Selling Land

The Three Hardest Words in Business

The Three Hardest Words in Business

I enjoy listening to podcasts on my commute to and from work. My podcast choices cover a wide variance of topics. Some are silly and comical, some cater to my hobbies, and still others are very educational and thought-provoking. One such podcast is “Freakanomics,” a podcast created by author Stephen Dubner and economics professor Steven Levitt. These two have published several books under the “Freakanomics” name and put out a podcast every Thursday morning. Their moniker is that they explore the hidden side of everything. Their episodic topics range from “There is no such thing as a free appetizer” to “What do King Solomon and David Lee Roth have in common?” Regardless of the subject matter, they never fail to make me think critically and I am often able to apply their theories to my own life and profession. Recently they broadcasted a podcast (as well as devoting a chapter in their new book) entitled The Three Hardest Words in the English Language.

“I don’t know.”

Saying those words doesn’t seem too difficult at first mention, but think about how hard that can really be. A potential client calls in and asks a challenging question. You don’t know the answer, so what do you do? Talk in circles? Defer the question along to someone else? Give an answer and pray you’re right? We as professionals put pressure on ourselves to be just that, “Professionals.” It is hard not to have a mindset where you feel the need to answer these questions definitively right out of the gate. It can sneak into our psyche that we are admitting failure if we aren’t an instantaneous one-stop expert resource for all solutions and inquiries. Our goal should be to strive towards accuracy and efficiency. Refusing to admit our limitations can be counterproductive.

As the podcast points out, admitting “I don’t know” isn’t always a bad thing; in fact it can be a very good thing. If you find yourself saying it, it might simply be an indication that you need to ask yourself the hard questions. It can spark conversation that goes beyond simple Q & A with a client or prospective customer and instead open a deeper dialogue. The phrase can be a strong hint that perhaps you need to do some deep analytical thinking. Often in business we get in the habit of certain practices; sponsoring local sporting events, patronizing a certain elevator on a specific management account, buying seed for a farm based on familial history from a generation ago. These are a few of the many scenarios wherein sometimes we simply need to ask ourselves “why?” Why do we do these things? Are they working? We have done them for years but do they make sense? Maybe they make perfect sense, but maybe it isn’t that black and white. We owe it to ourselves and our clients to critically explore every angle. I know when I started asking myself some of these questions; my gut response was that I didn’t know if they made sense anymore. I didn’t cower at that response; it simply opened my eyes that I need to look at certain situations with a different lens.

The bottom line is that not knowing every answer is acceptable. If you find yourself saying “I don’t know,” great! Admitting you don’t know is the challenging part. Now you can start working towards a solution.

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About the author

Luke Worrell

Luke Worrell is a Broker, Accredited Land Consultant and Accredited Farm Manager in Jacksonville, IL. He specializes in agricultural real estate and land management in west central IL. Luke enjoys all things sports and traveling. He resides in Springfield, IL with his wife Allison and two sons, Kale and Benson.

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