If Andre Agassi was in Sales, Would He be Ranked #1?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 06, 2011 @ 13:09 PM

Andre agassiAndre Agassi's autobiography, Open,  was a great book!  I kept wondering what it would have been like if Agassi was in sales instead of tennis.  Would he have been the best salesperson in the world?  Would he have won all the biggest deals?  Would he have earned as much money?  So I thought about the areas that would have supported a quest for #1 salesperson, as well as those that would have thwarted the effort.


As a young boy, Agassi hit 2,500 tennis balls a day; 17,500 each week; nearly 1 million practice shots per year - and didn't even like tennis!  If you practiced just 1 1000th of that amount - 2 to 3 role-plays per day - how much more effective would your selling game be?

As he matured, he disovered that his shot making or skills alone weren't going to help him win the tough matches.  To beat those tough opponents, he discovered that his Desire - how badly he wanted it - and Commitment - his willingness to do what it took to win each point - were more important.  We see the same with salespeople - the will (Desire and Commitment) is more important than the skills.

Over time, he learned that to beat the best players he didn't need to attempt high risk shots while trying to be perfect (make the perfect presentation and hope for the best).  Instead, he learned to wear out his opponents by making them run and simply outlasting them (Consultative Selling - taking your time and asking lots of questions, studying your opponent and knowing what they are going to do before they do it).  That's when he was at his best!  

For many of Agassi's first 10 years or so he lacked confidence, played not to lose and choked when his back was against the wall.  When he was confident of the outcome just prior to the match, played to win, and got tougher under pressure, he either won the match or was able to hold his head high in defeat.  How many salespeople manage their sales cycles, afraid of saying or doing anything that might cost them the sale?


Agassi was easily distracted and when he wasn't focused on tennis, an opponent, or even a point, he was easily defeated.  In the book he made many references to Pete Sampras, who often beat him in the finals, and how Pete was always focused completely on tennis.  Salespeople tend to be more like Agassi than Sampras but would find much more success if they made sales their life's work rather than their job.

By the time he met and later married Brook Shields, he had become complacent.  He stopped working out, eating right, practicing and focusing and that laziness dropped his ranking from #1 to #144 (salespeople become complacent at the drop of a hat). After he and Shields split he rededicated himself to tennis, and his practice regiments, reversed the slide and regained the #1 spot - the oldest man to do so.  This says a lot about the negative impact of complacency and the positive effect of dedication!

By far, the hardest part of selling is controlling the little, and sometimes big voice in your head.  Agassi's voice was big and it was very negative. Those demons (he liked burning things!) were constantly getting him to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, rebel, defy and sabotage his game.  When he had the demons under control, everything was under control.  The same goes for salespeople. Objective Management Group has assessed more then 500,000 salespeople and the data indicates that 84% of those salespeople have self-limiting beliefs (negative self talk), some much worse than others, that interfere with sound selling practices.

We know Andre Agassi wouldn't earn $40 million a year at selling, and he may not have been able to meet, never mind date his two superstar wives (Brooke Shields and Steffi Graf).  But would he make a good salesperson?

Weigh in with a comment?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, tennis, sales best practices, winning in sales, andre agassi, steffi graf, pete sampras, brooke shields

The Impact of Coaching Salespeople and Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 07, 2010 @ 12:10 PM

coachingYesterday I presented at the Sales EdgeOne Three-Day Sales Summit and my co-presenter, Donal Daly, cited a statistic from Gallop: Organizations that use coaches get a 26% ROI from that effort.  That statistic surprised me in two ways.  First, my experience is that the organizations that we provide coaching to perform much better than that (the quoted statistic is not 26% growth, it's 26% ROI!); and second, if more companies were aware of that statistic, they would embrace using outside coaches!

I was still thinking about that this morning. I thought back to my childhood and thought about the the coaching I had then, and later in life, and the impact it had on my success.

First there was music.  Through the years, I had a private piano teacher, 2 private trumpet teachers, and a private music teacher (all coaches). As a senior in high school, I was one of the top trumpet players in the state.  That would not have been possible without the coaching AND hours and hours of practice.

Then came baseball.  My dad got me started and taught me the basics. To become an all-star, it took two tips from my two coaches that made the difference.  Tip #1 transformed me from average fielder to an excellent third baseman.  Tip #2 morphed me from strike-out king to excellent hitter.  It was the coaching and the hours and hours of practice!

Then came tennis.  My dad got me started and taught me the basics of tennis too.  By the time I was 13, he got me a coach.  Although she was 88 years old, she was sharp as a nail, had as much energy as me and got me to the next level - good enough to get to the finals of a New England 14 & under tournament.  At 15, a much younger, wise old coach helped me develop some "touch" and add some "shots" to my repertoire.  The summer after high school, yet another coach (the tennis/goal setting story I included in Baseline Selling was about this coach and it was the most referenced story in the book) helped me develop the mental aspect of my game and that was good enough for me to enter my freshman year of college as the #2 singles player on the team.  It was the coaching and, in this case, day-long practice sessions.

Then came sales.  The music, baseball and tennis coaches conditioned me to be change ready, always strive for excellence and outperform the expectations I had for myself. I competed with me.  The sales books, tapes and videos I devoured when I was a young salesperson, the lessons I learned from my early sales managers, my own ability to improve what already exists and my ability to develop what doesn't yet exist tells the rest of the story.  It was coaching and practice.

The Sales Force Evaluations we provide are important.  So are the candidate assessments.  Systems, processes, strategies, pipeline, metrics and recruiting are important too.  But without question, the biggest impact comes from coaching. Think of sales and sales management training as opportunities to develop best practices, good habits, important competencies and a complete framework of capabilities.  Then use coaching for tips, personalized adjustments, advanced skills, and subtle tweaks that result in significant, rapid improvement and results.

Coaching anyone?

PS - everything I wrote does not apply to golf (for me).

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, coaching, sales management, tennis, Baseball, sales assessments, gallop, sports, music

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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