When I sat down to write this article, I had just finished watching this year’s Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It turns out that you can learn a great deal about business and life by viewing sports, especially when you’re watching champions. In fact, this game and all its pageantry are ripe with examples of what to do (and what not to do) in your business sales “game.” Let’s dissect three such examples that come to mind…
1. In the end, it’s all about blocking and tackling. Football may seem like a highly complex game with players running about, audible directives to change plays and formations, and coaches whispering secretly into gigantic play cards. However, when it’s all said and done, generally the team that does the best job blocking and tackling wins the game.
Breaking down a football game to its most fundamental basics is as old as sports itself. Think about your own experiences with sports or activities. Whether it was football, baseball, basketball, the piano, the flute or singing, each of these activities has basic tenets from which all else is drawn. In football, when you don’t perform these basic fundamentals well, you lose and look bad doing it. When you play an instrument or sing but fail to do the basics well, you perform poorly and look bad doing it.
So what does this mean to you in terms of sales? Very simply, there are basic tenets of selling, too. Language skills, communication aptitude, organizational prowess, product knowledge, perseverance and motivation are just a few such sales fundamentals. Some of these are attitudes (which can be trained and learned), and most are skills that you must practice. If you go into your field of play without being adequately prepared to “block and tackle,” you will not be successful and you’ll also look bad doing it!
2. “What did you say?” If you were one of the millions who watched the national anthem preceding the Super Bowl, undoubtedly you said just what I did to my wife when listening to Christina Aguilera sing it: “What did she say?” By the time you read this, you probably will have heard numerous times about the flub this popular star made while singing the words to our national anthem. Francis Scott Key is probably turning over in his grave! Yes, the music and melody of our national song can be difficult to sing, but the lyrics are the lyrics. We’ve grown up singing and listening to it countless times. So if you were going to be honored to sing our anthem on arguably the biggest stage on television, wouldn’t you think you would know the words?
For a singer, this is akin to blocking and tackling. Knowing the words to the song you’re singing in front of a gazillion people (give or take a few) is a basic tenet. This calls for preparation.
What’s that mean for you in sales? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you prepared for the objection that is bound to come?
- Are you prepared to respond to it?
- Can you answer the product questions on the new line of insurance your company is promoting?
- If your prospect does say “yes,” do you know what to do next?
- Have you practiced your conversations over and over until you can fall out of bed at 2:00 a.m. responding to an objection?
If you can’t, you’re probably as ill prepared as Ms. Aguilera was for her time in the national spotlight. It’s unprofessional not to know your key objections (to be covered in greater depth in an upcoming column) and not be prepared to respond to them effectively.
3. Turnover are deadly. The Steelers turned the ball over three times on two interceptions and a fumble. One of the interceptions was returned for a touchdown and they subsequently lost the game by 6 points. The Packers didn’t have a single turnover. Do the math. The more times a football team turns the ball over to the opposition, the less opportunities they have to score and the more their opponent does. It’s a numbers and field position game.
You get so many “shots on goal” every day, week, month and year. Each one is valuable because it represents an opportunity to add a client, gain a referral and build a loyal clientele. How many “turnovers” have you had that became missed opportunities?
Here’s what I mean. You go to a networking event and meet someone who is in need of life insurance, as he just got married. You take his card and shove it in your pocket, where it forever remains until it ultimately comes out of the washing machine a shriveled and illegible mess. Be honest, now… you’ve done this before and so have I. But these are huge missed opportunities! So, I started slowing down and looking for potential opportunities in every meeting — whether it be a new client, a referral source, a new friend or colleague. Consequently, I was able to more effectively see potential openings and then was sure to follow up. Not following up is like a fumble. You lose your opportunity and it may never come your way again. Your opponent (i.e., your competition) may scoop up that fumble and return it for a score of their own by writing the business.
Be protective of your opportunities, even to the edge of hawkish. They are as good as gold for you, just as a touchdown is for a football team.
Sports is often used as a metaphor for business and life, and justifiably so as the components of games are synonymous with the games we play on the streets and in the boardrooms of the business world. Winning football games is a lot like winning new clients: You must perform the fundamentals well, you must be prepared and you must hold on tight to your opportunities. If you do this, you can expect to be a champion in your own right!
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved.