A few months ago I observed something in the airport on my way to pick you up. Delta and American Express (a credit card company) have long been teamed up to provide credit cards that earn airline miles for Delta flights.
One of the ways they sell these cards is through salespeople in the airport. These salespeople call out to people walking through the terminal asking them if they want free airline miles or if they even have a Delta AMEX card.
Most of the time, the people walking by give them a curt “No thanks.” or just flat out ignore them. From a sales perspective, their “sales pitch” was… well, terrible. They had a delivery that wasn’t confident. They were annoying. If you walked by three times, they’d call out to you every time even though you just said no. In any other industry requiring professional sales, they’d probably have been laughed out of a job if they were told to demonstrate their sales ability.
Every once in a while, someone would stop to hear the offer. In this particular airport visit, I was seated at my gate and the sales person’s kiosk was nearby. I watched for about 30 minutes as this poorly-skilled saleswoman and two coworkers called out to dozens, if not hundreds, of people. During this 30 minute period, I’m guessing they had 5 people apply for the card.
Doesn’t seem like much right? 5 applications over hundreds of people and it took 30 minutes of attempts just to get those 5 applicants.
Well, let’s do the math.
Let’s assume that on any given day Delta deployed 100 of these sales teams across the country. I don’t know how many there really are, but we’ll just do the math based on this number.
Let’s say each team averages 5 applications per 30 minutes (10 per hour). Assume the salespeople work a 10 hour shift. That’s 10 applications per hour x 10 hours or 100 applications per team per day. With 100 teams nationwide, that means they generate 10,000 applications per day nationwide with terrible potentially terrible salespeople.
Not only that, most airports are open year round, so multiply that by 365 and you get 3,650,000 applications per year!
You see, Delta and AMEX are huge companies because they understand something most people don’t. It’s more important to try than it is to have the perfect plan or the perfect sales pitch. A bunch of barely-trained salespeople are generating millions and millions of credit card applications from just asking people to apply.
You can apply this theory to any aspect of your life, not just business. If you want to be a better swimmer, go swim even if you’re not very good. If you want to be leader, go lead – even if you’re not that great at it yet. Over time you’ll learn better and better ways of doing that thing. But if you never put in the time and practice to actually do something, nothing happens.
So, when you are timid about trying something new or that you’re not very good at, just remember that effort is more important than skill when you get started. You will learn the skills you need as you do more of the thing you want to be good at.
Here’s an example from my life: When I first started my lawn service company, Lawnshavers, I didn’t know how to price my work. I didn’t know how long a yard would take to mow. So I guessed at my pricing and sold some jobs. Turns out I was WAY underpricing myself. But I was also slow at doing the work.
Over time, I got faster at the work with better skills and better equipment. It took months to collect the data, and I had to let some customers go because I wasn’t charging enough. Fast forward a year. I had a year’s worth of timed jobs on small lots of similar size. Now I could estimate the time it would take to complete a job from just a satellite image, which allowed me to price jobs without ever going to see them – which is something my competitors didn’t do. This allowed me to price better and faster than my competitors which equaled better jobs, faster sales, happier customers and a better business.
But when I started, I was clueless. You will feel the same way whenever you start new things. It’s completely normal. The process of taking action to learn that something new is what allows you to build a bigger life. Instead of fighting that fear, recognize that it’s always the first step of conquering the mountains in front of you.
P.S. I like telling Dad jokes. Sometimes he even laughs!
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