Last night I returned to Wisconsin after 3 days working with my partner in Boca Raton, FL. (Don’t be jealous, it was cold and I was working.)  Traveling always provides interesting situations and sales lessons, and this trip provided a GREAT tip on stalled sales.  The lesson? Don’t be a lemming.

AirTran is the only direct flight and I arrived to check in early. This isn’t a bash on AirTrain, in fact my “TO” flight was smooth and 15 minutes early and the return last night arrived 28 minutes early!

As I entered the Check-in line, there were about 10 passengers in front of me and the line was stalled.  I could see the self check kiosks…without anyone using them.  I asked the man in front of me why no one was using them and he said “Looks like you have to go through one of the agents.”

I waited.

Now there were 6 people behind me and we were still stalled.  I saw an AirTran employee and asked him “Can we  use those kiosks?”  He said “Do you have your confirmation number handy?”  I replied, “No.” (It was buried deep and I didn’t need it on the way out.)  He told me ‘Sorry, then.” and moved on.  people in line

The next 15 minutes were Wait. Move a little. Wait. Stall, stall, stall.  I watched the other people in line (20 or so).  One gentleman really in a panic that the was going to miss his flight.  But he stood in this stalled line like everyone else.

When I reached the front of the line there was another AirTrain employee. I asked her, “Can’t we use the open kiosks?” She said “I don’t think so unless you have your confirmation number.”

Okay.  But I kept looking at them and they LOOKED just like the one I used in Milwaukee three days earlier – you just swiped your credit card and it brought up your itinerary. So I said to the agent, “I think I just need my credit card. Can I try?”  She shrugged her shoulders like “Go ahead’.

As I approached the kiosk I thought “If this works, how many people waited needlessly?”

Guess what?  It took me about 2 1/2 minutes to swipe my card, move through the screens and pick up my boarding pass.

Wow.  Of course being a trainer I always like to share tips and tools that help others so I turned to the Airtran agent, held up the pass and with a big smile said “It DOES work with a credit card!!”  She looked disinterested.  But the man behind me in line, quickly walked up to the next kiosk instead of waiting.

As I was on my way to security, I was thinking:  How inefficient that was!   How many people were just going with the flow and stalled because everyone else was?

All because they didn’t:

  • Want to ask questions.
  • Weren’t paying attention to the details. (One half the kiosk were on and unused)
  • Were given wrong information and they didn’t question it.

And that’s how this ties into a sales lesson.  How often do salespeople get stuck in the stalled sales line?  And wait it out without finding out why there is a stall and if there is a way to speed it up?

What, if instead of stalling we:

  • Looked for other ways to approach the situation and take action?
  • Asked questions on why and how?
  • Took a chance by trying something – even if others weren’t willing to?

I think we would move the sales process along more quickly, learn something useful (I’ll never wait like that in line again with open kiosks) and be able to share the idea with others!

Last year was a perfect example of this.  While MANY salespeople ‘waited out’ the recession and followed other non-active msed that stall, kept moving forward and had great sales results!

How have you avoided being a leming and moving a stalled sale?

P.S. I’m not sure if everyone knows the leming reference:  Lemings are rodents who are ‘mythed’ to follow one lemming no matter what, even to death (going over a cliff).  The Urban Dictionary says it is a person with no originality or voice of their own.  They follow what others do.