Posted on 19. Mar, 2010 in Blog
Here we are, just days away from the start of March Madness 2010. The NCAA Tournament begins just after our local youth league ends. I’ve been a coach and/or a cheering parent at more of these youth games than I can remember. I love the game of basketball and never pass up an opportunity to watch a game; be it youth, NCAA, or NBA. Even as a fan caught up in the emotion of the moment, I can’t help but analyze every aspect of the game as it is played out. Basketball isn’t just a game of physical skill to me, it’s a mental game. I find it interesting to watch players and teams as they move through the ranks and mature in their physical and mental game.
For example, take understanding how to use the clock to advantage. Many of the younger teams I have seen play do not alter their play based on the time remaining. To them, it’s as if the first minute were no different from the last. If “run-and-gun” offense worked for us in the first quarter, why not in the last minute when we have 4-point lead? As adults, we understand. We adjust how we play according to the situation. Time factors in as part of the situation.
It’s easy to see how time remaining in a basketball game should change the players’ actions. This concept, however, sometimes eludes us in our professional lives. While we are running around, much like the players on the court, we don’t have the big score board or buzzer to serve as our constant reminder. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking the way we sold yesterday is the best way to sell today. Just as a basketball team’s strategy evolves from the first quarter to the forth, so too must our sales process.
As the season began, I went to register my son for the local youth basketball league. Because I arrived only a day or two before registration ended, I was met with a, “I’m sorry sir, but all of the teams are full. Unless…you want to coach a team. We do have a few boys who are not on a team yet. We just need a coach.” I agreed to coach and was given a list of names. At the first practice, I asked how many of the team members had played on a basketball team before. Less than half of the hands went up. My team was made up of the players no one else selected. I am not a good loser, so what was the team going to do?
As you might imagine, we worked on basics. We spent a lot of time dribbling, passing, shooting, and working on defensive skills. This would help us, but it wasn’t going to win games. We needed something more. It dawned on me that we had to control the game. The answer was in defense. At 12 years old, even the best ball players can’t read a defense well. I also learned that most teams in our league only had offense plays for man-to-man defense. We started the season coming out in a zone defense. When teams started running a zone offense, we would switch it back to a man-to-man defense. As it turns out, a team who is frustrated on the offensive side of the court isn’t going to be at their best on defense either.
Our strategy was simple. Do the basics well and use change to our advantage. When I talk to sales teams, the same two principles hold true. Do the basics well (listen, qualify, identify all of the buying influences, determine individual win results, etc.) and create or anticipate change. The team with a plan for change has a competitive advantage over other teams. Leveraging change doesn’t just happen; it has to be built into the sales team’s way of doing business. It exists in what is called a Tier 4 Sales Organization. Tier 4 sales teams understand why their system works and under what conditions. They have implemented a plan to identify and adapt to change. In doing so, they gain a competitive advantage. Rapid change is the paradigm we live in today. Teams who capitalize on it, whether in basketball or in sales, will win.
That team of boys I coached. They learned to execute the plan well and we finished our season at 8-2.
Chuck Overbeck is the founder of Sales Sigma Consulting. Chuck has over 18 years of sales and sales management experience and a formal education in quality and process improvement. Throughout his career, he has build sales teams, trained and coached sales representatives, and developed sales processes. The structured approach he developed takes the guesswork out of selling, by using leading indicators to identify the reasons and conditions for success. Chuck is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The Sales Sigma process is a method of improving sales performance using a customer-centric approach. To learn more about Sales Sigma, visit http://www.salessigmaconsulting.com
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