3 Life Lessons from the Basketball Court

This weekend’s NCAA Final Four brings out the best that college athletics has to offer.

It’s been almost 15 years since my last college basketball game, and the lessons I learned in college sports have helped me in life and in sales.

In August of 1999, I stepped on campus with the goal of making a college basketball team. Leaving a small west Texas town, I came to a school hundreds of miles from home as a walk-on with only the promise from the head coach of a chance to tryout to make the team.

We started with 20 walk-ons, all with a single goal — making the team. We went through tryouts, practices, weight training, and conditioning sessions. In the end, there were 2 of us that made the roster.

msu-roster

Over the course of the next 3 years, I went from walk-on to scholarship athlete. But the lessons I learned playing have stuck with me and prepared me for new challenges. Looking back, the 3 reasons I made the team are the same qualities that lead to success in sales, in business, and in life.

  • Grit
  • Resilience
  • Coachability

GRIT

Grit involves staying determined and persisting when faced with rejection or lack of progress. As a walk-on college basketball player, you have to develop a sense of grit to believe that the time and energy your putting in will eventually lead to results. Ultimately, the sacrifice I made – putting in the work and staying focused on the goal of playing a college sport – paid off and I made the men’s basketball team at Midwestern State University.

In life and especially in sales, you have to know that you’ll face rejection and discomfort. The ability to stay determined and focus on the goal allows us to keep moving forward, even in the face of discouragement. It can be easy to get down and lose hope, however having experienced success because of grit in the past reminds us of what is possible, even when the odds are not in our favor.

Resilience

Resilience and grit go hand in hand. When you get knocked down, do you stay there, or do you scrape yourself off the floor and go at it again? Getting knocked down is inevitable, but getting back up is a choice. And getting up with the right attitude is even more important.

In sales, we face ups and downs. The market changes. Our product has technical issues. Potential customers show us the door. Resilience is getting up again each time we experience a setback and giving it another shot. When you fail and when you fall, can you regroup and bounce back with the same attitude and enthusiasm you had when you began?

Getting up when you get knocked down is possible. Regaining the courage and enthusiasm to go at it again is what takes resilience to the next level.

Coachability

As a walk-on, you have to be coachable – willing to listen, to learn, to adapt, and to do whatever is asked, without questioning or complaining. The ability to take positive and negative feedback and make the changes is one of the quickest ways to earn credibility and respect.

To be successful in your job, you have to be coachable. Listen to those who have been successful and emulate what they do. Whether it’s a manager, a leader, or a colleague, when you step into a role for the first time, you have to do so with gratitude and the willingness to learn.

When you combine coachability with gratitude and humility, you have the opportunity to improve and make a difference.

Developing the walk-on mindset

Trying to make a team by walking on is not an easy thing to do. You have got to show up early and stay late and improve every day. You have to do the little things while showing grit, perseverance, and resilience. Learn to lead up and influence those around you with your example and enthusiasm. Figure out how to add value to those around you by your actions and attitudes.

As we watch the Final Four this weekend, I hope we see the best that college athletics has to offer.  The games are fun to watch. The stories are captivating. And the lessons we learn last long after the final horn sounds.

Develop a sense of grit, bounce back when you fall, and be coachable. Use the mindset of a walk-on to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.

 

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The Power of Reflection

It was Monday, January 2nd, and my daughter in my office asking me to print off another coloring page. With it being the start of a new year, I wanted my 7-year-old to set her goals for a new year and think about what she wanted to accomplish. So before I printed off another Christmas Puppy coloring page, I did a quick Google search for “Kids Goals Worksheets”. She was not as excited as I was when I handed her the page, but she headed over to the table and started to write.

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Link

Of the 3 kids goal sheets that I printed off, one of them caught my attention. This page caught my attention. In the past, I simply move from Dec. 31st to Jan. 1st and start to think about the coming year without reflecting on the last 365 days. As I tried to help my daughter think through the questions, it hit me that I should be doing the same thing.

