This past year, the movie “The Founder” came and went quickly through theatres.  So fast, most of us never had a chance to see it.  Flipping through Netflix recently, I had a chance to watch it and was amazed by the great sales lessons you learn from it.  At first glance, it looks like a rags-to-riches heartwarming story of one of America’s great industry leaders.  It is, but there’s more to it than that.  First, it doesn’t matter whether you like McDonald’s food or not.  It’s not about the food.  Secondly, It doesn’t matter whether you think Ray Kroc was a brilliant entrepreneur or a control seeking manipulator.  This movie portrays both.  You get to decide.  Either way, here’s seven great lessons that you should look for when you watch it tonight.

  1. Persistence

In 1954, Ray Kroc is a struggling milk shake machine salesman at the beginning of the show.  All of us who have picked up a set of keys and headed out on the road to sell can identify with his plight to sell to busy customers.  Ray explains one of the hallmark traits of his success.  Better than me explaining, watch the clip for yourself  The Founder Clip

  1. Rejection

Right in line with his discussion on persistence, you get to see firsthand all of the rejection Ray faces.  From drive-in owners turning him down to his friends at the country club making jokes about his earlier scheme of selling paper cups, Ray persists through the tough times.  For those that spend nights on the road in hotel rooms wondering how we will succeed, there is a great scene where Ray is listening to a self-help series on record albums that help him get through.  Today, we have access to a world of inspirational content to choose from.  Personally, I’m slightly biased, but I recommend several outstanding webinars to inspire you on several key areas of sales:  Sales Webinars.  There is plenty of online content and free material at your library.  Stop in today and check out the books on CD section.  I know talk radio is entertaining but you learn very little.  Sales can certainly be rewarding and fun, but it can also be difficult and challenging if you don’t learn to handle the rejection.  The movie also hints at Ray’s self-medication in a flask he drinks from.  Might have just been an indication of the era that didn’t frown on a midday drink.  I recommend the self-help route versus the self-medication route.

  1. Pre-Call Planning

The movie opens with Ray conducting a rehearsal or pre-call plan.  He is practicing his delivery before he goes out on the sales call.  I really liked this lesson.  Pre-call planning is one of the most underutilized practices in sales.   Most sales people practice on their customers or prospects, which decreases their close rates.  Get a plan, write it down and get it right before you see the first customer.  As you will notice, this still doesn’t help Ray sell milk shake machines.  However, can you imagine how bad his sales call would have gone if he didn’t practice?

You drive a lot of miles in your sales role, which means you have plenty of time to rehearse the key points in your presentation.  Specifically, you need to have your open and close down.  I know.  You don’t want to sound rehearsed.  Don’t confuse rehearsed with memorized.  You will sound incompetent and lose their interest from the start if you are fumbling around with words when the customer says “How can I help you?” or “What do you have for me today?”  Being rehearsed means you know how to open strong so they are interested to learn more.  Closing strong gives them a Call to Action.

  1. Solving Problems in a mature business

McDonald’s certainly didn’t invent the restaurant business nor even the idea of fast food.  They invented the process to make it fast, consistent and an expected quality.  By creating the “Speedee Service System”, McDonald’s could do what no other diner or drive in was doing.  While most diners had slow service, inconsistent quality and long wait times, McDonald’s found a way to be fast and consistent.  The small menu offering led to fewer errors in a customer’s order.

Examine your business.  What are the most common complaints?  Quality issues, wait times, ordering process.  Whatever the most common problem is for your customer, how can you solve it?  Asked another way, “How easy is it to do business with us?”  Ever experience a business that is just a “hassle” to do business with?  Sure, we all have.  So, don’t let your company be one.  Ask as many people as you can who are as close to the customer as possible.  Oh, and don’t forget to ask the customer.

  1. Napkin Drawings on a Tennis Court

Great ideas don’t need elaborate blue prints nor expensive architect models.  The McDonald Brothers go to a nearby tennis court.  They sketch out their store layout on the ground in chalk and revise the layout until they get it right.  Then they bring in a whole team of employees and have them “Work” at the chalk drawing restaurant.  Then, they have it built.  For those of you in retail, this should be an absolute must in any remodeling project.  Too often, we look at drawings and architect sketches to make a decision on store lay out.  Next time, go to your parking lot and layout the actual store.  There’s also a lesson in here for those that build multimillion dollar manufacturing plants.  Most of the ones I have seen require multiple modifications from day one to be efficient or work.  Yes, we need engineers to design, we need blue prints to build, but we also need to function when done.

For the rest of us in sales, the lesson we see in the tennis court scene is that a picture is worth more than words in explaining our material.  A drawing on the restaurant napkin or place mat can be as helpful and impactful as the most elaborate brochure.  Don’t misunderstand, the brochures are great and show credibility, but the napkin drawing personalizes the message to your customer.  The tennis court scene is also a great example of rehearsing from lesson 3 above.

  1. An Overnight Sensation – 30 years in the making

One of the best lines in the movie.  The McDonald brothers explain how after thirty years of trying, they finally get everything right and become an overnight sensation.  It’s very easy to observe those companies or sales people in our own company that are at the top of their game and feel like it just happened overnight for them.  Often, the back story is where you discover all the sweat equity they put into their success.  For the McDonalds, it included financial problems, business failure, and a heart attack.

So, this year when you are sitting in the national sales meeting and watching the sales category winners going on stage to get their plaques, remember this lesson.  Just maybe, a lot more effort went into those results than you think.  Keep driving towards your own results.

  1. The Power of Just Showing Up – Go see it for yourself

While struggling with rejection after rejection to sell just one milk shake machine in the Midwest, the San Bernardino McDonald brothers buy 8 machines from Ray for one restaurant.  After confirming that it is not a mistake, Ray personally drives out to see the store that is doing so much business.  When he gets there, the entrepreneurial Ray realizes he has found a gem in the desert.  Sure, he could have read about it or talked to the owners on the phone.  However, it’s the energy and excitement of the customers and employees that had to be experienced firsthand.  It’s invaluable in shaping his dream for the franchise.

Later, Ray struggles to get his franchisees to follow the prescribed menu and cleanliness requirements.  By selling franchises to his country club friends, he finds they aren’t interested in working in the business, but simply investing in it.  There’s no substitute for going to the point of action in a business.  No matter who or how high in an organization you are, you must spend enough time at the place where your customer interacts with your company.  Some of the greatest company disasters I have seen were created because decisions were made based off reports, stats or incorrect advice from others.  While not made with ill intentions, they were just made in error.  Once made in error, the leadership needed to get to the scene and see firsthand how it affected the employees, the customer and the business.  The same goes for you in your sales territory.  When there is a problem, go to the scene and see it for yourself.  There’s no substitute.  Animals sick or not performing on your products, your weed control program not working, your scales are giving erroneous readings, your mycotoxin control program isn’t effective, your technology is costing your customer more time than it saves and the always predictable – your software is not working.  Unless it’s an easy fix, these are best handled by showing up and seeing it for yourself.

If these seven sales lessons aren’t reason enough to watch The Founder, then watch it because the two great actors Nick Offerman and Michael Keaton are in it.   It’s also a very romanticized time in America as Route 66 is coming into its glory years and we are about to be inundated with fast food, conveniently located in every town.

 Make your next meeting memorable by bringing in a speaker who’s been there.  Contact me to find out how Greg@GregMartinelli.net  (608) 751-6971

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