- September 6, 2011
- Posted by: Dave Kurlan
- Category: Understanding the Sales Force
Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open, was a great book! I kept wondering what it would have been like if Agassi was in sales instead of tennis. Would he have been the best salesperson in the world? Would he have won all the biggest deals? Would he have earned as much money? So I thought about the areas that would have supported a quest for #1 salesperson, as well as those that would have thwarted the effort.
As a young boy, Agassi hit 2,500 tennis balls a day; 17,500 each week; nearly 1 million practice shots per year – and didn’t even like tennis! If you practiced just 1 1,000th of that amount – 2 to 3 role-plays per day – how much more effective would your selling game be?
As he matured, he discovered that his shot making or skills alone weren’t going to help him win the tough matches. To beat those tough opponents, he discovered that his Desire – how badly he wanted it – and Commitment – his willingness to do what it took to win each point – were more important. We see the same with salespeople – the will (Desire and Commitment) is more important than the skills.
Over time, he learned that to beat the best players he didn’t need to attempt high risk shots while trying to be perfect (make the perfect presentation and hope for the best). Instead, he learned to wear out his opponents by making them run and simply outlasting them (Consultative Selling – taking your time and asking lots of questions, studying your opponent and knowing what they are going to do before they do it). That’s when he was at his best!
For many of Agassi’s first 10 years or so he lacked confidence, played not to lose and choked when his back was against the wall. When he was confident of the outcome just prior to the match, played to win, and got tougher under pressure, he either won the match or was able to hold his head high in defeat. How many salespeople manage their sales cycles, afraid of saying or doing anything that might cost them the sale?
Agassi was easily distracted and when he wasn’t focused on tennis, an opponent, or even a point, he was easily defeated. In the book he made many references to Pete Sampras, who often beat him in the finals, and how Pete was always focused completely on tennis. Salespeople tend to be more like Agassi than Sampras but would find much more success if they made sales their life’s work rather than their job.
By the time he met and later married Brook Shields, he had become complacent. He stopped working out, eating right, practicing and focusing and that laziness dropped his ranking from #1 to #144 (salespeople become complacent at the drop of a hat). After he and Shields split he rededicated himself to tennis, and his practice regiments, reversed the slide and regained the #1 spot – the oldest man to do so. This says a lot about the negative impact of complacency and the positive effect of dedication!
By far, the hardest part of selling is controlling the little, and sometimes big voice in your head. Agassi’s voice was big and it was very negative. Those demons (he liked burning things!) were constantly getting him to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, rebel, defy and sabotage his game. When he had the demons under control, everything was under control. The same goes for salespeople. Objective Management Group has assessed more then 500,000 (through 2011) salespeople and the data indicates that 84% of those salespeople have self-limiting beliefs (negative self talk), some much worse than others, that interfere with sound selling practices.
We know Andre Agassi wouldn’t earn $40 million a year at selling, and he may not have been able to meet, never mind date his two superstar wives (Brooke Shields and Steffi Graf). But would he make a good salesperson?