As we review the Colt’s loss in the Superbowl, we can look for sales lessons. Discussing the game during several sales training sessions last week at ACTUM Group, we developed a pretty good list of reasons for the loss including preparation, motivation, and adjustments, but three lessons stand out for those whose lives depend on closing deals to pay the mortgage.
Lesson 1: Defense. In sales you have competitors. As much as you are trying to take the business from them, they are trying to take it from you. You want to be in control running offense but there are times you will be on defense. When your competitor is making strides to winning the new three year contract and every contact you make with your prospect leaves you feeling behind, you must have a defense capable of stopping their offense. In sales, that plan needs to include better understanding of needs (preparation), a wider and closer set of relationships throughout the prospect company (depth), and more contact (activity).
Lesson 2: Momentum. For better or worse, the Colts are a momentum team. One difference about the Superbowl is the difficulty in getting momentum back when it is down. In a regular game, commercial breaks are short and sparse. In the Superbowl, every turnover, question, timeout, punt, kickoff, and punt and kickoff return means a commercial break. If you are a momentum team, that’s rough. In sales, momentum is equally hard to get moving which is why it is critical to never stop the required activities. Telephone calls must be made every day regardless of how much you are selling and networking and prospecting must continue no matter how wide the pipeline. You are significantly better off with some activity every day than trying to restart after days of inactivity.
Lesson 3: Timing. Sure an interception is never good. The original quote of, “We never lost a game, but we did run out of time” has been attributed to many superstars and Peyton could well have repeated it on Sunday. The problem with an interception with less than 5% of the game to go is that you have no chance to use your defense, recover, and redirect. In sales, a mistake early on is dangerous but a mistake at the end of the process is deadly. If you ask the wrong questions during qualifying, you have time to find out during project development. If you find out they were wrong after you have dropped off the RFP, you don’t have the opportunity to adjust your presentation—your offense. This doesn’t mean bad luck reared its head in the sales game—I don’t believe in luck of any type in sales. What it means is that you should not be in a place where a last minute mistake can cost you the sale. You should be in the offensive lead and having your competition chase you so that if you falter or make a mistake at the end of the sales cycle, you are still the customer’s choice.
Sales is a competitive, hand to hand sport. There’s no nice way to say it except in every sale there is one competitor receiving a check and some number of others who are not. I challenge you to look around you and find sales lessons from the world every day, and then apply them to your game just as fast.
For more information on shortening your selling cycle and creating a sales process that works every day, review also Creating a Sales Plan.