comment here. Hope to read a lot of you in future.
    Interestingly enough, I read Tom’s post about sales meeting focussing upon sequential arrangements rather than striving to fprm a present-term relation. ow, I havn’t followed your blog from there, I just stumbled upon here and found the same wisdom refined even more.
    Nice one!

    • Steve Yastrow
      Aug 17, 2008 - 07:41 am

      Thanks, Hersh. I’m starting to see, with clients, that focusing on relationship-building encounters is a good way to get people who say “I’m not a good salesperson” to sell better. For example, lots of lawyers could be much more successful if they were better “rainmakers,” but think they aren’t good salespeople, in the traditional sense. But, they are very good at having strong, present, encounters with people.

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