I’ve always looked at sales as a mind game because there is so much planning and strategy involved. One could even say sales is a lot like golf. You’d never hit the ball until you analyze and reflect on the lie, wind speed, distance and direction and a hundred other variables on each hole; and plan how you’re going to reach your ultimate goal.Even the best planned strategy must constantly flex to overcome the next unexpected challenge or opportunity. Only proactive planning and strategy can truly prepare you. And that’s why sales, like golf, is a mind game that you need to master.
Strategy vs. Power
A friend of mine just started playing golf in the last year or so. She was a star athlete growing up and prided herself in how far she could drive the ball at the driving range. I told her I wanted to take her out on a course to give her a different perspective.
I told her that golf is a thinking game – a game of strategy, not power. Sure, power helps. Trust me, I know. I cannot hit a ball more than 170 yards with any club in my bag, but I do know how to strategize to minimize my strokes to the hole. Well, most of the time! In golf, you need to focus on the goal and how you’re going to get there.
The Mind Game of Sales
And that is what sales is all about – it’s a mind game just like golf. It’s about proactively planning and strategizing based on what you know about your buyer. Whether you’re doing account planning or pursuing opportunities, both require detailed planning to ensure you are setting strategy and a course of action to win (or walk early) versus being led by the ring in your nose.
Strategic account planning makes you think longer term, similar to how your buyer is thinking. Your buyer is not thinking within your quota year, but they are planning what they must do over the next few years to successfully accomplish their goals. So, as a sales person, you should have a 2- to 3-year perspective as well.
For example, where do you want to be with this account in 2-3 years? What is your goal for revenue? Not based on your quota, but on the account’s potential, tied directly to what you know and have confirmed as the buyer’s priority initiatives. What is your goal to expand and broaden your relationships, moving up the buyer’s chain of command? What is your goal for ensuring your customer’s success and working with partners? What about proactively establishing your longer-term goals and then breaking them into annual goals, quarterly actions and tasks, enabling you to execute your plan and not get overwhelmed?
The approach is very similar for pursuing opportunities. You have to plan and strategize on what the buyer is trying to accomplish, by when, and who will be affected by the potential change. When you see sales as a thinking game, you’ll identify and validate the impact on key stakeholders. In other words, realizing what it means to each of them individually to either stay status quo versus implementing change, as well as confirming key business outcomes (with more specificity than increase revenue, decrease costs, minimize risk) and understanding the business value linkage up and down the organization. You’ll also need to work with them to know their buying time frame and why that is important to them.
Becoming Proactive and Strategic
In short, you have to proactively think and strategize every step of the way. Because if you don’t, your competition will. So, I see sales as being very similar to golf in terms of the thinking game. Proactive planning and strategy has a better chance of getting you and your buyer to the end goal. After all, wouldn’t you rather focus on the best way to get a par or bogie on a tough hole, versus ending up with a triple?
Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of Sales Latitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter