Hurry Up Offense and Controlling the Clock

I am fascinated by football. I am spending more time watching games (both college and professional), and I am reading and studying to understand how championship teams are built—and sustained over time.

Football is an excellent metaphor for the great game of business and sales. One of the variables I have noticed that is under appreciated is time.

Hurry Up

The hurry up offense some teams prefer gives them a distinct competitive advantage by depriving their opponent of looking at their formation and making adjustments. In the terms of an OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act), the offense is depriving the defense of the opportunity to observe and orient because the fast tempo is eliminating the time.

But there is something else about the hurry up offense: it compresses the time it takes to score. It provides speed to result. Like the psychological advantage gained by depriving the defense of making adjustments, scoring very quickly has to provide the additional competitive advantage of feeling like a loss of control, an inability to stop your opponent.

In business, we tend to underestimate tempo. The word “hustle,” which causes some people to chafe due to the negative connotation of a “hustler” being one who takes advantage of another, really means to do your work with haste and pull results forward in time. There is every reason in business to produce better results faster. But like all things, there is another side.

Slowing Down

There are other times when a team tries to slow things down, to control the tempo, to deprive your opponent of the opportunity to play offense. When this is the strategy, the offense does everything it can to take time off the clock, letting the play clock run down, keeping the ball on the ground and inbound to manage time. A team that doesn’t have the ball cannot put up points.

Brent Adamson of CEB Gartner has shared research that suggests that of the total time a company spends considering a buying decision, about 18% of that time is spent with salespeople. If that’s an average, then half of the companies spend more than 18% and half spend less than that number with salespeople (which makes sense, especially if their sample included both transactional and strategic opportunities). CEB’s research suggested this time was often split between 3 different sales organizations, begging the question, “What percentage did you command?”

Assuming all things being equal when it comes to sales abilities, more time with the people making decisions is better than less time. If you are commanding and controlling the time, you are likely depriving your competitors of time with your dream client.

Time is too important a variable to ignore, and you can find a competitive advantage in managing the clock.

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