How an Old Swimming Lesson will Keep You Afloat Instead of Sinking in Sales

by Pool Builders on 04-26-2006 in Articles

I recently took my very first swimming lesson. You would think that a California native would have learned how to swim somewhere along the path of life. I guess the opportunity never came, until recently. I didn't know what to expect from my swim lesson. I was amazed at how much I didn't know about swimming. We started at the beginning. The first hurtle was to learn how to float. The instructor told us to relax and take a deep breath, arch our backs and we would float to the top. My first attempts were not successful. I felt like a rock in the water. It seemed to be a mind over matter issue.

As I lay there in the water, I could hear my words echo the same thoughts we suggest in outside sales. We encourage new salespeople to relax when making sales calls. However, telling someone to do something is one thing, getting them to do it is quite another. As I looked around the pool it was interesting to watch the progress of the other students. Some found the floating exercise easy to accomplish. Others struggled with it as I did. However, we each gained more confidence in ourselves as we watched others begin to float. We must have been thinking, "If they can do it, I can do it too!"

If We Tense Up, We Will Sink

It is critical for a salesperson to relax in front of the prospect or customer. Just like in swimming, we will sink if we tense up. One exercise we can use to improve our success in relaxing is to think peaceful thoughts and mentally slow down. In most situations we can control the questions and tempo of a conversation to a slower pace and the prospect or customer will naturally relax.

Another method is to focus all our attention on our listening skills. If we don't think about what we are going to say, we won't panic. We should come prepared with a few written questions that will lead us to the next step of the sales process. You should have at least three standard questions you can ask on any sales call. This way, if you get stuck somewhere, you have a safety line. Adopt a conversational style with prospects that invites casual conversation between two friends. If you want to think about something, remember, there isn't anything to worry about!

Practice in the Shallow End

If we know our feet can touch the bottom, we are less likely to drown in front of a customer or prospect. We should start at the easy end of the questions and work our way up to the deeper end of the sales process. This analogy can also be used as we select the initial prospects for a service. It is also good to work new items in friendly territory. This is one reason a new salesperson should work on inactive accounts first. They are friendly faces that won't make us panic. Apparently in swimming, if you panic and tense up, you will sink.

Setting a Rhythm

As the swim lesson progressed we moved on to breathing and how to kick our legs and use our arms. I was again surprised at how much I didn't know. There is a sequence in swimming for using our legs, arms and when or how to breath. Our instructor took ample time to share the proper sequence required to glide across the pool. She put all the things we learned to practice and she moved gracefully on top of the water. She used very little energy and seemed to glide across the pool. She told us that if we tense up, hurl our arms and kick our legs, we might drown.

The same holds true for outside sales. In many cases a new salesperson will seek high contact activity. The belief that numerous contacts will replace quality strategic sales calls will sink a sales career. We know that if a sales person follows the sales process, they have an opportunity to sell their services. In today's marketplace it is important for sales people to follow a more strategic method of selling. When we apply the effects of a strategic sales program with good activity we see progress.

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