Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why Sales People Love Golf

As an avid golfer and a seemingly lifelong sales person I am struck by the similarities of my two passions. It is no wonder many successful sales people also enjoy the game I love. Do you ever wonder why?
I have been selling something since my adolescent days hawking chocolate bars door-to-door for a high school fundraiser, but it is only in the past 10 years that I have discovered a passion for the game of golf. At first glance the two seem completely different and unrelated. Sometimes first impressions need a second look and this is one of those times.
When I rang my first doorbell to sell those chocolate bar I had no idea what I was doing. Sure we all received a few tips (be polite, thank them even if they don’t buy etc.) but I stumbled over my words and am sure that my first sale was because they felt sorry for me, not because I had done a great job at explaining what the money would be used for. I had no opening, no value proposition and no closing skills. I needed some coaching – badly.
Thinking of the first time I played a round of golf the similarities more than amuse me. It was about 15 years after I sold my first chocolate bar. The experience was just as thrilling. I went to the course with a good friend, rented a set of clubs, walked to the first tee and hit the ball (I may have hit the ground first, I don’t recall that first shot or many of the 140 others that followed!). I had no distance off the tee, no accuracy to the green and no ability to read the green.  I needed some coaching – badly.
Many sales organizations have “Leaderboards” in their sales bull pens, a stack ranking that gets a lot of attention at month end much like the leaderboard at Augusta National does on Master’s Sunday. Instead of a green jacket sales people get bragging rights, a commission/bonus cheque and sometimes a trip.
So what separates those at the top of a leaderboard from those further down? Is it skill? Is it natural talent? I believe that it is a desire to be better. To be better than you were last week or last month or last year. It is a commitment to developing and a willingness to accept coaching. It is being able to put your hand up and ask “what can I do differently that will make me more successful”?
Even the best golfers on the PGA Tour have coaches and some even have more than one. Phil Mickelson, arguably one of the most aggressive golfers on the Tour, has paired with renowned swing coach Butch Harmon to help his accuracy. It is Phil’s acknowledgement that it is possible to be better, and that he needs help to do this, that impresses me.
Throughout my sales career I was always looking for more coaching, looking to have someone help me strengthen my talk track, to help me get better at my craft. I read books and listened to audio tapes. I wanted to be the best that I could be, to be as close to the top of the leaderboard as I could be. I was never satisfied with the amount of coaching I received (which was more than most others).
Far too often I worked with fellow sales people that did not want to be coached. They felt that it somehow undermined their credibility inside the organization and with their customers to have someone ride along with them, or that they must doing something wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth as the return on the coaching investment is highest with top performers, especially those that eagerly seek out coaching opportunities and adopt the recommendations offered.
My roles have changed over the years and I am now the coach. I enjoy being in a role that allows me to help others achieve their goals, to help them be the best that they can be. I still seek out coaching from my manager and from my mentor on a regular basis, so that I can be the best that I can be.
As for my golf game, I spent most of the winter watching “Playing Lessons From the Pros” on the Golf Channel because I really think this will be the year I break 80. Now that the snow has almost all melted (in NS anyway) I will also be spending a lot of time on the driving range and on the putting green, and will be seeking some coaching to help me reach my goal. Putting in golf is a bit like closing in sales. But that is a topic for another day. Anyone have some good putting tips?

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