What would a book about using common sense to help with your selling efforts be without leading off with Vince Lombardi? Virtually every business author on the face of the earth has included at least one Vince Lombardi quote in books on this topic, so we definitely have a consensus going. Lombardi had some pretty good ideas.
You know who he was, right? For those who grew up after his time and may not be all that that familiar with his remarkable legacy, Vince Lombardi was head coach of the Green Bay Packers football team from 1959 to 1967. Lombardi led the Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls ever played and, to this day, he is still regarded as one of the NFL’s greatest coaches. In his honor, the Super Bowl trophy is named after him. Lombardi was known as a strict disciplinarian on and off the field, and he was an absolute stickler for being on time. In fact, if he called for a practice, you were expected to show up 15 minutes early. For him, being “on-time” wasn’t good enough. Lombardi knew that preparation in all facets of football, (and in life, for that matter) was one of the keys to success. Arriving for practice “early” allowed every player to mentally prepare for the upcoming practice instead of waiting until they were already on the field, to engage and achieve the proper mindset.
The concept of always arriving 15 minutes early became known as Lombardi Time. To memorialise the concept, on July 30, 2012, a clock, overlooking Lombardi Avenue at Lambeau Field, where the Packers play and where Lombardi coached, was set 15 minutes ahead of the actual time. Occasionally strangers to the area wonder about the time discrepancy, and in some cases they wander into neighboring shops to ask why the clock appears to be running fifteen minutes fast. Those who already know, of course, understand the importance that Lombardi placed on details of discipline, and highlighted that importance with something as seemingly small as arriving early so as to be better prepared for what comes next. So, what does being 15 minutes early mean to the selling process?
First off, it allows you to mentally prepare for the presentation ahead. In many instances, there’s setup required for your presentation materials. If you’re only getting a 30 minute time slot to make your pitch, showing up at exactly the appointment time means that some of the allotted time will be used just in getting set up. And, what sales person doesn’t want to maximize face-time with their buyer?
Secondly, it shows that you’re not only respectful of the buyer’s time, being a little early demonstrates your confidence, capabilities, and dependability. The worst possible message you’d ever want to leave with a potential customer is that you consider your time to be more important than theirs. But you would actually do exactly that, by showing up without being fully prepared to answer questions or, should the opportunity present itself, even close the deal.
Time is money, and in sales, you need to remember that your client considers his or her time more valuable than yours. They’ve set aside a portion of valuable time in their busy day to see you. You’ll want to respect that.
If part of my customers’ expectations included wondering what time I’d finally show up and get started, chances are that I might not get any more of their business. So, just maybe, because I give my customers a little more of my time while protecting their time, they’ll recognize the fact that my word is good, I’m dependable, and that I respect them.
The Lombardi Time rule also goes hand in hand with the Boy Scout’s Motto of “Be Prepared.” This is actually one of my favorite exercises for attendees when I give seminars. I point out the pencil and blank sheet of paper in front of each of them, and tell them I’m going to give them a very simple problem to solve. They’re going to imagine that they own a boat, and they’re going to invite some guests to go fishing with them. (I’m a lousy fisherman but an avid boater who owns a 28 ft. Wellcraft®, so I came up with this).
After reading the problem details to them, I ask them to raise their hands and tell me roughly how many minutes they think they’ll need to write a two column “To-Do” list. One column is for things to do on the day of the boat trip, the other is things they would want to do in advance. I’ll look for a show of hands estimating how long they think it will take them to write that list, and then I’ll give them that many minutes to complete the task.
Once they’re done, we’ll compare lists. The point of the exercise is to learn to look at situations from all sides, mentally evaluating what needs to be done, so that the task can be accomplished properly, and without screw-ups.
The Problem: Let’s say you’ve invited a group of convivial business associates to join you on your boat for a day of fishing. One of the guests is a newbie to offshore fishing. You’ve got a comfortably sized boat with plenty of room for fishing and entertaining. The weather is expected to be perfect and the fishing report says that dolphin or snapper or blues, or what-have-you, are biting at this time of year. You’re going to tell your guests that they’re more than welcome to bring their own poles and tackle boxes, but that you always carry extra fishing tackle on board, in case they either forget theirs, or don’t have any. You’ve also told them you’ll plan to supply lunch, cold drinks, and bait, so all they need to do is show up. You’ve told them you’d like to get an early start, and you’ve said what time you’d like them to show up at the dock. Sounds as if you’ve got your guests pretty well organized.
