Just about everyone in the civilized world is familiar with Michael Jordan. He is arguably the greatest basketball player to have ever lived. He wound up becoming a media icon and earlier this year, he achieved billionaire status. However, Jordan didn’t just luck is way into the spotlight. It came with a lot sweat, tears and even failures.

Turning Myth into Magic

There is a long standing myth that Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. However, this was not the case. Jordan did not make the varsity team as a sophomore at Laney High School in Wilmington, N.C. Instead, he made the junior varsity squad. Many people misconceive the specifics of that incident. The slight was taken to heart by Jordan, who would use it as fuel for his future success. But the story of him being cut remains a myth. 

There are similar myths in the game of sales. One of them has gained widespread popularity, although probably not as much as Jordan. The phrase “Always Be Closing” is commonly uttered in the world of sales. However, if sales people are always trying to close, they will miss out on other parts of the game. It would be like Jordan always trying to dunk. There is a need to hit a jumpshot, play defense and pass the ball around the court.

In sales, there is a need to build relationships and demonstrate the value of your product or service. Closing is based on the strength of relationships that are built over time. Closing can only come when those relationships are in place. Believing that a salesperson should always be closing is about the same as believing Jordan should be dunking every time he goes down the court.

Going Big Time

Jordan was drafted as the No.3 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. Ahead of him were No.1 pick and future hall-of-famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Drafted with the No.2 pick was center Sam Bowie of Kentucky. Bowie's name does not ring many bells in any current conversations regarding the NBA. As the No.3 pick, Jordan was not viewed as a guaranteed success. Not everyone was convinced he was going to be arguably the greatest player ever to take the court in the NBA.

Jordan's meteoric rise through the NBA can be mirrored in the world of sales. Just as Jordan had done, sales reps can come into the game and think big right away. Sales reps can focus time on the most important tasks each day, such as building new marketing strategies, enhancing customer relations and broadening their services. These are the fundamentals that will help grow your sales game.

Standing out from the competition is another key factor in elevating your game. Jordan stood out with incredible dunks and buzzer-beater shots in crunch time. Not every basketball player can do such things. In a similar sense, sales people should not use the same marketing strategies that everyone else uses. There needs to be a clearly defined competitive advantage.

That competitive advantage comes from price or quality. Pick one of those and run with it. Sales people can choose to offer the best prices or the best products. To be the best in the game, sales reps need a competitive advantage. Without it, they will never be like Mike. They might just wind up being another Sam Bowie instead. 

Learn from Failures

At the height of his basketball career, Jordan left the game to play baseball. But as dominant as he was on the court, Jordan struggled on the baseball diamond. He played one season for the Birmingham Barons, a Double A minor league affiliate team for the Chicago White Sox. During that season, Jordan's batting average was a lowly .202. However, he wouldn't stop there.

Jordan went on to play in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions against better competition and upped his batting average to .252. He took his failures from the regular season in Birmingham and capitalized on them. Had Jordan stayed in baseball, there's no telling how much better he could have gotten.

In sales, failure can be a pathway to success. When a sales pitch falls short, look back and dissect every part of your pitch. Many failed pitches are caused by jumping right into the sales pitch with no warm up. Picture Jordan trying to swing at the first pitch every time he stepped up to the plate. It just wouldn't work.

Selling also takes walking a fine line. Overselling has the adverse effect and often leads to failure. Enthusiasm and information are valuable, but too much of it could be unbearable. It is the equivalent of trying to hit a home run with every swing. When it is time to start selling, step back and take your time with the process.

Pre-judging your prospects is another sure-fire method that will lead to failure. You never know who is going to be a client. Most sales reps are guilty of immediately dismissing a prospect in their minds.

Treating every customer as thought they care a perennial all-star could be a big part of what makes you become the Michael Jordan of sales.

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Image Credit: Chuck Burton/AP

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