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The Sales Lesson in Days of Thunder (Yes, Really!)

by | Feb 4, 2016 | Consultative Selling, Prospecting, Sales Process | 0 comments

It’s now February and we’re already a month into 2016. Time sure goes by fast.

How did January go? Was it a little bit soft? How’s your Q1 forecast looking? Is it looking a little light? If the numbers don’t look good, is it maybe just maybe because you took the pedal off the gas and stopped prospecting in November/December for any of the following number of reasons (i.e. “excuses” in sales management parlance):

a) Got distracted by the holidays. Hey, it’s good and healthy to take a break to spend time with family and friends and to recharge and reflect but this amounts to maybe a max total of 1-2 weeks out of the office!

b) You we’re “too busy” closing. Yeah, like, you couldn’t spend a measly hour of day on the phone and doing outreach to keep the tap running?

c) Prospects don’t pick up the phone over the holidays. Why bother, business completely stops and nobody’s in the office, right?! I don’t think so.

d) You took a large chunk of Q3 off to enjoy the summer and Q4 pipeline was weak so you had to pull forward business from Q1 into Q4 to save your bacon and hit your annual quota (i.e. the time old sales tradition of dropping your pants and trading time for money on deals…so much for selling value!)

If you’re in this position for any of the above reasons and need to play catch up and are trying to “accelerate” your deals to get back on track, I implore you to heed the advice of Tim Daland (played by Randy Quaid) and Harry Hogge (played by Robert Duvall) to Cole Trickle (played by Tom Cruise back in his glory days) in the 1990 classic Days of Thunder.

Yes, there’s a really good sales lesson in Days of Thunder. See if you can spot it in the YouTube video or the dialogue below courtesy of IMDB:

Tim Daland: We messed up big time on Sunday. I had sponsors in the stands and I’m huggin’ and holdin’ hands and kissin’em in the ears and prayin’ for a good showin’. And what do we do? We end up lookin’ like a monkey fuckin’ a football out there. Everybody out, PLEASE.[Everyone gets up] Time Daland: [to Cole and Harry] … Except you two. I’ve got a question. What is the one thing you absolutely need to do to win a race?
Harry Hogge: That’s pretty damn obvious…
Tim Daland: You keep quiet.[to Cole] Tim Daland: You need to finish the race!
Cole Trickle: Tim, I realize Harry’s been around a long time. I’m not sayin’ that his ways are antiquated but it’d help to have a car that handled properly and didn’t blow engines.
Harry Hogge: Well if he wouldn’t get excited and over-rev the son-of-a-bitch the engine wouldn’t blow. Now, Cole, when you shift the gear and that little needle on the tach goes into the red and reads 9000 RPMs, that’s BAD.
Cole Trickle: It’s also my fault that the tires blow if you ask this old fart!
Harry Hogge: Well, Hell yes it’s your fault. There’s 40 other vultures out there who manage to finish the race on THEIR tires. You see Darrell Waltrip usin’ up HIS tires?
Cole Trickle: There’s nothin’ I can’t do with a race car.
Harry Hogge: Well, that’s the difference between you and me. There’s only so much I CAN do.
Cole Trickle: Well, that’s obvious!
Tim Daland: Harry, he doesn’t need to appreciate your job to do his.
Harry Hogge: He sure as hell does ’cause how can he expect to race if he don’t know what a race car can and can’t do?
Cole Trickle: What is this shit, huh? You want me to work the pit and YOU drive. Fine, we’ll try that.[Cole leaves the room] Harry Hogge: I can’t talk to this son of a bitch… I can’t talk to that son of a bitch… I just can’t… I can’t… I… I…
Tim Daland: You think he can drive?
Harry Hogge: Oh he can drive. He can drive beyond the limits of the tires, the engine, the car or anything else. If the sum’ bitch listened to me we wouldn’t hardly ever lose a race!
Time Daland: If they don’t give us a sponsor in the next couple of races, my ass is fried. I’m liable to be out of the car business all together. And Harry, I know you’re great, you know you’re great, but if the guy in the car doesn’t trust you we’re never gonna win a damn race.

Did you spot the lesson? What is it?

Here’s a hint….

What’s the one thing that you absolutely need to do to win a deal?

You need to identify a compelling reason for your prospect to buy your solution (vs. going with the competition or keeping with the status quo).

And you can’t do that trying to speed through the sales process, especially in the early, formative stages of the deal (1st Base in Dave Kurlan’s Baseline Selling process). You need to be patient – you need to truly listen and dig wide and deep by asking great questions so that you uncover a compelling reason and the value that the competition isn’t.

The lesson is: Deals, like cars or engines, have speed limits especially in the slippery and dangerous track of competitive, complex sales. Rushing at 9,000 RPM through discovery, getting excited and pouncing on the prospect to deliver a demo and a proposal at the first sign of daylight is counter-productive and will result in a blown engine and a lost opportunity more times than not.