The Difference Between Knowing and Doing

Seat belts save lives. We all know that it is safer to drive with our seatbelts on yet how often do we fail to buckle up? It is estimated that 25% of Americans do not use seat belts on a regular basis. It is improbable that after twenty years of education programs those people don’t know it is safer to drive while wearing seatbelts. Obviously, there is a difference between knowing something and doing something.

Properly trained salespeople know that they must prospect new customers, service current customers, and consistently schedule their days to meet production goals. Why is it necessary for sales managers to spend time every day pushing their salespeople to accomplish what they know they should be doing? Because there is a difference between knowing and doing.

Understanding that there is that gap between knowing and doing is the first step in being a powerful leader. If, as a manager, you then begin to see why your people are not doing what they need to do to succeed you will start to help them to close the gap.

Take for example an average producer, who usually ends the month middle of the pack. If he suddenly drops to the bottom of your sales charts you can easily identify there is a gap somewhere, whether it’s prospecting, followup or scheduling. The real skill is finding out why the gap has grown and reversing the trend. It may be a personal issue that has diverted attention away from what needs to be done at work, and while it is not our job as leaders to fix personal issues it is our job to redirect focus.

Our goal has to be to make sure our people know what is expected of them every day and then to be vigilant about keeping the gap between that knowledge and what they are doing as small as possible. What have you done today to close the gap?

Abort, Retry, Fail, What Would DOS Do?

Is it possible we learned everything we needed to know about life from DOS (for people under 20 look up DOS in wikipedia)? When DOS came to a error it couldn’t handle it would display an error, “Abort, Retry, Fail?” What worked for DOS can work for life.

Presented with a problem we are faced with choices, we can give up trying or Abort, we can keep trying or Retry, or we can proceed without solving the problem or Fail.

The decision to Abort, or give up trying, is the easiest of the choices we can make when faced with a decision. It is the natural choice when there are no external factors involved. The next natural response to a problem we can’t solve is to ignore, or Fail.

The overall process may be able to continue without obtaining the solution to a specific part of the problem. With this choice however, we are pushing ahead without all the necessary information, often in the wrong direction. The natural progression of problem solving goes from Retry to Fail. The more we extend past this sequence, the more sucessful we will be.

External factors often force us to continue on, for instance hunger will force an animal to continue chasing prey even after several failed attempts. What we must do is create internal motivation that moves us on past failures just like that hunger that drives animals past the natural first and second options.

Part of our motivation to continue hitting the Retry key has to come from an internal drive to succeed. We must have the realization that our instinct may be to accept the failure but greatness only comes when we push past the initial failure, regardless of the number of attempts it takes.

DOS taught us there were three choices when an error was encountered, success teaches us there is only one acceptable choice, the choice to continue hitting the Retry key until we get it right.

What Color Balloons Today

Attention all salespeople, please report to the office for a Sales Meeting. OK, today is going to be huge! We are going to move some iron so let’s get out and balloon up, make sure to use the Big Balloons!

How many times have we heard that or said that at a morning meeting? Unfortunately, many times that ‘Big Day’ turns into a day of disappointment. So our question should be Why? What should we do to ensure how our day will be busy and productive?

Some of us remember the good old days when it really did just take us unlocking the doors, putting out some balloons and writing up sales. Granted, we lost sales by being sloppy but it didn’t matter because someone else was right behind them for us to help. In case you missed the memo, those days are gone and odds are they are gone for good.

In response to the new reality we must decide to take control of our production and not rely on outside factors to determine our paycheck. When was the last time you were not concerned with floor traffic because you had a full schedule of appointments? Hopefully that was today. If not today, why not? Maybe it is just a failure to understand the numbers.

Take just a minute to review the numbers for the average salesperson. The industry average for shown appointments is thirty percent. The average number of shown appointments that purchase is forty percent. Now let’s do the math to determine what your activity goals should be.

If you want to sell 10 cars and there are 22 working days it’s simple math. 10 Units = 85 Appointments, it’s that simple (85 times 30%=25.5) (25.5 times 40%=10)

Are you still with me? The bottom line is that you can plug in your specific numbers and figure out how many appointments you need each day to reach your production goal. But there is a difference between knowing and doing, but that is a whole new discussion.

