Well, the 2010-2011 NFL (American Football) season is finally over, but while the memory lingers, allow me one more football post – and the second about my old high school 5-on-5 team, The Barron Park Weasels.  As usual, I’ll tie it to selling after I’m done wandering down memory lane – hopefully in at least a somewhat relevant way!

As the tallest guy on the team, it made sense for me to play wide receiver when we had the ball. When we first started out, there were things that I could do that – if I may say so myself – were awesome. If catching the ball required laying out airborne and horizontal, I got it done. If I had to jump over a defender, I got the ball. If I was already in the middle of being tackled, I didn’t let that stop me from grabbing the ball and cradling it like a baby.

Unfortunately, if an easy pass was thrown right to me, I dropped it – every time.

It was as if time to think about it screwed the whole thing up for me. I was unconsciously competent, but any whiff of conscious thought around a pass and I over thought it, and screwed it up.

Now my teammates were very wise. Recognizing this paradox, the two guys who traded work as quarterback would spend some time before each game throwing me the ball from maybe 10 yards away. We would just face each other and throw the ball back and forth. Over time, I got used to the feel of catching the ball when I was thinking about it, and this practice carried over into the games. I became a much more consistently reliable target for the quarterbacks.

As much as I like to reminisce about The Weasels, this is a sales blog. In this case, the connection is pretty easy to make. As regular readers of my blog and those who have read my book know, I was not a good salesperson when I got started either.

My first sales job, almost 20 years ago now, was selling commodity computer supplies. My training was about 10 minutes long, then I was shown my desk and phone, and a call list, and wished good luck. I had no idea what to tell people on the phone, and I struggled.

Not wanting to job to get the best of me, I asked for help. One of the other sales reps gave me an audio copy of The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy, and my affinity for sales training and self-development was officially launched.

Now I did not actually understand a great deal of the audio program – I remember that I was not even sure what exactly was meant by “close”. But I listened a few times, tried a few things I had heard, and sought out more resources to learn from.

This cycle continued for years, and in an expanded version (beyond sales) continues to this day. When I read a book or attend a lecture, I usually find something to try, and I do. It usually feels a bit awkward at first, but over time, I mold it to fit my own style, internalize the details, and is just becomes a part of my overall way of being as a salesperson. I wrote about this learning cycle in the context of mountain biking as well in an earlier post.

Because this learning cycle is sales has been repeating for almost 20 years, there is a pretty big set of practices in my “overall way of being a salesperson”! I have learned and internalized a lot of stuff for a lot of situations. In most typical sales situations, knowing what to say and/or do simply comes naturally to me now. It is of course not natural, this circumstance was made through effort, but by this time, it seems natural. This does not mean that I win every sale, but I don’t typically struggle to know what to say in the course of a dynamic sales conversation or in a protracted negotiation.

Whenever I watch sports, or artistic performances, the circus – or anything where the performers make their work look easy, I tend to believe that they got there by working really hard when no-one was looking. In sales, this can feel frustrating when you are first starting out. Results are usually measured before skills can be internalized, and starting out can be a rough time of feeling inadequate without knowing exactly why.

From my experience, the answer is learning and practice. Over time, You’ll catch the easy passes and the hard ones. You won’t always win the game, but you’ll play well.

Now go learn something, practice it until you are competent with it, and give yourself a raise!

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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