Golf / Sales Lessons from the Course

Over the last 10 years, I must have turned down over one hundred invitations from friends and clients to play golf. I was almost anti-golf. ‘Who cares about chasing a little white ball around? Besides, if I have 5 hours to do something, I’d rather be fishing,’ was my attitude until last summer.

There were two problems with that attitude: 1) Not all of our clients fish and the clients that don’t fish all the time usually won’t catch very many fish when they do go out; and 2) Clients who do fish, generally don’t bring other potential clients with them.

Last year, I gave golf the old college try. I set a goal to gain enough business from the golf course to pay for my membership fees and all the ancillary golf equipment. After review of last year, I was more than able to directly relate business that came about due to the game of golf. ‘07 golf was a success.

This year, I decided to learn the game and my goal was to double last year’s results on the course. Not my score…but the business that I could directly relate to the golf course. I took half a dozen lessons over the winter and three more in the spring. By mid-season, my goal was attained.

Here are a few other results: I made 3 eagles (one on a par four), my best score was 84, I broke 90 four times and my game improved to only slightly embarrassing. I played golf with well over a dozen multi-millionaires. I met and got to know people I’d never have the opportunity to get to know otherwise and I learned a few lessons from these successful businessmen/golfers along the way.

# 1 – No one can be good for 4-5 hours. That was courtesy of a client that had caddied for Jack Welch. Jack loved to play golf with potential business leaders and partners alike, because he could learn about their character. One of the best ways to understand another’s character is to observe them under stress. Since golf is an individual sport, it is hard to get mad at anyone but yourself when things don’t go well. Golf and stress are synonymous.

Sales Lesson: Observe people under stress and learn their true character.

#2 – Strokes are not counted if they are about someone’s character. Great shot Bob.

Wow! That was a nice putt.

Man – that was outstanding!

Not bad, you won’t get hurt there.

You’re good. It’s gonna be okay.

There is rarely a time after someone hits a shot that the others don’t make a nice comment about the shot! Never miss the opportunity to give a stroke to someone. Strokes are sincere comments you give to others to make them feel good about themselves. If you consistently make people feel better about themselves when you are around, you will be admired and welcomed.

Sales Lesson: Give sincere compliments to your prospects and clients internal and external, and then watch them relax and observe their willingness to go the extra mile for you.

#3 – Never talk about business with your prospect until they have hit a great shot. How people perceive information has a lot to do with what is going on in there own head. On the golf course, there are different rules of engagement. Some clients like to talk shop and others like to dismiss business until the 19th hole. Learn your prospect and respect their game.

Sales Lesson: See # 1 and remember: the prospect’s mindset is important to recognize. In order to recognize it, you must first listen!

# 4 – A lesson is well-received with execution. I watched a client chip in from 20 feet off the green. After the hole was over I asked how he did it. He walked back to the spot of the previous spot, gave simple instructions while he demonstrated and chipped the ball to less than 6 inches of the hole. Execution is believable.

Sales Lesson: Walk the walk! Have conviction about what you sell.

# 5- Smart play is better than bold play, depending on your goal. If you goal is to score well, then play smart. Keep your eye on the prize!

Sales Lesson: Obstacles are what you think of when you are not thinking of your goal.

# 6 – Visualization is the key to success. If you think you can make the putt, you can. Whether it is golf, basketball or business, you must see it before it can become reality. Read: Think and Grow Rich, and The Secret for details on how to see it first.

Sales Lesson: Success starts with vision!

#7 – Poor shots often create opportunity! Just when you think all is lost is precisely when opportunity raises its head. When bad things happen to good people, view it as a test. Let the mistake get in your head, and it will cost you more! Deal with it one shot at a time. Stay in the moment.

Sales Lesson: Learn a lesson from every selling event! Move on quickly from less-than-desirable outcomes.

#8 – Course management is key. You don’t take a tennis racket to play in a football game. Not every hole requires a driver. Not every shot has to land in the fairway or the green. Learn to use the tools that are best suited for the job at hand.

Sales Lesson: Don’t force fit something and make more mistakes.

#9 -Practice when money is not on the table. The golf course is not the place to learn how to play. Take the time to go to the range. Get some lessons. The more I bleed in practice, the less I die in battle. Practice as if you were on the course.

Sales Lesson: Practice in low risk situations. When money is on the line, it is not the time to try something new.

#10 – Creating the ‘zone’ for yourself is possible and repeatable. Getting into the zone requires focus, forethought, and practice. Focus to not focus, but to react. Forethought: to think ahead, but not to over think. Practice getting in the zone to execute when it is time.

Sales Lesson: The best time to make a sale is right after you just made one.

Bonus 1: Be prepared. One of the biggest complaints I heard on the golf course this year was: “Why can’t he be ready? Stop talking, goofing off and losing focus.” When you arrive at your ball, think about your shot, don’t over think it, just get up there and hit it.

Sales Lesson: Have the humility to prepare, and the confidence to pull it off.

Bonus 2: If you want to be great at anything, hang out with people that are better at it than you. “Hang out” is short for OBSERVE CLOSELY!

The more golf you play the more money you make!

Sales Lesson: Birds of a feather flock together. If you want to make a lot of money, do as those who make a lot of money do. Think like they think. Sleep when they sleep. Eat what they eat. Walk like they walk. Talk like they talk.

In other words, if you emulate success long enough it will rub off and you will be more successful!

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Author: Rocky LaGrone

Rocky LaGrone is a seasoned sales development expert with over 25 years in sales development and training working with well over 1,000 companies of all sizes in various industries.

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