Two Footed Driving

In which we learn to consider shorter cycle times when communicating with clients and prospects. How many feet do you use to drive your car? A friend and I enjoy lively discussions of this subject.

Her view is: “You drive an automatic transmission car with your right foot. That’s the safe way. You should never use your left foot to drive.” I, on the other hand, drive two-footed: Left foot for brake, right foot for gas. My left foot is always cocked, just barely caressing the brake pedal except when I’m driving in light traffic on a major highway. This makes my friend crazy. I simply look at the results:

Major accidents and cars totaled Friend: 7. Me: 0.

We live and drive in a narrow-streeted city for whose residents turn signals are a sign of weakness. Patience are something doctors treat in hospitals. My view is: A 0.9 second reaction time gas-to-brake is too slow. With both feet engaged, I can accelerate or stop almost instantly.

As salespeople, we must learn to drive two-footed in our sales cycles. As our clients respond to business at Web speed, they’re lurching, turning, and restructuring, often without warning. They need something…then they don’t. They’re headed this way…. and then they aren’t. They set a two-week deadline…. and then it’s two days. We must learn to shorten our response cycle times by half while we maintain our momentum. Some two-footed ideas:

  • Communicate more often. If we touch clients 4 times a year to “stay in touch,” consider 8. If we typically contact our clients twice a week during an active sales process, consider daily.
  • Establish more interactive, two-way communication with clients. Ask clients to share information with us so that we can anticipate issues and accelerate faster to address them.
  • Restructure sales teams so that nobody “drives alone:” We can’t always respond immediately when a client wants to make a change. Make sure there’s a backup who can hit the brakes or the gas if the primary sales representative is not able to respond immediately.
  • Design shorter communications links with tech support or product experts needed to address client questions and breakdowns. “We’ll get back to you tomorrow” may be too slow.
  • Shorten proposals and contracting processes:
  • If our proposals are 20 pages, can we make them 10?
  • Could we standardize portions of the 20 pages so we need to write only 10 fresh pages?
  • Could we stop writing “proposals” altogether?
  • Could we establish “master contracts” with clients so that, when they need something, we can write an addendum to the contract rather than writing a completely new contract?

The shorter the reaction time between client and sales rep, the more “aligned” or “in rapport” both will feel. Put your left foot on the brake. Enjoy the ride.

2 Responses to Two Footed Driving

  1. Michael R McCoy says:

    In ’68, during driver’s education, I was corrected by the instructor for braking with my left foot.
    When I went for my driving test to get my license, I was careful to not raise an eyebrow with the tester.
    But once my license was in my pocket, my left foot always was for breaking, unless I was driving a straight drive.
    I can honestly say that with my left foot always at the “ready” position, especially in congested areas, heavy traffic and when craziness seems to be in the air, my reaction time has prevented a number of mishaps — both large and small.
    52 years of driving, two of them in Europe, and NO accidents, (that were my fault). Not one.
    I can remember close calls where my left foot made the difference.
    Avoiding other drivers pulling out in front of me, driver’s slamming on their brakes ahead of me, saving the lives of numerous cats and dogs and the life of a small boy running out between two parked cars in a neighborhood. I was able to stop my car, literally, about a foot from him. Skid marks about 15 feet or more.
    Add about a half-second to my reaction time with my right foot, and I doubt the lad would have survived.
    I can’t imagine driving any other way.

    • Nick Miller says:

      Michael, thank you for your note (almost a year ago). For reasons that aren’t yet clear to me, your comment and many others were stalled somewhere in the ether and they’ve all come rushing through in the last 24 hours. I hope your left foot driving has continued to pay off. It has for me, for all the reasons you gave.

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