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    There Are No Handicaps in Sales

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    I love to play golf. What’s fun with golf is that it’s a difficult sport, both technically and mentally, and when you’re doing it, you really get into the flow. You can’t be thinking about anything other than your next shot.

    It’s a lot like complex B2B sales, in fact. It’s difficult, it challenges you mentally and technically, and you really have to get into a flow to do well. And, beyond that, sometimes winning is less about how well you play, and more about how well you cooperate. Here’s what I mean.

    Not too long ago, my colleague and I won a very nice prize in a golf tournament where we played pretty badly. It was an indoor golf simulator tournament. Using the simulator meant that every team played on exactly the same course with exactly the same wind and other settings. There were 102 pairs playing. I joined the tournament with a colleague here at Membrain, Sebastian (Seb).

    We hit a lot of balls into the water. Occasionally, Seb did really well and I did really badly. Other times, I played pretty well and he did badly. But altogether, we felt afterward that it was not a good game. Oh, well. We had fun anyway, and went to lunch after.

    But then, the next day, we were informed that we won the whole tournament. And the prize? An all expenses paid trip to Greece, where we played four courses, ate amazing food, and stayed in a wonderful 5-star resort. Wow!

    How did that happen, and what can sales professionals in complex B2B learn from it?

    1. When You Collaborate, You Can Cover Each Other’s Weaknesses with Your Strengths
      The number one reason we won that tournament is that Seb & I balanced each other out. On the holes where he performed badly, I pulled out some of my best shots. And on the holes where I performed badly, he did quite well. The result was that overall, we outperformed everyone else.

      In this case, it was a bit of luck that we balanced each other perfectly. But in a complex B2B sales, you can be more strategic in setting your teams up to support each other for the win. Rather than focusing on a single superstar salesperson, assemble a team that can cover each sale thoroughly.

      You need technical people who can have technical conversations with the right stakeholders. You may want to bring in executives to have conversations with C-level stakeholders. Your customer service team should be available to answer questions that they’re best suited to answer.

      When you work together collaboratively, you don’t all have to be experts on everything, and you can play to your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

      This realization got me thinking about other lessons we can learn from golf.
    2. Like Golf, You Have to Master the Details, As Well as the Big Picture
      People who don’t understand golf often think that the most important thing is the long drive: Getting the ball from the tee as far as it can go.

      Those long drives can look impressive, but that long drive is not the only time you will hit the ball on any given hole. In fact, you will need to hit it multiple times and most of those hits need to be more precise, and less long.

      In order to play golf well, you have to master the big strategic game, as well as all the little physical details–understanding wind speed, mastering your own body, using your equipment effectively, delivering a precise stroke with just the right amount of power. And also all the psychological details–staying focused, not getting intimidated or distracted.

      In sales, it can be easy to get overly focused on the long shot. Often, this is the demo. Everyone wants to get to the demo, just like everyone wants to get to the green quickly. But if you haven’t mastered the details of getting there, of qualifying, discovering, solution building, involving all the stakeholders, truly understanding the game, then the demo won’t do you any good at all. No more than getting to the green will do you any good if it takes you five more shots to get it in the hole because you haven’t mastered the art of precision.
    3. You Can Always Get Better–and It Pays To Do So
      Because there are so many aspects to master in golf, there is always a way to get better. You can improve your stance, your response to physical conditions, your aim, your grip, your choice of golf clubs, your focus, your mindset, and on and on.

      Likewise, in complex sales, there’s always more to learn, more to master. Mindset, pipeline management, conversational skills, business acumen, stakeholder involvement, and so on, almost infinitely.
    4. However: There are No Handicaps in Sales
      There is one way that complex sales is NOT like golf, however. And this is important. There are no handicaps in sales.

      In golf, your skill level is weighted against the skill level of other players. If you’re a beginner or just not very skilled, you will have a high handicap. If you’re a pro, you’ll have a very low or even negative handicap. This makes it possible for you to play against much more skilled players and still have a fighting chance. It keeps it fun.

      In sales, there is no handicap. You will always be playing against the entire field, and if someone is better than you… Unless you get lucky (like me and Seb)... you will probably lose.

      But there’s good news in that, as well. It means that improving your sales skills makes you more and more competitive. The gap between you and your closest competitors gets wider and wider. For sales leaders, this means that your investments in training, coaching, and improving your process creates ever-increasing differentiation and competitive advantage.

    We believe that how you sell is why you win

    We also believe that Membrain is the best possible tool for complex B2B sales leaders to give their teams everything they need for continuous improvement, to get ahead of the competition–and stay there. It also provides the best tools for collaborating, so you can win even on your worst days. We’d love to show you how. Reach out and we'll chat about it. 

    George Brontén
    Published June 7, 2023
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn