Oh, no, not another sports analogy.
At an expat networking event the other evening, I had an interesting chat with the Chief Commercial Officer of a dynamic, fast-moving sales organization. He and I agreed that while they’re sometimes over-used, sports analogies do have a place in describing sales effectiveness.
Here’s an analogy he and I could both live with:
Imagine the trainer of a world-class football/soccer club coming in to the locker room on Monday saying, “Guys, I know what we need to do to win next week. We need to
score more goals than our opponent.” Duh! Imagine how quickly the trainer would lose his players’ respect.
Nevertheless, this is essentially what some sales managers tell their salespeople. “I know what you need to do to make bonus this quarter. Close more deals.”
Telling people to “sell more” is not a strategy for sustainably improving their performance. It might successfully pressure them once or twice, but after a while, they’ll either burn out or stop listening. Then you’ve got a leadership issue along with a performance issue.
“Closing more deals” requires a lot more than just closing. Selling is a process. It requires doing many things right at various stages in the process. Most of these “things” are measurable. Most of them happen at definable milestones, as in any process. And “what gets measured gets done.”
So if you want to improve your sales team’s performance, or your own performance, define certain key metrics within the process. Then choose the one or two will make the biggest difference. Measure them rigorously, and analyze how they impact the end game. Once improved and developed in to habit, pick another measurable, and improve on that.
When it comes to football, I’m a big Spain fan. I took joy in seeing Spain win Euro 2008, and in hearing just about every footbal fan say, “Spain deserved to win. They played beautifully.” And I would add, they played tactically. Get the tactics right, and the style seems effortless. Spain scored some gorgeous goals, but they did so many other things right.
Firstly, Spain’s defense was like a fortress. Impenetrable. Not only did they disrupt their opponents’ offense, they then quickly moved the ball to the midfield. The midfield kept possession and passed seemingly effortlessly within the midfield. To set up the offense, they passed the ball not to where the strikers were, but to where the strikers needed to be to break past the defense, which they often did. They then blew past the goalkeepers, or shot superbly into the corners leaving the lonely keepers confounded.
Pow! Tactic after tactic. Score after score. Victory after victory, all the way to the championship.
Success came by doing many things right, not just the scoring. And that’s the key to successful selling. Selling is a process. A good opening and a good close are no longer enough to score with savvy buyers in today’s Brave New World.
To improve your selling, define the key metrics in your sales process, then improve the critical ones first. Not only will you score more, it will look effortless… even though, we salespeople know it’s not.
It’s a tough world out there. It’s a brave new world…
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