Are you using the early days of the season to hone your skills?

It’s the time of year when hope springs eternal, all 30 teams are undefeated, the weather is perpetually glorious and families are already thinking about summer vacation plans. It is an annual ritual for baseball players, and fans, dating back to the late 1800s, and, over all those decades, one thing remains constant: no matter their experience, tenure or ability, those Major League players return year after year to get in shape, hone their skills and prepare for when the games all count in the standings. Everyone from the multimillion-dollar, multiyear contract superstars down to the rookies just promoted from the minor leagues. 

Which, if you’re a business owner, or sales professional, raises the question: What are you doing to hone your craft and “build your business development muscles” to better compete in the marketplace?

Sports has always been a metaphor for business because it emphasizes dedication, preparation, skill, teamwork, strength, agility – the list goes on and on. The world’s greatest athletes habitually put in the time and effort to compete at the highest level, shouldn’t you? 

If you’re in sales, think about the last deal you lost. You thought you “had it in the bag,” but the prospect changed his or her mind at the last minute. Or worse, the competition came in at the 11th hour and made a better presentation or offered your prospect a better deal. Or, perhaps, your sales pipeline is not where it needs to be to hit your quota for the month. Prospects have dried up, your longstanding customers are cutting back or you just can’t seem to get through to decision-makers.

Maybe it’s time to “get back to the basics.” Are you and your team:

Prospecting for new business consistently? (Cold-calling, networking, using social media, generating referrals and introductions, developing strategic partnerships, etc.)

Properly qualifying those prospects to better determine who is likely to do business with you?

Negotiating effectively, to maximize profit while not sacrificing margin?

Presenting convincingly, so that your prospect has no doubt the solution you provide is the right answer for their business?

Closing for yes-or-no decisions and not “think-it-overs?”

If your business is doing well and you are consistently hitting your quotas and revenue goals, good for you. (Many companies and organizations we work with, in fact, are doing quite well so far in 2022.) If not, what are you doing to “sharpen the saw?” We are always amused by sellers and managers who profess they have 20 or 30 years of experience and have “been there, done that.” To which we respond: “Do you really have 20 years of selling experience or do you have one year of experience 20 times over?” Are you constantly learning and growing to keep up with the marketplace or are you relying on the same old methodologies and techniques? To use a golf analogy, who do you think hits more practice shots on the driving range: a top money-winner on the PGA Tour or your typical weekend hacker?

Sticking with the sports metaphor, here are two quotes to keep in mind when you think you’ve reached the pinnacle of selling success:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan, NBA hall of fame player
Or, as the great business guru Kenn
eth Blanchard once said, “The day you stop learning is the day you stop growing.”

Jim Marshall is owner, and president, of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or

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