Amateur vs. Professional

(click link above for printable poster)

One of my very good friends owns an electrical service company, one of the best in the nation based on volume, located here in North Texas where we live.  He and I met when my son joined his son’s baseball team a couple of years ago.  You can tell a lot about a parent by the way their kids treat them, and that tells you a lot about the kid as well.  Long before I got to know my buddy, Mark, I knew that I liked his son.  He is a leader, works hard at practice, treats his teammates with respect, controls his emotions…he’s just a quality human, not to mention a very good baseball player.

As Mark and his wife became friends with Jan and I, I could tell that the “apple didn’t fall far from the tree”.  He and his wife are just good, genuine people who are always looking for a way to be of service to the people around them.   That “servant” attitude has been the common denominator in his company’s success too, by the way.   Once he found out what I did, the training that I had been doing in dealerships focusing on more than just creating profits, following a proce, but internalizing that effort to become a more quality person wholly, he asked me to look at his operation and think of ways that we could work together and apply what I had been doing in the automotive industry to the electrical service industry.

He set up space in his headquarters where I could office, and made me a part of his operation.  I was instantly accepted by his people, who were all looking for ways to improve in their craft.  That is the culture that he had developed over the years; “We are all growing together as individuals, and [consequently] as an organization.”

There is a sign in the conference room where his technicians, dispatchers, managers and foremen meet every day that says, “Amateurs practice till they get it right, professionals practice till they can’t get it wrong.”

In a service industry like that, where people need something fixed, that is still the common denominator in the best companies; practice.  Professional sports are always a great example of the need to continually practice (prior to game time) and get better at executing the mission of the team, the game plan.  It always boils down to the fundamentals, the basics.

In sales, we differentiate ourselves as an industry from service industries; however think about how many things we have in common?  In the service industry, they know the need going in, that is why they have been called to a person’s house, or why a customer is in their service drive.  The “needs awareness” is obvious so providing “needs satisfaction” is a little easier.  There still has to be value established though; value in the technician, the service itself, and the organization, or people will look for someone else to pay for that service.

In the sales industry “needs awareness” is not as obvious; sometimes it is actually kept from us, because our customer’s don’t want to yield any room for negotiating, or because the customer is afraid that “needs awareness” will result in them being taken advantage of.  That is the thing that sets sales professionals apart from service professionals; our ability to identify needs and attach value to our ability to satisfy that need.

My question for you is this, are you an amateur or a professional?  Are you practicing your presentation until you get it right, or are you practicing it till you can’t get it wrong?  Objection handling, interview, rebuttals,…are you so good at these that you can’t be beat, or are you good enough that you can do it most of the time?

Be professional; that investment in yourself will translate into you earning the right to be successful .   That is the reason that professionals are successful, and able to ask for payment for their efforts because their investment in their skills, their craft, has given the right to refuse defeat, and to be paid to do what they do.  Amateurs lose their amateur status when they receive payment for what they do.  Some of you need to start working towards losing your amateur status.

Stay green.

David Simpson


My wife is worried about me about being too “deep” in my sales training. Now, she has never been in the training I provide for dealerships, however I do teach and speak in places and at events where she does attend.  She has this vision of what I do at dealerships, and she is afraid that bringing the same “life lessons” that I would when speaking at a school or civic function might be considered inappropriate.

By the way, to give you some context, for the past 15 years my wife has spent her Summers traveling the Southwest, and speaking at high schools to young women in leadership, giving them the social skills and disciplines that they will need to be effective mentors and influences within their schools and communities.  I say that to say, she knows what it is to have the responsibility of being in a position to influence individuals and to promote relationships.

It IS a responsibility.  Just like I learned, and now I instruct, when you have earned the right, or at least been given the opportunity to influence an individual and a relationship, that is a BIG responsibility.  And you don’t have to be standing in front of a room full of people to feel the weight of that responsibility, it happens to us in retail everyday.

It does not take but one significant setback in our lives to cast a spotlight on the fact that the only things in our lives that are truly significant are relationships.  When the money’s dried-up, when every thing around us is falling apart; it is relationships that give us the strength to stand up and the motivation to keep moving forward when all seems lost.

I tell my friends all the time, especially when I am doing group training, that if I go too “over the top” to rein me in, and no one has stopped me yet.  The reason why is that, like my daddy used to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  No matter what your vocation, our purpose is to relate to one another, build each other up, hold each other up and sometimes pick each other up.  And you know what?

People will pay to do business with someone who knows how to keep the “main thing” the “main thing”. 

Stay green!


It sounded like good instruction at the time, but how many of us have made the time to execute on the daily one-on-ones? 

There is something about the psychology of the act; going to your people’s offices and sitting down across from them at their desks.  It is an act of respect, it is an act of caring.  Your people will care about your customer’s the way they feel you care about them; that is a fact.

Friday, I left the GM’s with an article that I had about FedEx and the CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith, who had a philosophy regarding how he managed his staff, “P-S-P; People-Service-Profit”.

The story goes on about how when FedEx purchased Flying Tigers Shipping, they chartered a 747 and flew Forrest Green, the CEO of the recently purchased company, to Memphis, TN, the location of the FedEx headquarters, to see if he wanted to relocate.  When he stepped off the plane, there was a red carpet, and a welcoming committee led by the mayor of Memphis along with dozens of cheering FedEx employees.

Green remembers thinking, “When an organization purchases a company, they are not obligated to give you a job, and here they were offering not only me a job, but every single employee of our company a job.”

When FedEx discontinued much of their service to Europe and reduced it’s work force from 9,200 to 2,600, they took out a full page ad in several European news papers urging employers to hire ex-FedEx employees.  In Belgium alone, 80 companies responded with more than 600 job offers.

It’s not even reasonable to think that our employees would treat our customers any differently than we treat our employees.  So, how do we want our customers treated?  With respect?  Dignity?  What are we doing to promote those feelings in our own people?

Daily one-on-ones is a good start.  It’s as easy as 5-6 minutes and 2 questions, “What have you got going on today?” and, “What can I do to help?”

Also, when you do have to address challenges with your people, the context is set for a positive meeting, thereby a positive outcome.  Personally, using a management principle that I got from my father, the only time I would take a sales person or manager into my office everyone knew that something bad was going to happen, and consequently in my last 3 years managing a store, I only had to take someone into my office 3 times.

This is a top-down philosophy.  It starts with the GM managing sales managers, sales managers managing sales people, F&I directors managing FSM’s.  The little things always make the biggest difference!

If you want to take your people from being employees to being disciples, you have to practice the right disciplines.  Daily one-on-ones is the first discipline you can practice to get you and your people on that path.  People-Service-Profit

Stay green!