Selling the NASCAR Way

Ever wonder what happens during a pit stop at a race track? How is it possible that four tires are changed, fuel added, windshield cleaned, and adjustments made all in less than 30 seconds? I can’t even get off the couch that quick sometimes. Think about it, there is not much you can do well under 30 seconds, yet these guys win hundreds of thousands of dollars based on how effectively they utilize that half a minute. Pit crews have almost perfected a technique called SMED. And guess what? The same technique can carry your sales to first place too.

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) is a technique I used to use as a Management Consultant and was created years ago at Toyota by Shigeo Shingo. The concept started as a method to change out parts on high usage machines on shop floors. The problem that was being solved for was that often it would take days, sometimes weeks, to change over a machine in order for it to run the next product. This downtime cost the company thousands of dollars. Toyota got to the point where these changeovers would take–you guessed it, a single minute.

Mr. Shingo had discovered that there were two different types of activities occurring during any changeover–external and internal. External activities, were those that could be performed while the machine is running (making money) and the internal activities, were those that could only be performed while the machine was off. By breaking the process down into these discrete activities, the machine only had to stop running for the shortest amount of time possible, a single minute. Pit crews perform this same way and can achieve the same quick turn. They only do the activities that have to be completed when the wheels are stopped.

How does this relate to sales? For years, this was a technique primarily confined to manufacturing. Popular thinking was always that sales was “too unpredictable”, “too irregular” to measure effectively. Well, I disagree. The SMED technique is exactly what sales organizations need to succeed. I have seen how applying the SMED technique to sales yields the same type of exponential successes for those with the discipline to put it to work in growing their businesses.

The first step is to understand what is happening when the “sales machine” is running. When you are actively contacting, communicating, or attempting to contact a potential client, current customer, or lead- this is when your “machine” is running. Activities such as meetings, networking, calling, emailing, or other communication methods are the internal activities that occur while the “machine” is running. Everything else is external. I am not sure if you caught the impact of that last statement, so I will write it again. EVERYTHING else is external. What does that include? Research, finding prospects, writing contracts, creating new sales pitches, and filling out expense reports–are you seeing the point?

Using this technique will increase your “uptime” to at least 8 hours per day. Imagine how many calls or emails you could make if they were the only things you were doing “while the wheels are turning.” Your contact rate and ultimately your client list will go through the roof!

The key is moving activities you insert in as “part of your day” that don’t contribute to your sales success. Move them to times when your prospects are unavailable, like early mornings and evenings. Turn that new found time into more calls during your “uptime.” What about researching the night before you call your leads so that instead of making 3 calls in an hour, you can make 10-15?

I challenge you to SMED your sales. Find a tool that will help you organize your opportunities and assist you to increase your call volume. Determine what you can do externally, leaving your eight hour day to do what makes money in sales–talk to people!

–Keith Burwell



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