Today's blog post is by Steven Comfort, VP of business development at Radius Intelligence Inc. His golf handicap is 2.
Most of us have heard the adage, “The big deals get done on the golf course” (or sometimes, “on the 19th hole”). A lot of selling happens on golf courses, but the sport teaches its players many of the qualities that are shared by the best salespeople. Here are a few of them.
It’s Just You
Because the golf ball doesn’t move before it’s struck, whatever happens to it is your doing. Your opponents are on the same course playing in the same weather conditions.
In sales, your opponents want the same deal as you do, and the economic conditions (weather) apply to all. It’s up to the salesperson to decide on a strategy (club choice, shot direction, mechanics) and execute it.
If you chose the wrong clubs (company or product) or executed poorly, there’s only you to blame. Conversely, when you do well, success is overwhelmingly because of your individual effort.
There’s Always a Better Player
Soon after establishing a playing index in golf, you’ll want to lower it. Despite your initial improvement, you’re forced to face the fact that you have a lot of skills to work on if you want to keep making progress and lowering your index. There’s always another shot to learn or improve on – and golf is a lifetime sport.
Salespeople typically have some natural strengths (presenting to large groups or prospecting, for instance) and other areas that they’d be well served to try to improve (perhaps writing, active listening, or entertaining). There’s always another trick to learn from your fellow salespeople, but you’ll never know it all, just like no golfer can master all the shots.
You Have to Be Able to Scramble
Good golfers can hit good shots in good conditions. Great golfers can hit passable shots in horrible conditions. Golf games are honed on the practice range, where the ball’s lie is always favorable and conditions are consistent. Scoring in match play depends largely on the golfer’s ability to scramble – to come up with a decent shot when the conditions are conspiring against him or her (for instance when a tree branch is blocking your path to the pin, or when your ball is stuck deep in a sand trap, aka “a fried-egg”). These are the scramble shots that are rarely, if ever, practiced.
In sales, the call rarely goes
just the way we anticipate, and of course, sometimes things really go awry.
Keeping your head about you when things get wacky is the key to escaping a
disastrous call with a chance to win the sale. The best salespeople can
scramble on a call and almost take a perverse pleasure in dealing with
unforeseen obstacles (e.g., facing strong objections).
The Truth Comes Out in Time
There’s a saying that states if you really want to know about people, play a round of golf with them. Within the course of a round, you’ll be able to watch how a player competes, interprets the rules of the game, socializes, and performs. By the end of 18 holes and about four hours of play, you’re going to have a general sense of the person’s character: Does this person cheat? Is he or she loosey-goosey with the rules, gracious, calm under pressure, fun to be around?
In sales, the truth about you also comes out in time: Do you make good on your promises? Are you strategic, consultative, relevant, fun to be around?
There’s no faking in golf or in sales; the truth always comes out. But because these are both lifetime sports, you can always hit the range and the putting green to work on your game.