“Play your game,” said Coach Galen Scott. The pointed advice was given to a very weary, frustrated college tennis player. If you haven’t guessed, that frustrated athlete was me. I was losing matches, my mind was clogged, and I didn’t know what to do. That is when Galen stepped in and instructed me to play to my strengths.
Galen Scott was not my college tennis coach. Galen was my personal coach. He had been training me for quite some time and had shaped me into the champion that I had become…despite the recent challenges on the court. However, here was the dilemma. My college coach was telling me to play a style that I wasn’t used to, comfortable with, or trained to perform at a high level. In other words, my college coach was telling me to play towards my weaknesses instead of my strengths.
Why would a coach do such a thing? Why would anyone instruct someone to play towards their weaknesses? Could it be that he was wanting me to develop them into strengths? Or, is it more likely that he personally was more comfortable with that style?
Tennis, in many respects, is an individual sport. Players are more suited to play certain styles. I was gifted with quick feet, solid power, and a soft touch with the racket. Thus, Galen shaped me with a style best suited for me which was a classic serve and volley game. I would hit a big serve and follow it to the net to conquer the point and the match with my volley. It worked well. I was relentless. The stress on my opponents was oppressive. I never gave them time to rest. I was coming to the net whether they liked it or not and they were forced into a situation where they had to hit excellent shots…or lose.
“Play your game” was ringing in my ears. Do I listen to Galen and have a great opportunity to win or do I listen to my college coach and most likely lose? Not a fun decision for an eighteen-year-old athlete to have to make. Well, I decided to go with my strengths and I began to win matches. As long as I won, my college coach was happy.
The world of selling is the same as the world of tennis. You have to play to your strengths. I recently had the opportunity to interview successful sales leader Mark Marshall.
Mark Marshall is the Sales Director at PQ Systems, Inc., in Dayton, Ohio. PQ Systems provides quality software solutions for companies who want to improve their systems and document their quality performance. They are a worldwide organization whose customers include Fortune 50 companies to the very small mom and pops.
After talking to and learning from Mark, I believe there are three vital elements that every sales professional has to keep in mind to play to their strengths.
One, it takes time to develop your strength. Mark Marshall believes it takes about a year for a new sales professional to get things going. In many cases, that is true for the brand new sales representative just entering the profession of selling or the veteran joining a different company’s team.
Mark Marshall puts his sales representatives through a rigorous six to twelve month boot camp style training program before they are turned loose to call on customers by themselves. He believes that the role-playing and structured approach is vital for all people who want to succeed in sales and he is getting results that are proving that thought to be true.
Two, trust is the key. When Mark took over as Sales Director at PQ Systems, they were, as he put it, a very “transactual” team. Their approach was mechanics of selling instead of relational selling. Mark soon changed that. Today, the PQ Systems sales team focuses on building trust and rapport. They are less about product and more about solutions that serve the customer. Mark says, “We are the experts and we help them.” Don’t miss those words “we help them.” When sales professionals focus on serving the customer, closing the sale and commissions have a tendency to take care of themselves.
Three, always seek improvement. The top sales professionals from all industries never believe that they have arrived. There is never a place where we have learned enough. With this belief comes an endless reservoir of energy, growth, and an unlimited potential of sales.
Mark Marshall believes that one of the best ways to seek this constant improvement is to stay in touch with past colleagues. Mark talks with them and gets their thoughts on contemporary challenges. He has discovered these colleagues to be a wealth of knowledge, ideas, and experience. Mark then takes their wisdom and applies it with his team with great success.
So, let me ask you, are you selling to your strengths or are you floundering in someone else’s style? You will only be your best when you play your game. That is where the gold is found.
Mark Bowser is the President/CEO of Empowering Enterprises, Inc., which is a corporate training and development company helping businesses, organizations, and individuals reach peak performance. Shoot Mark an email at [email protected] or check out his LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/markbowser.com