As we think about the year that just concluded, this exercise requires us to take inventory and assess where we’ve been before we think about where we want to go. I decided that if this is good enough for my 7-year-old, then it’s good enough for me.

OUT WITH THE OLD (2016)

2 Favorite Memories 

3 Things I’m Grateful For

1 Hard Lesson I Learned

1 Thing I Did This Year That I’m Proud Of

IN WITH THE NEW (2017)

3 Places I Want to Go

2 Ways I Can Help Others

1 Thing I Want to Get Better At

3 New Things I Want to Try

As we get older, the comes a day when we quit dreaming. We quit asking ourselves, “Where do we want to go?” or “What is something new I want to try?”. Goals are important, and looking back allows us to formulate a vision for the future. If we allow ourselves to dream, it gives our goals meaning and purpose.

So this January, as I start planning for 2017 and put my goals down in writing, I wanted to take a moment to reflect. By asking these simple questions, I’m able to reflect on the good, the bad, the challenges, the lessons, and the opportunities from the last year. We don’t drive looking out our rearview mirror, and in the same way, we shouldn’t all our energy dwelling on the past. However, the past gives us perspective and helps look ahead if we understand where we’ve been.

In the end, my daughter put down her answers and earned another coloring page. She may forget coloring another My Little Pony page, but I hope she sees the value of reflection and the power of goals.

I hope we all live intentionally with vision and purpose in 2017!

How to Lose a Sale and Gain a Customer (for life)

Are we serving our customers or just selling to them?

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes the heat and the mosquitoes. With the recent rains we’ve received over the last 6 months, mosquitoes have set their sights on any who venture outdoors. As we prepare to wage war against these pesky pests, we recently contacted our pest control company to see how they could help. Lawn

My wife called our pest control company and talked to the sales rep. She asked about the mosquito treatment we’d recently seen advertised. The sales rep had a hot lead and could have sold us on any package he wanted. He could have zinged us with the Zika virus or warned us about West Nile. Instead, he asked us questions, told us the truth, and didn’t sell us a thing.

He asked questions about our house and location, and he realized that an additional service was not a good fit. The truth is that they could sell us an something extra, but it would not do help any more than what we were already doing.

The sales rep could have easily sold us a service and made a commission. However, by telling us that we might not benefit from what they provide, he gained our trust, and more importantly our loyalty and referrals. We were happy with their service before, but by telling us the truth and NOT selling us a product, they created a customer for life and one who will refer others.

How many of us would walk away from a sell or a deal because we value our customers and seek to serve them? If we add value, serve our customers, and seek to solve their problems, we may not always make the initial sale. But if our goal is long-term success and relationships, the sell we turn down today may lead to the customer that sticks with you for life.

Cartwheels and Comfort Zones

3 Goal Setting Lessons from Gymnastics Class

Last week I had the opportunity to take my daughter to her gymnastics class. For the past 3 months she’s been diligently working to perfect her cartwheels, and as I watched the session, my eyes were opened to some important lessons on goal setting and getting out of our comfort zones. Cartwheels

When you’re 6 years old and you’ve never done a cartwheel before, it’s scary to invert yourself and get both legs in the air. My six year old doesn’t want to get hurt doing something she’s only seen but never done herself. The challenge is wanting to do something significant but being afraid to take actions that move us toward our goals.

We tend to stay in our comfort zones instead of taking steps that move us toward our goals. Sometimes we’re scared of falling, and sometimes we fear what others will think.

There are 3 problems with the status quo.

  • It’s safe, but it keeps you from doing something significant.
  • You’ll never fall, but you’ll never fly.
  • You won’t stand out, but you’ll never see what could be either. 

When you’re 28, 38, or 68, it’s easy to let our desire to stay safe keep us from taking a chance. What if we try something we’ve never done before and we don’t succeed? Staying comfortable is safe. The trade off for staying is safe is that we lose the opportunity to do something truly significant.

