Golf offers lots of lessons for salespeople who want to drive sales.
Let’s explore 5 key lessons we can take from golf to help sales leaders and sales reps become better sellers.
Lesson 1 – Focus on Immediate Future
In sales and in golf, it’s easy to dwell on the last bad thing. That’s human nature.
In golf, we can’t stop thinking about the missed putt or the shot we hit into the water. We focus so much on the wrong thing that we miss the next putt and double bogey.
In sales, it’s the same thing. Sometimes we focus on what the prospect said that was negative about us or our company and we fail to probe deeply enough. Or we listen to the voices in our head too much and get caught with “happy ears” and believe the good stuff the prospect says rather than probing for deep understanding. Then we get caught flat-footed when they reply “Sounds good. I need to talk to John Doe in Operations. So, call me back in a couple of weeks.” And guess what? They evaporate. We can’t reach them in two weeks or four weeks or four months.
We weren’t in the moment, focused on the immediate future and what needed to happen to advance the sale forward. We were too emotional and caught up in our own head.
Lesson 2 – Eliminate Biggest Issue First
Salespeople are often creative problem solvers. When they start to hear problems, pain points, and issues from the prospect, they want to fix everything, and their approach becomes scattered.
As in golf, fixing everything usually make matters worse. Instead, there is typically a “biggest” issue that, if solved, makes the situation substantially better. You may not ever be able to hit a drive 350 yards, so don’t direct your energy on doing it. Instead, concentrate on what you can adjust such as your stance, your alignment, or your putting.
Of course, it takes a little bit of diagnosis to determine what the highest impact areas are in your golf or your selling game. Diagnose the prospect’s situation to determine what items are causing the biggest problems and, if solved, would create the biggest impact. Then focus your discussion there first.
If you can’t help the prospect with their biggest impact issues, don’t waste your time. Focus hard only on what you can fix.
Lesson 3 – Follow Routine
If you watch a professional golfer closely, you will notice they repeat the same pre-shot routine. They don’t even consciously think about it. They just do it. It signals the body to get ready to make the shot and it calms any nervous feelings.
The best sellers also have routines they follow. In their pre-call routine, for example, they might think about what they are going to say and what they are trying to accomplish in the call.
Based on our database of over 535,000 salespeople, we know that 81% of the top ten percent follow a repeatable sales routine. What is even more interesting is that only ten percent of the bottom ten percent of sellers follow a repeatable sales routine.
In sales as in golf, following a repeatable process will produce better results.
Lesson 4 – Use Science not just Just Feel
Most average (and below average) golfers like to just feel the shot. However, if more golfers truly understood the physics of the golf swing, the club and how the ball reacts when struck, they might fare better on the course.
Now let’s apply this to selling. Thousands of sellers rely on their charm, friendliness and ability to make conversation, rather than following a more scientific approach. They free wheel it and let the conversation go wherever they feel it should at the time.
Unfortunately, science works against this type of salesperson if they get into an uncomfortable position. Our physiology is such that if we feel threatened or stressed, the blood flows away from our brain and to our muscles, which enables a fight or flight response. So, if we are in a sales conversation and get stressed, that is what happens. Suddenly, we can’t think as clearly. We might become too emotional and get caught with no fallback plan. The sales opportunity is lost.
Okay, so how do we use science to benefit sales? We know that salespeople who use a repeatable predictive sales process are 15% more effective in closing business. The data on 535,000 salespeople supports this.
What really matters in predicting sales success is a commitment to continuous improvement, the ability to reach decision-makers and the ability to sell value.
So, employ science to enhance sales. Practice a repeatable sales process to control reliance on emotion and feelings.
Lesson 5 – Me Against My Thoughts
It’s me against my thoughts, not me against them.
In golf, we can’t manipulate what any other player does. We can only control playing to the best of our ability.
In sales, we can’t control what the prospect is going to say. We can’t even make them talk to us, let alone be honest with us. Therefore, we cannot make them buy. If we center on trying, it becomes a battle that will likely end poorly. Rather than viewing your prospect as the opponent and trying to “beat” them, spend your energy controlling your own emotions.
To steal a phrase from golf, stay “in the zone.” Think about a process – hone in on the questions you ask and your prospect’s answers. When you can stay committed to this process and ignore the negative, emotional thoughts that creep in, you can be free to just have a conversation with the prospect.
Bonus Lesson – Stay in the Moment
In golf, when you focus on yourself and what you are doing, rather than what your opponent is doing, or how many bad breaks you got, you will stay in the moment better and, miraculously, you will play better.
Do the same in selling. Approach each sales conversation as an opportunity to improve your questioning, your mental toughness and your focus on solving the problem at hand (from the customer’s point of view) and you’ll find your conversations to be more enjoyable and more fruitful
Add these 5 sales lessons to your sales toolkit and watch your results take off.
Article thanks to Gretchen Gordon.