The Trap Of The 90 Day Wonder

by Michael D. Hargrove     

I want to take a couple of minutes to discuss with you the phenomenon affectionately known as “The 90 Day Wonder.” For those of us unfamiliar with this phenomenon, let me ‘splain it to you.

The 90 day wonder is the sales associate, brand new to the business, who starts out like gang-busters. Who, for the first couple of months, leads the field. Then, after about 60 to 90 days, their production starts to dip until it plateaus somewhere around the average.

Now some owners, managers and even trainers believe that this occurs because the new associate becomes “too smart” (as if intelligence were a malady) and they start to take the short cuts the old-timers teach them.

Well, I suppose there’s some truth to that theory. As a matter of fact, according to the National Auto Dealers Association, the average retail automotive sales manager spends only 18% of their time working directly with his or her sales force. So, it stands to reason that if our average performing staff members are doing most of the sales training, our new associates will develop only average skills and work habits.

So as a sales manager, I made a concerted effort to spend the majority of my time working directly with my sales associates. And you know what? …It worked!!…sort of…for a while…and then slowly their performance dipped also.

Then I asked myself what are they doing differently? They’re getting a different result so they must be doing something different. And then it came to me…like a slap in the face or a konk on the head.

When we first start out in our careers, we don’t know much about the product and we don’t know many wiz-bang sales techniques. What we do know is that we’re excited (you know, new job, fancy store, new car smell etc.), we really want to help our customers, and the only thing we really know about is ourselves. Consequently, we end up enthusiastically selling ourselves and our eagerness to serve. Then, with product knowledge, we stop selling ourselves and start trying to sell cars. And with sales knowledge, we stop enthusiastically trying to serve and start aggressively trying to sell.

This distinction is not one of semantics. It’s a distinction readily perceived by our customers.

Now, obviously I’m not saying that product knowledge or sales technique is unnecessary, quite the contrary. But what I am saying is that we need to develop the mind set and skills that will enable us to always approach our jobs with the enthusiasm of a new hire. IT…IS…POSSIBLE, you know. With state management skills, rapport building skills (among others), and a continual thirst for improvement, we can become or go back to being, and stay: a 90 day wonder for the rest of our career!!


© Copyright 2013 by Michael D. Hargrove and Bottom Line Underwriters, Inc. All rights reserved. Michael D. Hargrove is the founder and president of Bottom Line Underwriters Inc.

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