Now that we are heading out of summer and into cooler days, here’s a reprint of an article I wrote last winter.  Enjoy…

I’ve never been one for big cars.  At 5’ 10”, or at least that’s how I was listed in my high school basketball program, I just don’t feel right in a big car.  There’s also a fuel cost, and from a cost perspective, they’re more expensive to rent.  No, when it comes to renting a car, it’s an open and shut case for me.  I’m a compact man.

So, when I flew into Albany this week, and bellied up to the counter for my Enterprise compact, I was met with a friendly fresh face who had other plans.  His name was Vinnie, and as a 25 year veteran sales trainer, I was looking forward to the conversation.

Vinnie looked up my reservation, smiled, and with my license and credit card in hand, we started the process of getting Rob Jolles behind the wheel of his small car.  After all, Rob Jolles is a compact man.

There was some idle chitchat, and then a harmless question.  “Where will you be taking the car Mr. Jolles?”  A harmless answer followed.  “I’m heading to Keene Valley to conduct three days of sales training in the Adirondacks.”  I thought I saw Vinnie smile… but that might have been my imagination.

“Have you checked the weather report Mr. Jolles?”  Of course I had.  I not only have over two million miles of air travel under my belt for my career, I wrote a bestselling book on travel!  What self respecting Road Warrior goes on a trip and doesn’t check the weather report for the area they are traveling to?  I could sense where this conversation might be going and I wasn’t having any of it.

“Yes Vinnie, I’ve checked the weather.  Why do you ask?”  The small grin was gone, and a sincere look took its place.  “Because there’s some weather heading in, and I think you might want to rent something a little bigger.  I think you might want to rent a four wheel drive vehicle.”

This kid was overmatched.  I had looked at the weather report carefully, and before I left there was rain and nothing more coming in.  I was curious just the same so we spoke about price.  The vehicle was significantly more than the one I was looking to rent, but Vinnie seemed like he sincerely was concerned.  He offered to drop the price a little bit, but I still wasn’t biting.  Then Vinnie asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.  It was simple, and yet, it was brilliant.  He calmly asked me, “What if the weather changes?”

I looked at him somewhat dumbfounded and he went on to say, “Well, I ask you that question because I’m born and raised here in Albany.  I know the Adirondacks well, and I know Keene Valley.  The weather can be very volatile there and can change rather quickly.  What if the weather changes on you Mr. Jolles?”

I stammered a bit, and Vinnie bore in.  “You will be driving well over 100 miles each way.  What effect do you think this will have on your business trip, and the next location you might need to get to if you are driving a compact car?”  Not only was I concerned about the safety of the compact I was considering, I had concerns about getting home to see my daughter in a play she was performing in.  It was a one night performance, and I had never missed a performance.  Getting back to Albany was critical.  I told Vinnie I’d take the bigger four wheel drive vehicle, moved past the price, and headed to the mountains.

Well, the weather did change and it snowed… for three days.  The snow total was between 16-20 inches.  My big four-wheel drive Ford seemed to almost laugh at the snow.  I felt safe in what I was now calling the “Vinnie-Mobile” and the trip was a success.  I made it out of the Adirondacks when the training was over, and had no trouble getting back to Albany to catch my flight.

I learned at a young age as a 21 year old insurance agent from a grizzled sales veteran that selling isn’t a question of ‘what is’ – it’s a question of ‘what if?’  By asking me that simple question, a question I conveniently avoided asking myself, an Enterprise employee saved me from missing a life event with my youngest child.  While he was at it, he helped me avoid other costs a delay would have incurred and ultimately saved me money.  The “Vinnie Mobile” may have been a few dollars more a day to rent, but it became the best bargain on the road to drive.  Vinnie also earned a client for life, my respect and appreciation.  Who knows, maybe it’s time to reconsider whether I’m still a compact man.  I really liked driving that “Vinnie-Mobile…”

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