Maillot Juane. “The Yellow Jersey.” The Swiss Alps. The Pyrenees. Alpe d’Huez. The Tour de France. The New York Times has called the Tour de France “arguably the most physiologically demanding of athletic events.” The newspaper compared the effort needed to “running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks.” Even more, the report said the total elevation of the climbs was compared to “climbing three Everests.”
I love this race. I have watched almost every stage since 1999. Purely by coincidence, my very good friend got me into cycling the very year that Lance Armstrong made his comeback from cancer … and won his first Tour. I have been a huge Lance supporter for years, blown away by his ability, drive, spirit and determination. I thought.
I recently read Tyler Hamilton’s book, The Secret Race. Tyler was Lance’s teammate, best friend, and due to his effort, a main reason that Lance won three TDF titles. The book was Tyler’s full disclosure of the doping within cycling that ran rampant during the decade leading up to Lance’s final win in 2005. The truth was that everyone (yes, everyone) was doping, but nobody considered themselves cheaters. Provided your hematocrit level (amount of oxygen in your blood) didn’t exceed 50 percent, you weren’t considered to be doping. The level could run 49.9 percent every race and you were fine, forget the fact that you used transfusions and EPO to get your score from 40 to 49.9 … you weren’t cheating. This is why Lance continues to proclaim his innocence to cheating, despite the fact that he’s publicly admitted the doping itself. “There was no unfair advantage, as everyone had the same access to get to that magic number. Some were just better than others,” he’d proclaim.
This book really tore me apart. You see, I am caught up in the romance of the Tour. I love the fact that these guys race for three weeks in the snow, wind, rain, sleet and brutal heat of the French countryside. I love the competitive spirit, and the fact that within the world of sports, you never know what’s going to happen. But according to this book, you knew exactly what was going to happen. The Tour, as shown on TV, was a farce, a show. The announcers didn’t know that, and the viewing public didn’t know it either. But the idea that Lance was going to win the Tour was a mathematical certainty. Let me say that again. Barring a crash or unforeseen event, it was a mathematical certainty that Lance would win the Tour for the years that Tyler was his teammate. You see, the only truly important number that you didn’t know about your rivals (you knew height, weight, etc., through team rosters) was the hematocrit level. If you assume that everyone was doping and that everyone was running at 49.9 percent, coupled with the data you already had on riders, you could comfortably predict the outcome of the race. Anyone not racing at 49.9 wouldn’t be a factor anyhow.
To say that the winner was “the man who wanted it most” was in direct contradiction to what the hard data said … and the data doesn’t lie. An athlete may be able to produce a short burst of energy, or “one last hurrah” for a very short period of time, such as a “goal line stand.” But to sustain that burst for a three-week event was medically impossible (try running at a 100-yard dash pace for 26.2 miles). So the numbers would ultimately prevail, and the spreadsheets would dictate the race’s winners and losers. Where was my romance? Where was the “sport” in it all? Where was the chance that the kid from Romania who grew up with nothing, and practiced so hard every day might actually have a chance at winning? In fantasyland, that’s where.
Create romance in your showroom
In many ways, it’s much like what happens on your showroom floor. What is required in today’s economy is so much more than a “good product” at a “fair price.” That is too easy to come by. And if I can’t find that in my own neighborhood, I can get it online. No, the experience necessary to win over a customer on a major unit while holding margins is nothing short of pure art. The employee must create the romance on the floor, engaging and winning the heart of the customer. The spirit and drive of the employee are critical in this step, as after all, sales is nothing more than a transfer of enthusiasm.
But the underlying current of it all is the data. This is why not participating in a 20-Club or statistical benchmarking exercise is quite possibly the demise of the dealership. The numbers don’t lie, and the more granular the data, the more you can predict the outcome. Think of a football game where only the scoreboard is up for discussion. What other pieces of information are necessary for a full assessment of the team? I suggest that first downs, third-down conversions, interceptions, yards after contact and time of possession are important pieces of data. These are missing from the initial scoreboard. Sales departments must look at total opportunities (think “total at-bats”) if they are really to discover the headroom available in the departments. Daily huddles and weekly meetings on door swings, greets, transactions, outbound contacts and appointments kept must be the breakfast of tomorrow’s sales managers.
The reality is that both are necessary to win. You must have the heart of a lion. You must believe that everyone coming in your door will leave with one of your products, much like Michael Jordan believed that he was going to make the free-throw every time he stepped up to the line. But you must also have the data to run the game … to predict the outcome.
Your showroom, much like the Tour, has be come the Perfect Contradiction.
Sam Dantzler is the founder of Sam’s Powersports Garage, a membership website dedicated to best practices and all-staff training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.