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Basketball and the Difference Between Sales Studs and Sales Duds

  
  
  

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated keynote speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and expert on all things sales and selling.

Baseketball is like salesI heard former NBA all-star and current ESPN basketball analyst, Bruce Bowen, talking about Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics.  He characterized Garnett as one of the toughest competitors on the court, unlike some younger, very talented players who aren't as competitive and don't know how to close out games.  He said the difference is that Garnett is trying to win while the less competitive players are trying to make friends.

I've been talking about Need for Approval being one difference between the elite 6% of salespeople and the bottom 74% of salespeople for years, but this is the first time I have heard of the affliction as a differentiator in sports.  In one of my books - it was probably Baseline Selling - I discussed how it would play out if the pitcher had need for approval from the batter and vice versa.

Why is Need for Approval such a differentiator?

In the discussion about Kevin Garnett, Bowen said that Garnett doesn't care what other players think about him. Given his reputation as a shut-down defender, we can interpret that as he doesn't care if other players have a problem with him being tough, unrelenting, unfriendly, angry and passionate on the court. He isn't going to smile at an opponent, ask how he's doing or praise him for a nice play. He doesn't care if his opponent has a problem with that.

In sales, the elite 6% don't care what prospects and customers think about them, as long as they are thinking about them. They don't need to be best friends or have a relationship outside of work. That allows them to ask tough questions, challenge strategies and comments, and push-back when appropriate. These are behaviors that the bottom 74% of salespeople aren't able to do because they care so much about what their prospects and customers think about them. They worry that, if they ask too many questions or push-back, their prospects and customers won't like them anymore.

Who says that those prospects and customers like them now?

Because they don't ask tough questions and don't ever push back or challenge anything, we can be certain that they aren't having the type of conversations that add value.  And if they aren't adding value, their prospects and customers probably don't respect them.   

Do you know which of your salespeople have need for approval and how to deal with it?

 

© Copyright  Dave Kurlan All Rights Reserved



Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 14, 2012 @ 08:51 AM

COMMENTS

Great article, Dave! I remember recently listening to similar commentary on ESPN about the Trailblazers and how they are too busy trying to be nice to each other on the court and no one is stepping up as a real leader and challenging their team mates and being willing to get in their face and demand they step up. Very interesting to make the connection to sales. In a very real sense, a sales person is doing their customer a disservice by not challenging them, just as a team mate is doing their team a disservice by not holding them to their highest standard and potential. 
 
Good stuff! 
 
Lorna

posted on Monday, May 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM by Lorna Johnson


Great comments. This has always been my approach. Also applies to managers needing approval. Always comes to a head at push back time.

posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 11:17 AM by Floyd Jett


I can agree somewhat. On the flip side, I've found over the years that building relationships with clients who come to see me as a trusted adviser is the only way they're forthcoming with candid, honest responses to the 'tough' questions. 
Beyond that, you're right about not becoming involved socially as friends. That's when they stop seeing you as a professional and start asking for favors. 
Carole Holden 
www.GTreeAdvertising.com

posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 3:10 PM by Carole Holden


Right on Lorna - a disservice is a great way to describe it.

posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 3:40 PM by Dave Kurlan


Floyd, it's a huge problem for sales managers who are afraid to push back and hold teir salespeople accountable!

posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 3:40 PM by Dave Kurlan


Carole, relationships are important - especially if one wishes to become a trusted advisor. But there's a difference between needing prospects, customers and clients to like you; versus getting them to respect you.

posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 3:43 PM by Dave Kurlan


Dave, 
I see a lot of research having gone into the article and it really is a great one. My question is, do you think this works only in certain cultures? What about countries where the cultural bent is less individualistic and more collective?

posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 1:30 AM by Haresh


You asked a great question Haresh. In many eastern countries, need for respect, more than approval, is the norm. So while the finding would still appear on our assessment, it would be a finding that could be ignored. In the middle east, people don't seem to care how insulting an offer/negotiation might be - there is no need for approval, so the finding wouldn't appear at all. 
 
In summary, people either have or don't have Need for Approval; but whether it has an impact on selling depends on the culture in which they sell.

posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 8:02 AM by Dave Kurlan


I BELIEVE A COMBINATION OF BOTH BEING FRIENDLY, AND HAVING THE ABILITY TO BE HONEST AND FRANK, IS NECCESSARY. IF YOU ARE CONSTANTLY IN SOMEONES FACE YOU WILL LOSE THEM EVENTUALLY. WE ARE STILL A CULTURE OF PEOPLE THAT WANT TO BE TREATED WITH RESPECT AND SOMETIMES OUT NICING SOMEONE WILL GET YOU INFO THAT OTHERWISE YOU MAY NOT GET. IT IS ALL IN THE TECHNIQUE AND BEING ABLE TO READ THE CUSTOMER BY LISTENING TO WHAT HE SAYS.A CUSTOMER WILL TELL HOW TO SELL THEM IF YOU WILL JUST LISTEN. HAVING SAID ALL OF THAT I DO AGREE THAT MANY SALES REPS GO WAY OVERBOARD TRYING TO BE FRIENDS. THEY LOSE TRACK OF THE REAL OBJECTIVE. IT IS ALSO VERY TIME CONSUMING AND EXPENSIVE WORKING A CUSTOMER THROUGH A FRIENDSHIP METHOD.

posted on Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 9:49 AM by JIM HARVEY


Ziglar called it the difference between sympathy and empathy. Empathy allows you to understand but remain objective. I love the sports connection - a couple of my sales reps will relate. Thanks

posted on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 1:40 PM by Lee


In your experience Dave, is Need for Approval a weakness that can be overcome?  
 
 
 
Thanks,

posted on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 8:30 PM by Jim


Great question Jim. 
 
Sometimes. If OMG's salesperson evaluation reveals that a salesperson is not trainable, then Need for Approval will not be overcome. For a trainable salesperson, the weakness can be overcome with the right training, coaching, ongoing work and support from sales management.

posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 5:19 AM by Dave Kurlan


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