Sales is very much like a competition and the lessons learned from winning and losing are not much different from lessons learned in sports. Sales reps looking to win their own personal championship can train, prepare and win using some of the same methods that sports heroes have used to win their own titles.

Finish with Authority

Michael Jordan didn’t always make the final shot, but he trained for it. He didn’t just walk out onto the court and expect to succeed in high pressure situations. He took countless jumpshots in order to ready himself for that one moment when the game was on the line. Sales reps need to have that same mindset. Closing a deal is not going to come with a desperation heave from half court.

The first thing sales reps need is mental focus. The end of the month in the sales world can often resemble the closing minutes of a basketball game. There is pressure to meet quotas and close deals before the clock runs out. Mental focus will allow sales reps to not let that pressure get the better of them and use their closing skills when needed the most.

That mental focus will also come in handy when it’s time to meet with prospects in regards to closing a sale. Meeting that quota could weigh heavily on your mind, but don’t jump right into it. Just like Jordan does on the basketball court, let the play develop.

That development begins by efficiently utilizing the time you spend interacting with potential clients. Sales reps can follow the 70/20/10 model, which allows you to devote 70% of your time to asking clients about any problems, talking about long-term goals and discussing their aspirations.

Next comes 20% of your time which is devoted to talking about your solution. Then, finish up with the last 10% which hones in on your call to action. Think of the first 90% of this model like setting up for the final shot of the game. During that last 10% of your time, make your move and close the deal. Not every shot is going to go in, but setting yourself up for a chance to win is all you can ask for in sales. Remember, even Jordan lost some games but he also notched his share of victories.

Get in the Film Room

In any sport, the best players spend time studying film. Most of the times, they look for weaknesses in their opponents and attempt to exploit them. It is very popular in the game of football as there is an in-depth mental side to the game. After all, Tom Brady did not win three super bowls without spending a whole lot of time in the film room.

Sales is no different.

This doesn’t mean sales reps need to watch actual film of other reps in action. However, it does mean they need to do some mental work to continually provide themselves with an edge. The first task is to review the sales you lost.

The days after any football game are followed up with film study, especially a loss. Players look at what they did wrong and try to find ways to correct their mistakes. When a sales rep loses a sale, the process should be the same. Sales reps can look back and review that process from beginning to end.

Examine how the relationship began and consider the language you used. A traditional approach to sales is more formal, but has its drawbacks. It is very hard for sales reps to relate to their potential clients when they lead with solutions, facts, figures, and calls to action. Sometimes, the best approach is breaking down those walls of formality.

Also, factor in the timing of your first sales pitch. Was it too soon and did it have any disadvantages? Be objective when looking back on the lost sale and acknowledge where you faltered. Sometimes losing a sale can be an excellent teaching tool.

Change Your Pitches

The best pitchers in the game of baseball threw more than just a fastball. They had an arsenal of pitches to choose from and would keep hitters continually guessing. A pitcher like Gred Maddux was successful for so many years because he had an array of different pitches. A good sales rep will also have a variety of pitches and use them accordingly.

The element of surprise can help help both hall-of-fame pitchers and successful sales reps. Sales reps can pick up the phone to call a potential client when they are not expecting it. Don’t talk sales to them, just check in and see how they are doing. Periodic communication such as this could be the difference in closing a sale or striking out.

Baseball pitchers often have the game in their hands and the most successful ones won’t rely on great defense for a win. The same goes for great sales reps. Potential clients generally ask sales reps, “Why should I choose you?” The natural reaction would be to go into defense mode.

Stop right there and throw them a change up instead.

By simply boasting about the benefits of your product or service, a sales rep immediately goes into some kind of sales pitch. That’s when they start to sound like a stereotypical salesperson. That is also when they could easily lose a sale. Attempting to convince potential clients that they need your product or service will only bring about more pressure.

Instead, throw the conversation back to them. Ask again about the issues they are trying to solve. Once you have your answer, explain how your product or service can solve those problems.

There are more ways to sell than traditional methods, just like there are more ways for a pitcher to get a batter out. It doesn’t always have to be a strikeout. There are plenty of pitches, so don’t rely on throwing the same one over and over again.

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