Sports and Selling . . . As others have said, “so alike and yet so very different”.

In Tennis, points are scored on every serve and the game mainly relies on the skill and technique of the players.

In Football, the strategy matters greatly, and points are scored during the game. In fact, you have someone guiding the strategy during the game – the quarterback. The quarterback is assisted by his coach when he wants to take a time out to get advice from someone who’s even more experienced. But the quarterback is calling the plays.

In Curling, execution skills are table stakes!  Strategy is the key to winning.   No points are scored until after the last shot is made.  To a certain extent, a “Curling match” is more like a “sales match” where the seller tries to overcome the buyer’s objections because in both cases it doesn’t matter until the order is signed or the last shot is played. All the efforts don’t matter – the “score is not calculated until the match is over!

There is another huge difference between selling and sports: On “game day” 99% of the sports teams show up . . .  in sales only 5% of the prospects answer your call. What are the ramifications of this in sales? It’s critical that you’re Relevant to the prospect. That means you’re competent, and you are talking about what the prospect is interested in.

We try to coach our new sales reps to say the right thing, at the right time, but preparing them for each call is different. Each prospect is different. You need to reflect the unique attributes of the prospect.  For example, is your prospect a market leader or with a market challenger? Are you talking to the CFO or a CEO? In both instances your approach needs to be different in order for them to stay on the phone with you and even give you a shot at closing the sale.   

Another big difference between sports and sales is you may only play one game a week . . . in sales, you may make several hundred calls a week. If only 5% of the people are going to answer their phone, how can you be adequately prepared? The first call needs to be tailored to the specifics of the prospect and to the experience level of the sales rep, so they come across as credible. If you’ve been in NFL for 20 years, you know what you might want to do in any given situation. But if you just graduated from college and you’re in your first year of the NFL, you may need some guidance on what a good plan for this game would be today. Looking at all the previous games that this competitor has played, how are you going to beat them today? So, you have a strategy and the strategy changes on the field, as it should, but you don’t have it written down. You’re going to try to go on memory. You have a plan, but in today’s sales calls, you don’t have that luxury.

We can use artificial intelligence so that the sales rep is given an opening statement that is appropriate to his experience and appropriate to the prospect. For example, it’s critical that a beginning sales rep not talk about things that go beyond their experience because they lose all credibility. An experienced sales rep can say, “In my 10 years in Sales, I’ve watched AI go from something that was interesting to something that’s really pivotal and key to being effective in every sales call.” However, a younger sales rep who just started working with their company would have to say, “My company has been in AI for 10 years and we have four patents pending.” A beginning sales rep can brag about their company – an experienced person can speak to their personal experience.  This is important because there’s usually a huge disparity gap in experience between the sellers and the buyers . . . because the buyers have money (control the purchase budget), which means they usually have more experience than the sellers, at least those in the Business Development role making the first calls.

What happens when you have 100 or 300 calls you must prepare for weekly? You’re going to forget what you prepared for, because the person you really want to talk to didn’t answer your calls. You find that you have forgotten all you prepared to discuss. So, to be effective, a seller needs a system to generate a call plan of what would be the right things to talk about to this prospect, not generically, but reflecting the experience level of the sales rep because you don’t bring things up that are beyond their experience to handle.

 That’s why it’s so critical to have a call plan, which is your steady talk track of what you plan to discuss. It’s helpful whether you’re experienced or inexperienced. It guides you on what will probably be the flow of the call, and helps you get back on track if the flow goes in an unexpected direction.

What we’ve done using artificial intelligence is comparable to what a good senior sales rep would do, based upon the flow of the call. It provides you with the ability to immediately pivot if your current solution or conversation is not a fit. The focus needs to immediately change, and that is where the artificial intelligence comes into play. Our Talk Tracks are based upon what has been discussed, the amount of time a subject was discussed, the number of times a subject was discussed, the experience of the sales rep, and the answers that you’re being given to the questions that you ask – everything from the day you first got the lead to what the story so far to this moment in time – is reflected in the talk track.

The ability to dynamically change during the call based upon what been learned is critical to a successful engagement. A successful sale is determined much like a curling match – are you going to get the score or not based on the strategy you used? In curling, it’s the final rock of the final play that determines who wins the game. And it works much the same way in sales.