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Heart pounding. Skin prickling. Unsure of what the outcome will be. Reminding myself to focus and breathe. Sales and competitive basketball have more in common than you’d think. The same tenacity, drive, and commitment that were required for success in my athletic career were the same things I needed to become successful in sales. 

When I became a mortgage loan officer, I was surprised to find that my adrenaline and nerves would spike as I picked up the phone to talk to a prospect, similar to when I was waiting for the ref’s whistle to blow to start a make or break play. 

If you’re new to making sales or haven’t quite found your footing yet, these transferable lessons can help you strengthen your skills:

1. Intentional Reps Equal Success

Intention plus action creates momentum. You can be good at anything if you get the reps in and focus on getting better with every set. Taking action for the sake of taking action can exacerbate poor habits, and make you feel like selling just isn’t your thing. The truth is that you need intentional practice so you consistently get better. 

Athletes are taught to focus on their form while executing different drills and exercises so that they can get the results they want. For example, in basketball, if you wanted to dribble better with your left hand, you would do everything with your left hand for 30 days to increase your coordination and familiarity with your non-dominant side. In sales, if you’re nervous about talking to people on the phone, you want to talk to five people minimum on the phone every day for 30 days. 

By pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, you’re able to grow. This is what differentiates the people who just get by and the people who consistently close.

“There are no shortcuts—everything is reps, reps, reps.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

2. Little Actions Yield Big Results

Small things can make a big difference, especially over time. If you can commit to doing the little things that make you better, you’ll see bigger results. For example, by putting yourself in more sales situations, you have increased your number of leads and chances for closing a sale. 

Likewise, if you increase your successful lead generating activities (the ones that you know work) by 20%, you now have more opportunities to sell to the right prospects. The same goes for implementing a 30-minute reach out session each week to existing and potential referral partners. When you put effort into small, important actions, you can actually yield big results in your closing numbers.

3. Learn How To Prioritize

You constantly hear about time management, but how often do you receive help understanding how to manage your time? Time management, in a nutshell, is valuing your time to make sure that you’re taking action in a way that actually moves you forward instead of digging you deeper. 

For example, doing paperwork and administrative tasks may be an important part of your duties, but if you get lost in those activities, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to make more sales. 

The truth is that time management is actually priority management. When you think about time management like that, it’s easier to see what activities are actually at the top of the list. Here’s an exercise that can help you develop a time and priority management system for yourself:

  • Write out all of your business and sales needs.
  • Once you have that list, break down your needs into three categories: urgent, important, and nice to have. 
  • Sort your list by category: urgent first, important second, and nice to have last. If you’re not sure how to sort these needs, use this question as a guideline: “Is it improving my prospects or process? If no, then it’s not urgent.”
  • Looking at your sorted list, how have you been prioritizing up until now? Do you find yourself spending more time than you thought focused on other needs instead of “urgent” needs?

If you realized you’ve been focusing on needs that are lower priority, it’s okay. Most people find out that’s what has been happening the first time they do this exercise. The goal is to recognize it and put a system in place that will help you focus on your needs in the proper priority hierarchy.

“The shorter way to do many things is to only do one thing at a time.” – Mozart

4. Discipline Matters

There are things that you’re not going to want to do that are central to achieving your goals. Discipline is about not giving up and sticking with the plan, even when you don’t feel like it. You can see this easily in sports. 

For example, there was a difference between the athletes who slacked on offseason and those who stuck to their workout and practice regimens. There was a significant difference between showing up for my workouts consistently or taking a week off, only to feel like I was starting at the beginning again. 

It’s in the consistency of pushing your boundaries, being willing to be uncomfortable, and taking intentional action that you grow your skill set. This approach increases your mental toughness and makes it easier for you to handle the ups and downs of sales. Discipline gives you the power of process, so there’s always something meaningful to do whenever an unexpected stressor hits. 

5. Learn To Win & Lose Properly

In sales, you’ll often hear about overcoming objections or turning a “no” into a “yes.” This advice is a little different. If a prospect gives you a genuine “no,” you have to learn how to take that loss as a good sport. Their answer does not automatically mean you did something bad or wrong, nor is it a reflection on how they feel about you as a person. Sometimes, an offer will not fit the needs of a prospect or for some reason, they’re not ready to move forward. 

Keep in mind that every interaction you have with a prospect is either a relationship-building experience or a relationship-detracting experience, and healthy relationships require you to know how to win and lose with grace. 

Where Will You Start?

Your sales journey is going to be full of hills and valleys. There will be moments where you feel like you’re treading water and moments where you feel invincible. The key to making that ratio more wins than losses is in how you approach your sales game. 

Which of the above lessons will you focus on first to improve your sales game? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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