Knowing where to tap

Knowing where to tap

Once upon a time, a ship’s captain found himself stuck in port due to a broken boiler. He asked around the shipyard for someone who could fix the problem. He was given a name and summoned the repairman who showed up in the form of a 10-year old boy with a hammer. The captain was skeptical that the boy could help him but allowed the boy to continue to diagnose the problem.

The boy walked around the boiler several times, stopping on occasion to listen and look at a specific place. Finally, after about 15 minutes, he stopped, pulled out his hammer, gave the spot a single, firm tap with his only tool and the boiler sprang to life. The captain was amazed and pleased at the simplicity of the repair and hurried over to the young man to pay him for his services. The captain asked, “How much do I owe you, son?” The boy replied, “$1,000.” The captain, dismayed, said back to him, “It took you 15 minutes, and all you did was bang the boiler once with your hammer. That’s a ridiculous sum, and I won’t consider paying it without an itemized invoice!” The boy pulled a napkin from his pocket and on it wrote the following:

Line 1: Tapping the boiler—$5

Line 2: Knowing where to tap—$995

The captain paid for the repair without further question.

How can your clients experience this kind of drop-the-microphone moment?

Are you creating an experience that leaves them talking for the right reasons?

Are clients grateful to have you on the team?

Do they wonder what they did before you came to help?

Have you achieved the status of a trusted advisor?

Do they hear from you when you don’t need anything and just want to check in?

Do they say, “I’ve never thought of that,” after an hour with you?

When they think of the product or service you provide, is your name or your company’s top of mind?

When you meet with a client, is the discussion about price and time or about the value you bring?

Before walking into a client meeting with a solution in hand, do you have at least three places you want to tap to help solve their problem?

In advance of a big pitch, do you role play with your team to increase your agility in the client’s presence?


  1. In your area of specialization, do you know where to tap 90% of the time?
  2. How do you know?
  3. Write it down. Share it with your team. Begin to close any knowledge gaps that exist.

Takeaway: When a customer goes to Home Depot to buy a 3/8-inch drill bit, he’s not buying a tool; he’s paying for a hole. Knowing what the client needs and where to tap differentiates professionals and companies from the herd. The herd accepts commodity prices. Clients seek and are willing to pay a premium for professionals and companies that know where to tap.