But are you organized? You’re the host as well as the captain. This is the reason for your two column list. On that list you’ll write down everything you’ll need to do, to buy, to get, to confirm, or to check status on. One column lists what you’re planning to do the day of the excursion, the other column is what you’ll plan to do a day or so in advance. We’re going to assume that you keep your hypothetical boat in good running condition and that you also have a toolbox on board, so don’t worry about that part.
Think beyond the obvious, and make your list with your guest’s comfort and safety in mind. Once my seminar attendees have done that, then they can check off their own lists against these questions and observations.
Many items on the list will be perfectly obvious to some attendees, but for others, that same item will not even have crossed their minds. So here we go…
Do you have the right number of life preservers on board in case the Coast Guard decides to pull alongside and say hello? They’re doing that a lot these days.
If one of the guests is a novice fisherman, perhaps a little nervous to be that far offshore, a little reassurance could go a long way. If you have state-of- the-art safety equipment on board for example, you could casually mention that you have a fully stocked, auto-inflatable 8-man raft and an EPIRB on board. (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon)
Speaking of emergencies, how about your first aid kit? Somebody always manages to draw blood somehow. When was the last time you checked it? Is your radio in good working order? Did you remember to check the fishing report to find out exactly where the fish are biting, and do you have a chart or GPS that shows you how to get there? Got some extra filet knives for when you get back to the dock, so that more than one person at a time can clean the day’s catch?
Did you think to bring along a good size box of plastic zip-lock bags? Your guests will need something to put their freshly filleted fish in for transport home.
Here’s another thought, when, exactly, had you planned to pick up your supplies? Were you going to do that on the morning of the fishing trip? Were you planning to stop by the grocery store on the way to the dock and have the employees in the deli section make a raft of sub sandwiches while you shopped for soft drinks, beer, water, chips and cookies?
You know you can call that order in the night before, so the sandwiches will be ready for pickup when you get there, right? Did you think to do that? Nowadays you can actually call your entire grocery and deli order in ahead of time. That saves a ton of time. You can also pick up frozen bait in advance. Fresh bait, not so much, so that has to be another morning stop.
What about sunscreen? It’s a safe bet that some of your guests are going to have forgotten theirs, and you sure as heck don’t want a painfully sunburned business associate to blame a week’s worth of sunburn pain on you. While we’re at it, do you have a few extra floppy hats on board? Foam can sleeves for cold drinks? What about spare sunglasses? The local dollar store is a great resource for a thoughtful host, and they open at 8AM. Whoops. Didn’t you instruct your guests to meet you at the dock at 7AM? Better handle that a day or so in advance. And by the way, once your guests arrive, you don’t want to suddenly discover that you’re low on fuel for the boat, so it’s a pretty good idea to take care of topping off the tanks a day or so in advance as well.
I could go on, but I think you get the general idea. Once your guests do arrive you’ll want to be totally organized and ready to give them your undivided attention. If you’ve prepared properly in advance, which is to say, if you arrive early, unload the supplies, stow everything where it’s supposed to go before your guests get there so they don’t have to witness a last minute, disorganized scramble, you’ll be remembered as the perfect host, everyone will have a great time, and your guests won’t forget it. They’ll be enormously appreciative that you thought enough of them to treat them so well, and when you ask for their business, they’ll remember your attention to detail. They’ll be inclined to trust you with the details of their own orders because they’ve seen you in action. At that point I’ll also ask the attendees if anyone had something on their list that the rest of us had forgotten.
This same plan of action can be applied to any business problem. Look at the big picture. Anticipate. Be prepared. It’s important to remember that in whatever you do, others are watching. They’re learning from you.
You might not realize it, but you’re mentoring the people you come in contact with every day of your life. You’re continually setting an example for others. It’s like that imaginary fishing trip we just talked about. Your guests weren’t overtly judging, but they were subconsciously aware of every aspect of that trip. You displayed competence, responsibility, thoughtfulness, geniality, and common sense. You were also prepared for the unexpected, should it arise. That Swiss Army Knife caliber 8-man raft thing merits another badge on your be-prepared sash. You clearly care about your guest’s safety.
That’s a really good impression to leave them with. Do that in business. Vince Lombardi once said, “They call it [what I do] ‘coaching’ but it is teaching. You do not just tell them…you show the reasons. After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser, and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”
Lombardi was a pretty smart guy.
Be early. Be Prepared. Be a good role model. Vince Lombardi once said, “They call it [what I do] ‘coaching’ but it is teaching. You do not just tell them…you show the reasons. After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser, and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”
Lombardi was a pretty smart guy.
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Even if you don’t have the answer, always respond, “I don’t have the answer yet, but I’m still working on it."