I had some valuable feedback on yesterday’s post on coaching (thank you everyone!) One person in particular – a fellow salesperson and pugilist of similar vintage – pointed out that there quite a few parallels between boxing and sales in general. Now sales is not boxing and boxing is not sales. But they do share a few things in common, and for anyone looking at jumping into either, here’s a few handy tips that might keep you from getting too bruised up – whichever you’re a fan of.
1. YOU’RE GOING TO GET PUNCHED RIGHT IN THE HEAD
Let’s get this one right out of the way first. If you stick at any pursuit long enough, there will be setbacks. And then there will be the great, big, gravity-defying, come-out-of-nowhere right hands that rock you right to your socks. Setbacks are like jabs – easy to absorb, but enough of them can sting – like a solid week or even month of no or small deals. They happen.
I’m talking about the client that pulls a whole campaign an hour out from first deadline. The quarterly target-killers.
What do you do now? How do you respond? Rocky said it best. (Balboa, not Marciano.) “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” That’s all any of us can do – keep moving ahead. There’s another client, another deadline waiting down the track. If you face them on your feet, you’ll have a much better chance of winning next time. Because. . .
2. THERE’S MORE THAN ONE ROUND
Here’s my favourite mistake: Burn all your energy early, and don’t leave enough for the back end. Which leaves little left to do much anything else, except cover and counter – survival stuff. Now if I notice I’m doing that, and stay mindful that there’s another round coming, I can conserve my energy, breathe better, move better, and wait. How does this translate into sales? Don’t call your clients every single day to chase. Sometimes you have to give the deal time to breathe too. And that way you have more time to expand out your focus, and look for other opportunities, other ways through, after all . . .
3. THERE’S MORE THAN JUST ONE PUNCH
Jabs are awesome. Nice, long punches, keeping everything away from you and ‘over there’ – but it’s just one tool. And if I rely on that too much, then 1. Everything else gets worse and 2. It stops working. Same in sales. I’ve seen a lot of salespeople rely on just one punch, just one tool, to get the job done. It might be pricing (usually is) might be value adds, it might be volumes – whatever it is, make sure it’s the right punch for the moment. Often people tend to favour whatever worked best last deal. This can be rewarding, but be mindful – and vary your punches. The best way to do that?
4. PRACTICE, ESPECIALLY THE SMALL STUFF
Practice makes perfect. But I’ll settle for better. If I can improve my guard 10%, my lead hand 10%, my speed 10% by practice, it’s time well spent. Because it’s an accumulation of skills, sharpened by practice that makes all the difference. Likewise in sales. In my time at News Ltd our team came together often to practice public forum speaking, pitching, listening and planning. Team leaders and management included. Even the quarterly & annual sales awards process was a practice pitch – making a documented, competitive case for your nomination. The outcome of all this practice? Our business unit was the only over-performing unit, companywide. Practice makes perfect (but I’ll settle for better.) And after all that . . .
5. SWEAT IT OUT
I’ve seen a couple of guys survive on talent. Just talent – no practice, no detail, just talent. God bless them. But I’ve never seen a champion do that. Small things matter – but none more than time in the gym. If you keep showing up you will succeed. If you are naturally talented, but that’s all you have, then sooner or later the guy that kept showing up is going to kick your ass. Now image if you were talented AND kept showing up . . . because that’s how talented becomes professional, and professional becomes Muhammed Ali, Aaron Pryor, Manny Pacquaio, Cameron Glass, Kaye Scott. Same in sales. The very best I’ve ever seen have all had 2 things in common: 1 Natural talent 2. Sweat. One without the other works for a while. The sweat will even go further than the talent, because willing beats able in the long run. But the 2 together are unbeatable. Especially if . . .
6. YOU PAY ATTENTION TO THE W/L
Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Both are valuable. I’m going to hand over to Alastair Allars, because he says it better than I will. “I believe that you learn more from the occasional defeat than you ever will from a win (be it a fight or be it a sale). When you win you go away and celebrate and think how well you did to win the fight or the deal, however if you lose, you spend time analysing what went wrong and what you should do better next time so that you don’t lose again.”
Sales is not boxing and boxing is not sales. The two share a few things in common, and there’s enough common ground to look at the two and take away some valuable lessons there. My favourites? Sweat it out, try and learn something, and above all else, keep your hands up 🙂