Anyone responsible for selling something, whether it’s a product, service or idea, has a competitive streak. The will to win drives us to rethink our strategies and try different approaches. When one method fails, we try another. It was no different for John Edgar. In 1948 he wanted to own the fastest motorcycle on earth.He ordered the motorcycle built by the Vincent HRD factory at Stevenage, Hertforshire, England. It was the prototype for a motorcycle that came to be known as Black Lightning and it would have to beat the 136 mile per hour record set 11 years earlier on a Harley Davidson.
I recently got a chance to talk to William Edgar, his son, and I asked for a little background. He said, “Many thought it was a war against Harley Davidson, or a promotional venture for Mr. Vincent. It was just something my father had to do, and to realize it he asked his friend Rollie Free to ride the bike as fast as it would go across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats.” William was just 15 and already riding himself when the bike arrived and he remembers when the bike started, “ The sight and sound of it was staggering.”
The Vincents V-Twin engine bade 108 horsepower with a predicted top speed of 150 mph. With rider aboard, wind resistance was a serious challenge. So, regardless of how insane it looked, Rollie planned to lie flat on the motorcycle to streamline himself for ultimate speed. Many test runs proved this position was required, but they continued to come up just shy of the magical 150 mph goal.
On May 13, 1948, they rolled out onto the salt bed with the official timer and lights used at the Indy 500. Attempt one was 149.378 mph, and attempts two through six were sub-150. (During the sixth, his riding leather tore and caught the wind.) Short of the goal, Rollie astonishingly stripped and donned a pair of bathing trunks and borrowed tennis shoes. Result: 24 seconds flat! 150 even! The next run, he shed his helmet and pressed his head against the tank , out of the wind stream. That did it – 150.628! To hold the record, it had to be two consecutive attempts and there it was. They got what they went for. The record now stood at the average of those two runs -150.313.
In sales, record breaking is often a monthly or quarterly requirement. I am not suggesting you strip down to a bathing suit in front of your customer, but you always have to be willing to innovate. What is innovation? Put simply, it’s something new. Try new approaches, never expect what got you to your current performance will get you to your next goal. As I always encourage readers of this blog, look for new stories to help your buyers understand your point of view. This was a great story, well told by the son of a man committed to breaking a record. I heard this story at a little motorcycle gathering in Carmel, CA. You, too, can find stories everywhere you go.