2007 Mets, Lesson in Managing a Team

2007 Mets, an Object Lesson by Dennis Taylor

There are always comparisons made between the business world and the sports world and recently one of the most surprising events to happen in sports in a long time occurred in Major League Baseball. With apologies to any New York Mets fans an examination of that event can have direct impact on how we manage our own teams.

As of the 12th of September the Mets found themselves 7 games ahead in the division, cruising towards a pennant and World Series berth, there was no question if they would qualify for the playoffs, just when. As the Mets started play in September they were confident and looking ahead feeling good about what they had accomplished. On September 8th the Mets website made this quote, “September has been kind, prosperous and free of bad karma for these Mets. “We’ve done what we need to do the last few weeks,” manager Willie Randolph said.”

On the last day of the season, less than a month after expanding their lead to the seemingly insurmountable 7 games, the stunned and shell shocked Mets packed up their lockers and went home, not even qualifying for the wild card spot in the playoffs because of losing 15 out of their last 17 games.

Is there anything we can learn from the Mets collapse? Of course there are several things that we can learn and apply in our sales teams.

At the beginning of that unprecedented eighteen days, the leadoff hitter for the Mets, Jose Reyes, was batting .292, above his career average of .284. During the critical last ten games of the season his average was .174, yet he played every game.

As a manager, how long do you wait for a player to perform before you make some sort of change? What if five games into the collapse the manager had said, “Jose you have been great this season, I want to try something for a few games and change the batting order”, would that have made a difference? There is no way to tell for sure but things couldn’t have been much worse.

Why, as managers do we wait so long to change? If you have a producer that has been making it happen but is in a slump, why not jump in and help with presentations and take turns on customers early and often until they get back on track? Why do we wait until the end of the month, or season, to figure out what happened?

The second point we can glean from Reyes’ numbers is this: Who takes the most at bats on a team? The leadoff batter does. That is why the leadoff batter is such an important role, it is his job to get on base the most, in Reyes’ case he started off the year doing what he was supposed to do but by the end of the year he was not and yet he started every game as the leadoff batter.

Who typically gets the most at bats in the dealership? The weakest salesperson. Why? Because, while the better salespeople are selling cars the weaker ones are burning through customers. That is why as managers we have to watch who is taking customers on the lot and making sure each customer contact is getting logged in the CRM and taking turns on those customers. Salespeople change during a month, just like ballplayers change during the season, so don’t assume you know who your best salesmen is today, just because you knew yesterday.

In the first 50 games of the season the Mets produced 33 wins and 17 losses. In the final 112 games their record was 55 and 57, which, as the Mets website pointed out means they played two thirds of the season losing more games than they were winning.

The team that beat the Mets for the division, the Philadelphia Phillies, played .593 ball from July 1st through the end of the season, concluding the season with 13 wins in their last 17 games.

When you start a new month make sure everyone understands that the month ends on the last day of the month, not after the first week. The old saying, “it aint over till its over” couldn’t be more true than in the car business or baseball. Keep your people in the game every day until the month is over regardless of how their month is going. The people that are ‘on fire’ at the beginning of the month tend to lose it at the end of the month and vice versa, unless we are coaching and managing every single day.

The Major League Baseball season consists of 162 games. The Mets season was considered a failure because they needed to win 2 more games to make the playoffs. For the Mets, the difference between success and failure was, statistically speaking, 1.2%.

Each sales team has defined standards (or at least should have) for what is considered success, so the difference needed to turn a bad month into a good month may be more than what the Mets needed, statistically speaking. If we however, never forget that every customer that walks on our lot may be the difference between success and failure, that can create awesome results.

Baseball players every year go to Spring Training and practice the basics, over and over again. Coaches and players understand how important it is to go the extra mile in training and practice.

Salespeople and Sales Managers need to understand that we need to practice the basics if we are going to get better. Getting better results doesn’t involve drastic measures, in sales it just involves asking one more time for the extra payment, making one more prospecting call at the end of the day, or learning one more piece of product knowledge.

The biggest lesson we can learn from the ’07 Mets is that we can always improve, and we can always get worse, our job as managers is to make sure our team is getting better, not worse every day.