Breaking Old Habits
With 2011 drawing to a close, I like to do an inventory and take out the old and bring in the new which translates to setting goals for the upcoming year. I have had an affinity for sports since childhood. I often use the correlation between sports and sales in my training. I have observed that there is not much difference in the way the best athletes prepare to win, and the way the super achievers in sales become successful. The little things are the primary difference between a good and a great athlete. The same holds true for sales professionals.
I recently ran across the following article on Aaron Rogers who is the quarterback for the world champion Green Bay Packers. The article emphasizes what I feel are some of the correlations between sports and sales. After reading the article, I know why Rogers is the best at his profession. He was interviewed by David Fleming of ESPN’s The Magazine. I will highlight Mr. Rogers’ responses to Fleming’s questions and make the translation to sales and career success. I think Rogers is a sales person, also!
Fleming: Jim Zorn once told me that each year a quarterback's motion should become simpler, shorter and smoother. Is that happening with you?
Rogers: When I first got into the league, I held the ball really high. That was the standard in college, and it messed up my timing a little bit -- the draw, bringing it back, then the release. Even in my seventh year, I'm still trying to break old habits I learned as a kid.
Translation: A majority of media reps find the path of least resistance and become commercial visitors or package peddlers. Such bad habits like pitching only features of a product are difficult to change. Try instead to take the time to research the business before the call. In addition, qualify and do a thorough Customer Marketing Profile (CMP) to find out the needs of the customer. These steps will make the delivery smooth, precise and garner great results for the client.
Fleming: Once that happens, is that when you're free to start perfecting all the other little things about the position?
Rogers: That's 100 percent accurate. First, the fundamentals, then you have to become an expert in your own offense. Then you can get to a point where you're attacking instead of reacting.
Translation: Most reps do not retain the basics of training if they are trained at all. A sales rep needs detailed product knowledge as well a clear picture of the competition. They need to understand how to prospect versus just dropping in on the client. A trained sales rep knows how to perfect the “needs analysis” and initiate great creative ideas with proper scheduling. These fundamentals are lacking in many of the media reps of today.
Fleming: You do all this stuff and some of it takes years to develop, just to get a defender to take one wrong step?
Rogers: Not even a step. Just to shift his weight the wrong way, to lean one way or the other. It's all about windows. Creating windows. Moving guys to create windows to throw into. The windows are so much smaller in the pros than in college.
Translation: Mastering sales takes experience and practice. Sales is about creating windows or the emotional connection between a rep and the client. Sales is not about showing up and expecting the client to buy something. The rep must create “the want” which is the window of desire.
Fleming: Another little thing you've improved is your body language on play-action fakes.
Rogers: That was one thing I really worked on in the off-season a couple of years ago. I had the pleasure of playing golf with Tom Brady and got to pick his brain a little bit. One of the things I took away from that was that he is very critical of himself from the previous year, and he uses that to find one, two or three things that he wants to improve on each off-season. For me, that was my ballhandling.
Translation: The best reps are sponges for knowledge. They have mentors, books that they read and DVD’s for training. They practice their presentations in the mirror.
Fleming: You're talking about visualization?
Rogers: I don't know whether other quarterbacks use it, but visualization has been very important to me. When I have a lot of confidence in a play, as soon as the huddle breaks it's immediately flashing in my head -- a picture in my mind for just a millisecond. "Oh, hey, three Wednesdays ago we ran this play in practice against the scout team, and I hit Greg on this route." I can see it.
Translation: The best reps constantly visualize success. They see the successful outcome of the sales call before they ever make it. Visualization is an acquired skill. Sales meetings are vital for role playing and acquiring these skills. Don’t ever stop visualizing!
Fleming: What does it look like?
Rogers: It's a picture of a play, a successful play, flashing through my mind each time I walk to the line of scrimmage.
Translation: A sale.
The old adage holds true. Inch by inch is a cinch. Yard by yard is hard. Aaron Rogers would probably agree that an inch one way or the other could have caused a different outcome of the 2011 Super Bowl. Rogers’ attention to detail helped his team win the NFL Championship. As of this writing, the Packers are still undefeated. Perfect practice makes perfect play. Make 2012 your Super Bowl!
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at Sean@luceperformancegroup.com.
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