I’ve enjoyed Snooker since I was 14 (a long time) and only just picked my cue back up recently after an extended break. Having recently read a LinkedIn article about Life Lessons From Fishing (http://tinyurl.com/kg4mtnx), I got to thinking about what Snooker can teach us about sales while watching my opponent build an impressive break against me.
Interestingly, there are a number of parallels – so here goes:
Practice There is no shortcut for getting better at snooker. Even with raw potting talent, you need to spend time over your cue, practising. Sales is no different – do you practice your sales techniques? Do you reflect on what is working and what is? Why you succeeded and failed? Do you hone your craft? You can’t get better if you don’t practise, and you certainly can’t if you don’t play.
The Break: In snooker, the table always starts the same. However, after the break, the chances of two tables being the same are infinitesimal and grow smaller with each shot. Similar with sales – once we initiate contact with a new client (the break) – there is next to no guarantees as to what paths the conversations will happen to take there after. Sure, we have some control each time we approach the table, however we have to continually assess and react to the table when it next becomes our turn. As a sales person, it is your acumen and attitude that shape how you perform after the break
Position In snooker, where your cue ball is on the table means everything. It can make a shot incredibly easy, or incredibly difficult. More importantly, it is where the cue ball will be after your shot which is crucial to the flow of the game. In snooker they call this break building – in sales, pipeline management. Sales is no different – you need to visualise the journey and how your next interaction gets you there. Like the snooker player who needs to read the table, their opponents ability to capitalise on mistakes, the angles etc – you as the sales person need to read the position continually, thinking about where you next want the process to go and how to get it there
Pot Well Regardless of how good you are at getting the right position, you need to pot the ball you’re standing over first. Like sales, you need to execute well each time you address the ball. Consistency and focus are important, like snooker, to ensure that you execute well each time. Like a high break in snooker, most B2B sales situations require a string of high quality interactions, not just one. Being great once won’t win you a snooker match, nor many sales.
Cut Your Losses Sometimes there isn’t a pot on – nothing to sink. Or, your opponent is so good that the risk if you miss a risky pot is too high. Sales is no different – sometimes you need to cut your losses and retreat in order to pick up the fight later. Sometimes the timing isn’t right, the competitor is stronger or other factors that mean that in order to stay in the battle, you need to know when to fight and when to retreat.
Patience Snooker can sometimes be a tedious game (for some of you, this describes it). A game full of negative safety play for example. Sales is no different – sometimes the victories are small, sometime non-existent. Some times you even foul and go backwards to have to rebuild. Sometimes you can’t control the situation – like an opponent that goes on to make a big break despite you leaving them safe.
Resilience Snooker is about the top 6 inches. Once you’re on the table, your opponent can’t influence anything you do – physically. Though they can mentally – if you let them. Sales is no different. You will have difficult clients, difficult situations, strong competitors and a plethora of other challenges. They only become difficult if you let them influence how you react to them. You will lose some frames and some matches. You will lose some sales and get some knock-backs. Sometimes you get told no.
Etiquette Snooker is a sport steeped in a rich etiquette. Competitively, it is still played in vests and ties. At club level, you still get your opponents ball out of the pocket. You congratulate them for a great shot. You apologise when you fluke to your advantage. Sales isn’t any different. Dress properly, be courteous, be interested and interesting, don’t malign your competitors – respect them, don’t blame the conditions or your opponent. You’re the expert – act like one.
Fun Snooker is highly social and very good fun. It is easier to play when you’re having fun and not anxious. Sure, some situations are tense like when playing in a competition – but still enjoyable. Sales is no different – doing it because you enjoy it is far more productive than doing it because you’re told to. Find the fun in selling
I enjoy the sport immensely – often to the bewilderment of those that know me. I enjoy because it despite playing against an opponent on the scoreboard, I am playing against myself each time. Sales isn’t much different. I can’t blame my opponent when I miss a shot, or miss position on the next ball. I can’t blame my client if they don’t wish to buy my product/service.
Pot well, each and every time. Sell well, each and every time.