Golf and Sales are Easy, Right? Riiiiiiight…

8 11 2012

Today’s guest blogger is Russ Burch, a good friend and a heck of a sales guy.

A few days ago I was having a conversation with my college-aged daughter about sales.  She is an aspiring sales professional, so I am very proud.

She asked me, “Dad, is sales hard?”

I thought about that for a second.  “Not really,” I began, “sales is a lot like playing golf.  All you have to do is hit a ball with a stick.”

“And keep your head down,” I continued.  “You also have to transfer your weight properly during your back swing.”

And as I kept thinking, I realized I wasn’t done.

“Don’t swing too fast on the back swing.  Keep your eye on the ball.  Don’t swing too hard on your follow through. Shift your weight when you follow through.  Turn your hips, and like I said, keep your eye on the ball”

Once I thought about it, I realized that golf is hard!  So is selling hard, too?

You bet it is.  But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be as daunting as golf.  I think you can break your sales focus into four key areas.  Focus on these, and you’ll keep you energy moving in the right direction. Might be a good idea for you to look at your sales organization – or yourself — and see how you stack up in these key areas:

1.  Product Knowledge:                 Seems obvious, but it can be easy to forget that you must understand not just what your products or services do, but how they add VALUE to your clients or customers.  Bells and whistles are cool, but VALUE is what your clients care about.

2Industry Knowledge:                                Know what your competition is up to.  Who are they talking to?  What do their products and services do?  What VALUE do they offer?  How are you different?  What does your client/prospect think about the industry?  What does the industry think about you?

3.  Sales Skills:                   Selling is a profession, and professions require constant learning.  Always learn something new.  Keep your mind sharp with books, blogs, articles, or presentations.  The more you engage in sales-related learning, the sharper your skills will be.

4.  Activity:         This is perhaps the most important factor in whether you’ll be successful in sales.  Want the best sales advice you’ll ever get?  Go do something!!!  Get out of bed, go talk to people, make a phone call.  Connect.  Activity breeds results.

Now go make it a great sales day – and don’t forget to keep your eye on the ball.


Russ Burch

Helping you to navigate the crazy world of sales



Russ Burch writes on sales topics and just ran his first sub-two hour half marathon.  You can reach him at or give him a call at 214-505-4262.



6 09 2012

I observed a role-playing sales exercise at a recent national business conference.  One person was assigned to be the buyer, one person was the salesperson.  After exchanging pleasantries the buyer asked “so, how much do these widgets cost?”

“The list price is $1,000,” the seller replied quickly “but if you’ll buy today I can discount that to $600.”

Wow, that didn’t take long.  And that’s exactly the way it unfolded.  We had gotten two sentences into the meat of the discussion and 40% of the potential transaction value had been taken right from the seller’s  bottom line and dropped right into the buyer’s pocket.  Why?

Because the salesperson rushed to get a deal done before he figured out WHY a deal needed to be done.

This exercise was devised by my friends at ZThree in Austin, and they set it up to make a great point.   Prior to exercise they had briefed the “buyer” that he was to assume that no matter what, he had to buy those widgets.  The price didn’t matter.  So far as the exercise was concerned, the only way he could fail was to come away without a deal, no matter what the cost.  Failure would cost him his job.

The salesperson, on the other hand, had been briefed that widgets sold for $1,000 each, but his sales manager had given him discretion to discount the product up to 50% — or in our example, down to as little as $500.  He would make the same commission for any sales price over $500, and no commission for any price under $500.

See how the dynamics worked?  As soon as the buyer mentioned price the salesperson immediately tried to leverage the perceived value of discounting.  He left himself a little room in case he needed it, but his first reaction was to slash price to get a deal done.

Of course the salesperson didn’t need leverage.  He only needed widgets.  He had plenty of those, and rushed to sell them far below list price without ever knowing whether price for the buyer was an issue or not.  It wasn’t, but it still cost the seller a ton of profit.  Not the salesperson – whose flat commission was not price dependent – but that’s an issue for another blog.

The lesson here is that buying and selling involves people.  And different people are motivated by different things.  This exercise could have gone really differently if either side had chosen to do some probing for those motivations.  That’s not about manipulating or taking advantage of someone, it’s simple logic.  Don’t assume that you know what someone else needs or wants until you ask them.

So ask yourself…if you’re a salesperson, do you rush to discount your product in hopes of making a deal happen?  If you’re a buyer, do you jump at initial discounts just because you know you need a product but don’t necessarily know the best deal you can make on it?

You can do better than that.

Business is tough.  Hang in.  If we can help you, just let us know.

Jeff Whittle is Managing Director of Cogris Consulting, and the President of The Alternative Board – Metro Dallas.  We also talk business on our Facebook page and we tweet @jeffwhittletx.

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