When a professional golfer makes a six-foot putt on the 18th green to win a major championship by one stroke, we naturally call it the winning putt.
But we tend to forget the other 274 strokes that made up his four-round aggregate score. What about the 30-yard sand save on his first round, or the 25-yard birdie putt on the 9th green in round 3? You get the point. Every stroke contributes to his win. They ALL matter. And looking at the win from another perspective, did you consider all the lessons and practice sessions he participated in through the years? The high school and college matches that he won and lost? The overall commitment required to play golf at the highest level? Essentially the sum total of many years of dedication, practice, mentors, teachers, and learning to deal with difficult losses that put him in the position to make the winning six-foot putt.The same concept holds true for professional sales. It takes time, consistent hard work, dedication to your craft, and learning from other successful sales executives to play and win at the highest level. I’ve always said that professional sales is a marathon, not a sprint. We will be involved in many sales opportunities. Some we will win, others we will lose. The key is to use both our wins and our losses as learning experiences.In fact, I believe we can learn more from our losses! We can then make the proper adjustments moving forward and increase our winning percentages. Sometimes you might be better off walking away from a deal. There are some prospects that will suck the energy out of you, and at the end of the day, no matter what you do and how hard you try, they will never be happy. A wise sales exec will avoid doing business with this prospect. Of course, the ability to size up a prospect that you need to walk away from does not come overnight. It typically takes years of experience.

So when you close that multi-million-dollar deal, similar to making the winning six-foot putt, it is the result of many contributing factors that ultimately put you in the position to convince your client to do business with you.

Twenty-plus years ago I was a partner in a custom motorcycle business. My partner, Brian, was the mechanic and builder. I provided the financing. I enjoyed riding and being involved in the business, but you certainly would not want me working on or building your motorcycle. At the time I was working full time with EMC. I could only spend a limited amount of time at the shop – mostly on Saturdays and on my way home from the office or a sales call.

My partner convinced me to invest a significant amount of money by attending and promoting our custom motorcycles at the International Motorcycle Show at the Baltimore Convention Center. We were planning to have a large display as well as several custom motorcycles that we built in our shop. He also convinced me to hire a professional motorcycle salesman he had known for years. Since Brian was a builder and not a salesman, and I was not well-versed in all the specifics of the motorcycle industry and how to sell to potential motorcycle prospects, he recommended we hire Joe to represent us at the show. Naturally, I asked my partner Brian why he thought Joe was such a good salesman. His answer was, “Joe has been in the industry for years, is very outgoing, aggressive, and never stops talking.” I thought to myself, that’s not how I would describe a successful sales rep in my industry, but perhaps selling motorcycles is different than IT sales, so I agreed to hire Joe for the motorcycle show.

Well, Brian was right! The first time I met Joe he never stopped telling me how much he knew about motorcycles and the industry in general. It was difficult for me to get a single word in or to even ask him a question. I was completely exhausted after spending 15 minutes with him and had to excuse myself to get away from him to terminate the one-sided conversation.

That afternoon, I witnessed an interaction between Joe and a potential customer. The prospect was spending a lot of time sitting on one of our custom bikes as well as asking Joe lots of questions. After about 10 minutes, it appeared to me, in light of the prospect’s body language, that he was getting frustrated talking with Joe. I walked over and tactfully interrupted the conversation, told the prospect that I was the owner of the company, and told Joe I would handle the discussion from then on. When Joe walked away, the prospect told me he was very interested in buying the motorcycle but was getting very annoyed by Joe’s “know-it-all” attitude and was getting ready to leave our booth until I arrived.

The prospect, Richard, had a few questions about our service, our warranty, and insurance considerations. In addition, I gave him some details about my involvement in the business and the background and experience of my business partner, and I assured him we would support him after the sale. We then negotiated the price and signed the paperwork that afternoon. And since I’m such a nice guy, we still paid Joe the commission on the deal.

So what lessons can we learn from this interaction?

  • Sales principles, for the most part, transcend industries. People buy from people they trust. For the most part, people enjoy buying, but don’t want to feel they were sold to.
  • You don’t need to be an expert in your field in order to be successful in sales.
  • Do more listening than talking (you can’t learn anything when you do all the talking).
  • We are the sum total of all of our training and experiences through the years. We should learn from both our wins and losses and make adjustments to increase our wins and minimize our losses.
  • Some salespeople, unfortunately, never learn and do not adjust their behavior. 

Please note–This month I launched a professional sales exec placement service. Please reach out if you would like to learn more.


Universal Sales Truth #3

Do more listening than talking
Proverbs 18:13

Answering before listening
Is both stupid and rude