Plans are nothing without actions
Many years ago, I read a cover article in Fortune magazine titled, “Why do companies fail?” The article had huge depth of research and many examples — and these examples of companies who went by the wayside in some cases were titans at the time like Eastern Airlines — remember them? The organizations noted covered many different industries and even different time frames and economic conditions at the respective time.
The moral to the article: All of these companies had very detailed plans on how to operate and press forward. What did they all lack? Execution of their own plan.
What about your tire dealership? Do you have game plan? I know you do or you wouldn’t be in operation. And you might be very successful. Do you as an owner or manager feel good after each team meeting that the key issues for operations, sales and service got up onto the table? Do you spend money on training and then hope the training gets put into action? Do you have store or division managers and associates that nod their head in agreement when asked to do something new but they won’t do it? Are your sales, service efforts, collections and profits suffering because they won’t?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re in common company – you notice I didn’t say good company — because it’s not a good condition. But it is a common condition — a common and very costly problem.
What’s the problem? Very simply, human beings resist change. Yet change is the key ingredient needed to raise the bar, to lead at new levels, to gain new skills, and to sell more tires, add-ons and service in this tight economy. Even more specifically, it is personal change in one person — one of your employees at a time, that makes all the difference.
So what can you do as a leader? Let’s start with defining the challenge.
Challenge: Lack of execution, taking action and following through because an employee does not want to change to do the new behavior.
I see this all the time with tire dealers. A manager is fired up after a training or coaching session — they’re loaded with new sales knowledge or how to more effectively communicate with their team. They agree in a meeting to tighten their follow-up and hold their store team associates more accountable. But the test comes in a couple weeks — maybe 30 days — after these commitments. All you have to do is ask them, “How are the changes you agreed to make coming? How are they working with your store?” Then comes the answer: “Well, I got so busy, I haven’t been able to do that yet... but I will though when things slow down and I can get my head above water.” Slow down? Who wants their retail dealership or commercial operation to slow down? I’m sure you don’t.
Solution: Applying behavior-change support, follow-up and accountability.
Now, these recommendations can get testy. They are not easy. You may face resistance by any given employee — but you may not. You have to have a mind set of risk aversion (the cost to you of not having an employee make real changes) and say to yourself as a leader: “I must assume Bart is not going to change — even though he committed to. This is just the way most people are. So I have to stay with him closely for a few weeks to make sure he takes action on his new plan. And I need to make sure he gets going on what he understands he needs to do that is new for him. Our store needs the new Bart, not the old Bart.” Here are some concrete actions you can employ to help any one of your team members change behavior and execute the plans you have in place.
SalesMind principles applied: The learning keys in play are clarifying the absolute necessity of change, clearly defining the new actions expected, and then holding an employee accountable very quickly to begin those new actions:
• Clarity: SalesMinds know that plans are nothing without action — they have no effect on tire sales, leading people or productivity. You must define on paper, in the open, and with given employees in personal counsel with them what it is you want them to change now. Plus get buy-in and ideas from them on how they think they should make those changes. Focus, too, on the benefits to them! Don’t be afraid to just simply ask them what they think it takes to perform at their best possible level — the one that drives your sales and service results.
• Definition: SalesMinds create written action plans. Define on paper (you and the employees do this together, but get them to write it down because it’s their commitment) the exact first-step actions today that need to be taken to sell more tires and service faster. Is it asking better questions of customers? Listening more attentively? If you’re a wholesaler or commercial operation, is it making more effective calls and working on the skills of the sales process or making cold calls? Is it closing skills? Is it the skill of follow-up? Whatever the actions are, trap them on paper! Have the employee sign at the bottom that they agree to take these actions (which are changes) starting now, not later.
• Accountability: SalesMinded leaders again know people — that a person tends to put off or delay changing the way they do things and default back to their old way — the way that no longer works. So, you the leader and your management team must lay down that you will review action plans each week with each key employee. Subsequently, this is the model that one of your store managers will also deploy with their assistant managers — and on down the line to the technician or counter people. Your goal is make it clear that the way you stay on our store team is to do right now the best things that will generate the best results — or our team is not the best place for you. Because that’s the goal — results, not plans.
Doug Trenary, president of Doug Trenary’s Fast-Track Inc., is an award-winning author, speaker and teacher who has helped companies of multiple sizes, including independent tire dealerships, increase sales and productivity since 1985. His book, “The SalesMind,” focuses on how to establish strong positions with yourself, your buyers — and your time. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (404) 262-3339.