As the hot days of summer turn into the cool (and slippery) days of fall, my mountain bike continues to be a great teacher about life, and sales – and is just fun as heck to ride! I bought a new bike in August, with stronger suspension, to support my growing affinity for jumping – a new endeavor in mountain biking for me, and one that is proving to hold both joys and lessons that I had not fully imagined. Learning to jump – a slow process indeed – has redefined the meaning of a book title and expression “the power of full engagement” for me, and taught me that to succeed here – and anywhere – there is great truth to the biking expression I so often repeat to myself as I approach the little baby jumps I am learning on: Commit or eat s*it.

A you may recall from my earlier blog post about the sales lessons to be learned from mountain biking, I have been biking now for almost three decades. In all of that time, I always avoided any situation in which my tires would leave the ground. Over the summer, however, as my obsession with mountain biking grew, I started watching YouTube videos and the Extreme Sports channel – and I could see the amazing grace of flying through the air on a bike – and I was intrigued. I never wanted to do the kind of crazy drops and falls that you see on these shows, but I reasoned that if they could go this big, I should be able to figure out how to catch at least a bit of air.

Like so many things in life, the parallels between this dynamic in biking and the same in sales became obvious to me.

One of the problems with the total immersion of media that we are subjected to in this generation, is that we are never far away from seeing someone doing an activity we participate in at a level we could never imagine reaching: I see the back flips on mountain bikes; we watch news stories about million dollar compensation deals; we read books by salespeople who made millions plying our trade and making in a year what we hope to earn in a lifetime. Sometimes it is motivating, sometimes it is discouraging. Usually it is a bit of both.

So how do the same principles that work on these larger scales work their way down to our own levels of execution? I have come to see that my approach to mountain bike jumps is a good approach for pushing towards these seemingly unreachable hights in a way that is real, rewarding, and growth inducing in spite of the relative modesty when compared to the YouTube stars. I watch stunts I could never imagine, but that makes the little stunts I try seem more reachable.

The lessons become generalized this way: the problem comes not at the moment of execution, but at the moment of commitment. In bike jumping, I have found that the approach can be perfect or not, but there is a fail safe point. At some point, I can always hit the brakes and stare down my very small jumps from the lip of the ramp, but there is a point at which a commitment needs to be made. In the time between the commitment and the landing, anything but full commitment to the jump spells disaster. Once the fail safe point is crossed, anything but fully “going for it” will surely result in a crash.

In sales, it is no different. We learn techniques, but can be afraid to use them because they feel unfamiliar. But a tool that is left in our tool bag is not much use to us, is it. We may set up situations to use these new techniques, but “hit the brakes” at the fail safe point. We lose the deal, but we feel a sense of relief. We were able to walk away without having made the jump, but we didn’t crash either.

I will never forget the first big deal I got by pulling off a blatant and recently learned technique. I had come to recognize that I was getting tripped up when a client said to me “I need to think it over”.  I blogged about it back in February, here is a link to that blog in case you would like to read more about it.   I learned a technique for getting past it, and soon found myself in a position to use it. I tried the technique, and walked away with a $25,000 piece of business that day. The alternative would have been to accept the objection, not risk losing face if it did not work, and risk losing the business, as they moved on to other problems and concerns during the time they were supposed to be thinking it over. I pushed passed the fail safe point, and I won. I could have lost, but if out of 10 deals you accept the stall 10 times, you might get 1. If you try something innovative to close the deal right now, you will probably get more. Your entire sales program boils down to these few simple decisions:

So what do you do? Do you commit, or do you eat s*it?

There is no one technique that will boost your career, you do need to do a lot of things right – but you can do a lot of things right and pull out just before the fail safe point – which will cause you to feel safe, and fail.

What I have noticed about bike jumping, is that the new jumps ALWAYS look terrifying. Doing a new jump for the first time is a gut check for me like few other things I know. Looking back to the terrifying jumps of last month, I realize that they are now routine, and I remind myself of this as I stare down the slightly bigger one that I have worked up the guts to think about trying. A few weeks ago, I jumped off of a small flight of stairs (6 steps) and now do it as a matter of routine (focused routine, but routine nonetheless).

Take the time to really look hard at your sales. Where are you letting your clients off of the hook to feel safe? Are you failing to ask tough questions in needs analysis? Are you failing to qualify? Are you accepting stalls and objections? Find your weak spot and learn a technique for getting past it – then use it as soon as you can. Once you “make the jump and land it”, you will own it. Find a new technique each week or each month, and before you know it, you will be closing more business than you imagined, from the same basic sales pipeline you always had. You do the same work, just close more deals. Beats the heck out of that s*it sandwich, now doesn’t it!

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David