Pick Your Punches – In Life, In the Ring, And In Sales

Couple of months back I had a pretty good set of cracked ribs. No-one to blame really – self-inflicted,  from throwing too many punches. (True story).

It’s hard to injure yourself this way. Usually you need outside help. Mine came in the form of an 85 kilo, six foot former weight and age class champion I was walking around with.

(Sidebar: A ‘walk around’ is not a trip to the corner – it’s a kind of code for a boxing workout; where two fighters will spar, but not try too hard to knock each other’s heads off. This particular guy though, our sessions go like this: ‘Hey you want to have a walk around?” “Sure “ *Bell rings* *We immediately forget the ‘walk around’ rule*)

Anyways. I’d been away a week and didn’t feel like getting busted up tangling, so for three short, 2 minute rounds, I figured the best defence would be a good offence. I threw everything at him but the kitchen sink. For a round and a half.

It’s called being punched out – you throw so much, you’ve nothing left in the tank – or the legs – to mount a solid defence. And so, for the last round and a half, I offered about as much meaningful defence as a punching bag.

Figure I got off pretty light in the end. But what’s the lesson? Pick your shots.

What’s This Got to do with Sales?

I have a pretty credible conversion rate selling. Mostly because I pick my shots. I don’t spin my wheels with people that can’t say yes. And I don’t chase people that don’t need what I have. Instead, I explore the market. I understand my product and what each client might need. I research. I understand. That’s where I spend my time. So by the time I’m in front of a prospect, asking the question – I usually already know the answer.

This matters. I’ve known guys burn themselves out, chasing every business and lead in the world, without proper thought to the likelihood of getting a result.

When you’re new in sales, this is fine – chase everything. You learn lots this way. About people, about closing, about chasing, about lead building, about pitching the right people, and about pitching the wrong ones.

But if you don’t adapt your approach as you learn from this process, then you’ll always be stuck at that entry level. Throwing every punch, but rarely landing. Slowing down. Eventually too tired to take or even notice the shots that will land.

Take Your Time

Be patient. Learn from your clients what works, what doesn’t, what they need, and what they don’t. Strip away the stuff that wastes your time – and your clients’. Learn from your mistakes. Learn to be economical – and you’ll have more time and energy for when it does matter.

There’s a saying in chess – ‘don’t move until you see it’.  When you do move – be decisive. Be accurate – take your time, and throw the punch that lands, make the move that checkmates, and the call that closes.

I think this applies in life as well – remember how impatient you were as a teenager? I know I was – insufferably so. A little more patience with people, with money and career – even with myself – would have gone a long way.

Back to the ring. After a few weeks of healing, and doing many drills to get my range and control right, to parry and pick shots off, I had another walk around – against a much bigger guy this time.

The difference was incredible.  The key was patience, and not just throwing everything just because you can – just throwing what mattered, when it did. I can’t remember when I had so much control – or so much fun.

So take your time, pick your shots – and keep your hands up!

Mike W


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