It Is All About Perspective

Perspective is one of the strongest words in the English language, yet most people do not understand how it exerts it’s force in their lives. Every day that we interact with people we must involve ourselves with perspective.

A basic illustration of how we must adjust to perspective is when giving directions to two people coming from different parts of town. If we give them both the same set of directions we may get them both to the destination but likely only one person will find the destination. The same is true of motivating employees.

Each employee we hire and manage is coming from a different life location. Some employees are coming from a place where motivation should be based on competition while others are better motivated by nurturing. It is our job as managers to recognize what motivates each member of our team and use that information to get the most from each team member.

As salespeople it is our job to understand perspective and how it relates to each customer we interact with. Often we believe that because a particular word track worked once it should work each time we face a particular objection. It may, if those customers all have the same perspective, all coming from the same life location. That is often where we fail, we assume customers have the same perspective on the situation as we do. Spend time with customers early in the sales process not only identifying needs but also focusing in on perspective. Ask yourself regarding each customer you deal with if you really understand not only the needs they have but also why those needs are there, what is their life location? Only by doing this can you expect to understand why customers and employees react the way they do.

Osborne Management

Take a second to look at a management style that obviously works.

Tom Osborne started off as the head coach of what many experts consider the most successful college football program ever, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. His record as a coach was 254-49. In route to creating a dynasty his style was very simple, set expectations for every position on his team, from the star quarterback to the equipment manager, coach everyone all the time, and then hold them accountable for their part of the teams success.

This style took him from coaching to a successful political career and back to his home as the athletic director for Nebraska. His style worked because it was direct, clearly defined and incorporated accountability for himself and his staff.

A recent example of his style was the highly publicized firing of Bill Callahan. Coach Callahan was experiencing limited success after having been brought in to modernize the Nebraska football team. During the 2007 football season, when Nebraska had a record of four wins and four losses Osborne had a meeting with Callahan in which he clearly defined what would be acceptable for the remaining games. Osborne explained with clear language that if they could end the season with seven or eight wins that would be acceptable, six wins or less would not be acceptable. The team ended the season at five wins against seven losses. On the same day that Nebraska played their final game of the season, Osborne had a meeting with Callahan, the meeting lasted five minutes during which he held to the standards that he had set and fired the coach.

According to published reports, the firing cost the university three million dollars because they were responsible for buying out the remainder of Callahan’s contract. Why is that an important fact? What can we learn from this example?

In Osborne’s statement following the firing he made an interesting point, “The head coach is the head coach. The head coach is not just responsible for the offense. The head coach is responsible for the defense and the kicking game too and that’s why you’re the head coach. You are responsible for hiring those people, so I was not going to tell Bill who he had to keep and who he had to let go. So Bill Callahan was where the buck stops. Essentially that’s what it was. I was not going to say ‘Well, you’ve got to get rid of this guy and this guy and then maybe you can stay on.’ I told him that I never really believed in that.”

Do we treat our position players that way? Do we define for them acceptable performance, give them all the tools that would allow them to succeed and then hold them accountable for their performance?

To be successful in anything we do we must start by holding ourselves to Tom Osborne standards. Define your own goals, what performance level is acceptable and hold ourselves accountable, then move outward. Define your team’s goals, create the performance level that is acceptable, constantly coach towards those goals and create accountability for each position. Be sure to identify the consequences of non performance and then carry through without hesitation even if it causes some organizational or personal pain or discomfort.

Start right now, write down your goals, your team goals and decide how to achieve them. Work with your team on their goals and standards for performance and define the results of non performance. The biggest challenge then awaits, the execution. Accept the challenge or decide to sit in the grandstands watching someone that will.

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.

WordPress for iPhone

So I finally learned how to sign in to the iPhone application for WordPress. First Impression is that I am very excited. Love the landscape keyboard to write on and am sure this will add to my productivity. I will post this as a short post, but clearly, if you use WordPress and iPhone this is the app to have.

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.

Slinging Whips since 1999