Coaches give us courage

An amazing thing happened when the gymnastic coach came over to help. While she was still scared, she began to believe that she could go a little higher and a little further than she could by herself. Her coach instilled courage and was able to spot her to give her confidence.

When we set our goals, who do we surround ourselves with? (Hopefully people that don’t end sentences with the word “with”). Surrounding ourselves with the right coach and community can help us go further than we could by ourselves.

Accountability leads to amazing.

Without accountability, it’s easy to revert back to the old way of doing things. This was apparent when the kids started doing various activities on their own (circuit). The coach couldn’t focus on every athlete, and my 6 year old daughter was smart enough to know when she was being watched – and when she wasn’t.

As I watched her move through the exercises, an interesting thing happened. When the coach with her, she worked harder and took more risks. However, when the coach turned to work with another gymnast and wasn’t watching, she regressed and fell back to doing what was comfortable.

Six year olds know when they’re being watched – and so do 36 year olds. Without accountability, we’ll never accomplish our true potential. Surrounding ourselves with the right people – a coach or a group – can help keep us accountable.

Our car ride home after the class was insightful. Whether she consciously realized it or not, she agreed that she was not pushing herself when her coach wasn’t around. We agreed that she should do her best with or without the coach their, and she should make an effort to move out of her comfort zone and into the cartwheel zone. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.

Closer to home

Regardless of what our goal are, we can right them down. We can commit to them. We can structure our days so that we devote time to moving the needle. However, over time we can easily slip back into a mindset of comfort unless we’re self-aware and surround ourselves with the ones that will push us and hold us accountable.

As we get older, we look to stay comfortable. For many different reasons, we’ll never take the actions that we perceive as risky. The result is that we won’t have to worry about skinning our knees or falling in front of others. But we’ll also never have the chance to do something significant. Keeping one foot on the ground is a way to not fall, but it’s certainly not a way to do a cartwheel.

As for me, I got more out of that class than every other young gymnast there. Unless I take the actions that move me out of my comfort zone, I won’t make the progress that moves me closer to my goals.

To my daughter, keeping one foot on the ground is safe. But safe won’t let a 6 year old do a cartwheel. And safe won’t let the rest of us do amazing things. I hope we’ll all find a way to move out of our comfort zones this week!

Stop Leading with the Right Hook and Start Jabbing

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For those of us in sales, please stop leading with the right hook. We are passionate about our product or service, but we’ve got to learn more about our customers. Engage your customers and prospects in a meaningful conversation. Find out what makes them tic. Learn their history and challenges. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk and make your pitch. (Here’s the link to the book on Amazon)

Today at a conference, I watched prospects approach vendors. What I witnessed was disheartening, and almost painful. These unsuspecting prospects never had a chance.  Vendors exchanged pleasantries and begin their pitch about why he or she should sign up/commit/or purchase a product or service. Not once did the sales folks stop to ask open ended questions. 

If you haven’t listened to or read Gary Vaynerchuck, start right now. Whether in sales, marketing, design, leadership, customer service, or any other part of business, we have to stop our first interaction being a request to buy or product or service. Instead, we have to jab with our prospects – provide them value, create meaningful content, start to learn about their needs – and if you serve your customers, you’ll not only convert prospects to leads to sales, but you’ll start to develop a tribe and build influential followers. 

Donald Miller crafts it beautifully – our customers are the heroes of the story, and our job is to serve as the guide. Uncover their challenges, or even better, help them discover challenges that they didn’t realize they had. And as you guide your prospects through the story, continue to write the story with he/she as the hero/heroine. 

As salespeople, we know our product or service. We know the value, and we know how it can solve our customers’ problems. If we don’t believe in it, we shouldn’t be selling it. If we’ll take the time to slow down and wait for the right hook, I believe we’ll be successful – both in the short term and for the long haul. 

– Patrick