How To Get Out Of A Selling Rut Like Top Sport Stars

Working away this week I’ve been able to listen to much of the cricket on Test Match Special. The final Ashes Test saw a rare panic selection from England. A worryingly momentum shifting win is now within Aussie’s reach.

Ed Smith is a remarkable commentator. Ten years on from fleetingly representing England, he now has a successful second career as author and is clearly a deep and lateral thinker.

What colour he adds to an already vivid radio team. With the second day’s play delayed almost four hours, he filled the airwaves with such wonderful subjects.

These included ‘what Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould called the outer wall of human endeavour’ to explain why fast bowling is not getting faster.

As well as the power of superstition in subconsciously focusing sportsmen.

He mentioned Rafael Nadal’s alignment of drinks bottles, Steve Waugh’s red rag, and even Goran Ivanisevic watching the Teletubbies during his entire winning Wimbledon run every morning. Just because that’s what he did after his first round victory as a wild card entrant.

I am not ashamed to remind one of my former sales colleagues that twenty years ago had an equally bizarre superstition. He had to use the prospect’s toilet, in shall we say rather a intense manner, at the beginning of a campaign else he felt he’d never win it. He’s now on the Board at Oracle…

Anyway, happily moving away from ablution habits, Ed then turned to the vexing issue of a run of poor form. For a batsmen, it is often referred to as a ‘bad trot’.

Here he gave terrific insight. It can be so common to compound your downturn and make things worse by over thinking. This already sounds like so many a seller that’s lost a couple of deals they thought were theirs.

What tends to happen is that everything tightens. Technique becomes rushed and jumpy. It all contracts and quickens. And it gets ruthlessly exposed.

What needs to happen, is re-capture the old rhythm and fluidity.

Easier said than done?

Well, as the adage goes, form is temporary, class is permanent, right?

He gave a couple of brief examples. First footballer Ryan Giggs once told him that when he realised he was having a shocker, he’d seek out the ball and make sure that his next touch was something so simple he couldn’t mess it up. And build on that.

Then, from current Australian chairman of selectors John Inverarity. When coaching Ed, if a run of low scores was spotted he made batsmen try and hit a grasscutter. It meant taking a ridiculous golf style swing. He reckoned this helped free the arms and mind.

In effect, when a dip in form is encountered, you must go back to basics. Pick a few simple things. Do them right. Only focus on short term immediate actions. Wind everything back. And pretty soon you’ll be back on track.

In cricket I’ve witnessed a few standout examples of this. Gower scratching around to pip Gooch to a 1985 one-day ton. (I even remember former skipper, Tony Lewis, after he’d somehow reached ten say, “next target, 20”). The outrage that was Mark Taylor’s torturously brilliant 1993 Ashes ton when facing the chop in England. And the TMS team mentioned Tendulkar scoring huge when not playing a single cover drive In Australia.

In Sales, you could argue that if you know your repeatable success process, then it’s straightforward to pick one thing that works and make it happen. For instance, if CEO engagement is pivotal, home in on that. If linking prospect with pet client is a winner, get contact going. If arranging a workshop off-site works wonders, set it up.

You could go even simpler. What are your memories of questions or actions you did at the start of your career? When you first realised you were cracking it that directly created success?

I once saw an experienced winner, then strangely struggling, lean back at the end of one meeting. He said only, “so, what do you guys want to do next?” This was apparently not part of his normal ‘close’. Yet it helped him turn the corner.

And something similar could well help you emerge from any rut, current or future.

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