Like golf, sales is a thinking game. Now, sales is not really a game, but in reality, it’s all about planning and setting a strategy in advance. Let’s look at both and you’ll see why you need to master your thinking game.
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.
And that is what sales is all about – it’s a thinking 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 opportunity pursuit. 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 timeframe and why that is important to them.
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?