There’s a reason why a ton of salesmen are former athletes, and John Hockaday and I (Jeff Sams) are no exception. Both of us have a background in sports.
John has a passion for football, and I have a passion for basketball. Even though we’re no longer the all-stars we used to be, we often find ourselves drawing on experiences from our athletic days. (And reliving it all through our children.)
I originally wrote the article “What sports taught me about selling insurance” about 2 years ago, but we’re coming in on the baseball season, and I’d like to revisit this and dig a little deeper.
The similarities between sports and sales is mindblowing.
You can see the parallels without digging very deep:
- You must earn your achievements. → You must earn the sale.
- Nothing is given to you. → People don’t just show up at your door to buy from you.
- You don't always win. → You don’t always close the sale.
- You don't always lose. → You don’t always walk away empty-handed.
- You are made to do things in practice that you would never do on your own. → You learn techniques and strategies through trial and error.
- Your coach builds a relationship with you that is unique to anything else you will find in life. → Your mentors (and clients!) build relationships with you that are unique to anything else you will find in life.
- The team is bigger than any individual. → The cause is bigger than any paycheck.
- There are things you can learn that only happen through sports and heated competition. → There are things you can learn that only happen through the process of selling and dealing with rejection.
- You learn who you are as an individual. → Ditto.
As you go through the basics, you can see how one thing relates to another without much thought at all.
But there are more similarities that hit closer to home (pun intended for you baseball fans out there).
I’d like to take a look at 6 of these, and I think it’ll be obvious that
- more of our athletes out there should consider getting into sales, and that
- us former athletes should draw on that experience to drive our businesses forward.
1. The process is undesirable.
When selling insurance, you are selling an intangible product that is really nothing the insured wants — sort of like athletic conditioning.
You’re trying to sell someone a policy that they hope they will never need. That can be a tough sell.
You must make yourself push through making calls when you really don't feel like it.
No matter how good you are, you will not sell everyone you contact (you don’t always win), but if you keep making calls, you will sell someone (you don’t always lose).
2. You need people to push your limits.
A mentor or coach can make you do things you wouldn’t do on your own.
You need the same kind of discipline and self motivation to be successful in insurance as you do in sports.
Talent is always a good thing, but a determined salesperson will always outperform talent.
3. Practice makes (almost) perfect.
We will all miss the ball every now and then, but practice will sharpen your skills to near perfection if you put the time and effort in.
You won’t see an all-star athlete that doesn’t train day-in and day-out. If an athlete wants to get better at something, he will work until he gets it right.
Sales works exactly the same way.
- Start understanding the questions people will ask,
- get familiar with different personality types, and
- start building confidence in your sales calls and door knocks.
Ask questions, find answers, drill down the product knowledge until you’re confident enough to start closing, closing, closing.
If you don’t keep practicing, you won’t get better.
And all athletes know that if you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.
4. Passion will help you reach your goals.
If you are or have been an athlete, you know what deep-rooted passion is. You inevitably have team goals, and your passion sets the precedent for your entire season. How else can you explain the 5am gym sessions?
Ask yourself: What are you doing to reach your goals now? Do you even know what your goals are?
It sounds cheesy, but I would urge you to start setting goals. Start with this month. What do you plan to accomplish before the month’s end? Write them down. On paper.
Each morning when you wake up and are getting ready to start your day, remind yourself of what you wrote down. What are you doing today to inch yourself toward that goal?
Use your passion as the driving force behind that.
5. You must be willing to improve.
It’s natural to be afraid of the two things we hate the most.
- Asking questions
- Being willing to change
But without these two things, there’s no way we can keep improving.
Times are changing. You remember when long-term care used to be a staple in our presentations? Not anymore.
We have to adapt. We have to be willing to change.
In fact, one of our agents has been in the business for over 30 years and has been a top producer for the last 10 years.
When she was willing to change how she did things, she saw an 88% increase in her production.
An 88% increase.
She stopped just going for the Med Supp and instead starting using a Client Needs Assessment (CNA).
She was finally able to uncover all of the needs of her existing clients.
That’s something. The saying “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks” is the furthest thing from the truth.
We have to tap into that willingness to be better — to be great.
6. You must be willing to overcome your weaknesses.
I remember a man named Jack Burry from Effingham, Illinois who had a disease that prevented him from driving a car on his own. His wife would drive him from home to home, and when he got inside, he could take over.
His wife would have to do the paperwork as his involuntary twitches made filling out an application impossible. He dressed terribly, and his nervous twitches were off the charts.
Most people might think he could not excel in sales, but he proved everyone wrong year-in and year-out, and he was a top achiever.
And he was a very successful salesman.
We have seen one-legged wrestlers, one-armed professional baseball pitchers, kickers in the NFL missing half their foot, and yet they were not stopped by their physical challenges.
Find your weaknesses, cut off those bad habits that we all have, and start living up to your actual potential.
I’m challenging you
I challenge you in this last half of 2017 to be better than you have ever been. Your new year’s resolutions are long gone now, but you have lots of time to make this year your year.
Take advantage of the incentives going on this year.
Take advantage of this career that allows you to succeed when you decide to
- work harder and
- achieve more.
We currently have the best products in the industry available, so remember to cross-sell and watch your sales (and checkbook) explode.
It is when you learn to make yourself do what you don't want to do that you will find abundant success.
Best wishes, and remember that we at New Horizons value your efforts!
GO, FIGHT, WIN!