The best salespeople are fanatical about being on time. When I spend time with the best I find them to be crazy, and I mean squirrel-crazy, about leaving with plenty of time to get to appointments. I often feel like I did as a kid on a field trip to Washington, D.C. with the nuns chasing me continuously to move to the next monument in a timely manner.

At one point in my career I ran a business owned by BellSouth in London. I had two sales representatives who had similar names, Colin Clisby and Colin Copsey. I was always screwing up their last names and ended up accidentally blending them together to produce a new last name for both of them – Clopsey. Now this was particularly disturbing since both had the same first name.

Colin Clopsey #1 was insane about being on time. He was 45 minutes early to every appointment to prevent being late. Colin Clopsey #2, however, was always late unless he screwed up and left early by mistake.

Clopsey #2, hereafter called Clopsey, had a sales territory in downtown London, and I would often make sales calls with him. We both lived outside the city, so we would meet somewhere on the outskirts of town and ride into London together. He was always late picking me up and so we were under pressure from the start.

London traffic is horrible. The closer you get to the downtown area, the slower it gets until it just stops. When the traffic would begin to crawl, Clopsey would begin to panic. When traffic stopped, his panic reached epic proportions and he would simply pull over and park. We would then sprint to the nearest tube (subway) station to ride the rest of the way downtown. We were almost always late to each appointment.

Clopsey’s customers were busy people working in the financial district of downtown London and often did not wait for him to show up. He was actually quite a good salesperson in that he listened well, understood his product and had excellent closing skills. But being chronically late reduced his sales opportunities.

At the end of the day, we would ride the tube back to the station where we left the car and go home.

Except for one day!

It was Wimbledon week and traffic was chock-a-block (It’s an English phrase meaning jammed. I throw that in for effect.) I warned Clopsey to be early. He was late. Traffic was slow from the start and got much worse. Clopsey panicked early, pulled over and down into the tube we went.

When we were finished, we got on the tube to head home, but Clopsey couldn’t remember where we parked. After more than two hours of popping up at every station we came to, we took the train to my car which was parked at the station close to my home. We got in my car, drove back toward London and retraced our route until we found his car, which was was now adorned with one of those yellow Denver boots locked to the front wheel. By the time we paid the parking fine and waited for the boot to be removed, it was 10 p.m.

I transferred Clopsey from outside sales to the in-bound call telesales team. He was the number one telesales representative after the first week.

What six actions do the very best salespeople take to avoid getting the Denver Boot?

  • Being “early” is a practiced Sales Action – not a goal.
  • Schedule preparation time. Schedule time on your calendar to prepare for each meeting. Schedule this long before the meeting. You don’t want to be late because the copier jammed.
  • Become mobile with some work. People are often late because they have so much to do. Determine what work can be taken with you and set it aside as “mobile work.” When you’re early, open your mobile work folder.
  • Build delays in to the time it takes to get there. Your customer may only be 10 minutes away but it can be a 30-minute journey allowing for red lights, weather, parking and a crowded reception area.
  • Manage and organize your time. Interruptions can manage you if you let them. Take e-mail as an example. A new message pops up and you read it. The next thing you know, you’re late.
  • Assume that if you are late, your competition will get the sale. Dr. Michael Mescon, the Dean Emeritus of the College of Business at Georgia State University, tells us, “If you want to devastate virtually all competition, show up, on time, dressed to play! You won’t even have to break a sweat.”

Dan Norman is a keynote speaker at this year’s Senior Market Advisor Expo, where he will talk about “Seven Fundamentals to Improve Sales in a Tough Economy.”