I borrow heavily from sports. With one of my books titled Baseline Selling, it's no surprise that, of the 900 or so articles on this blog, I have used analogies from baseball 39 times, 5 times with football, 6 times with basketball, 17 times with golf, four references to tennis, and not once to either hockey (sorry, Bob and Brent) or soccer (sorry, Ray, Chris and Marty). There are just so many similarities to sales that it's difficult for me to refrain from making the associations. More importantly, most people enjoy them.
However, there is one area of sports for which there is no sales analogy. Say it isn't so!
One of the most challenging aspects of selling is dealing with competition. I am not referring to the other companies who are gunning for the business which you have targeted. I'm talking about a greater competition - your actual prospects - who are sometimes competing directly with you! When one of their options is to take no action at all and another is to provide the service or production in-house, you are competing against those options. In other cases, you must overcome your prospect's resistance to talk with you, meet with you, answer your questions and move the process forward. The similarity between sports and selling ends when your prospect is the competition.
In sports, the competitor is contractually obligated to show up and compete. They will be there! And when everyone is on the field or in the arena, you will see them give their best effort to win - to overcome the competition. Oftentimes in sales, the biggest challenge is getting your prospect to show up! Sometimes, your best effort is required just to get them to the table, the sales equivilent of the arena or field. Sometimes, despite your best effort to get them to the table, you lose.
Some salespeople don't take this part of selling seriously enough. There are golf and auto racing analogies here. If the first act of the sales process - prospecting and filling the pipeline - is seen from the perspective of a preliminary round, where you don't really get a chance to compete for the title until you've made the cut, then perhaps more salespeople would enter and take the tournaments seriously. Prospects may not be contractually obligated to show up, but your salespeople should be contractually obligated to put forth their best efforts to get their prospects to the table.