Were you one of the 3.4 million viewers of the Coco Gauff/ Aryna Sabalenka US Open Tennis Finals? (That was 1 million more than the men’s finals.) It was an incredible match after Gauff lost the first set 6-2. It appeared that Sabalenka would make a quick finish of Gauff or “one way traffic” as Brad Gilbert would say. Instead the match became a thrilling match up of skill, determination, and preparation. It was just like selling because sports and selling are similar.
For Sports and Selling: Who is your competition and how do you plan your strategy for them?
It’s obvious that in 2024 the finals in the US Open would be incredibly tough. The superb talent on the woman’s side is deep. Coco had to plan before each match how she would play her opponent. Sabalenka’s strength is to hit powerfully. Coco can’t outpower her. In the finals, just hitting harder wouldn’t work. No one can out pound Sabalenka.
What could Coco do? I think her plan was to play to Sabalenka’s weakness and make her move often and unpredictably. Coco is fast and can execute that strategy well.
Brad Gilbert, Coco’s coach told another tennis champion Andre Agassi, “Stop thinking about yourself, and your own game, and remember that the guy on the other side of the net has weaknesses.”
Your job in sales is not to execute your sales strategy by imitating a competitor. Instead, your job is to magnify your competitor’s weakness. Examine your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses as you prepare your sales strategy. Develop a plan that highlights why a prospect would be vulnerable because of your competitor’s weaknesses.
For sports and selling: How do you deal with disappointment?
Lucky for Coco that she didn’t have to play Iga Swiatek at the US Open. The French Open Semi Final was the 7th loss to Swiatek. What if she had to play her again? She would have to change how she thought about defeat. Coco said, “It’s not fun at all but also, every time I play her, I’m not thinking about the previous record. If I go in believing that I lost the match before it already happens then I’m never going to win.”
Every sales call is an opportunity to look forward or backward. It’s your choice. Choose to look forward. Your self talk is very important at this time. Sometimes you might have to “fake it till you make it.”
Who is on your team?
You would think you’re alone when you play tennis singles. Nope. Even playing singles in tennis is a team sport. Coco’s list of people to thank after winning included the members of her team. Along with Brad Gilbert, she has another coach Pere Riba, a tennis champion. Her father is involved in her coaching. Coco says her mother provides balance. There are trainers and hitting partners who Coco relies on.
You need a team so you can sell. Who do you talk with to develop your selling skills and strategies? You need vacation time away from business. Who is your back up? Who is your coach to help you deal with disappointment? At some point it will happen that you need someone to hear about a lost sale. Coco was able to move on from her disappointment because of her team.
Are you moving forward?
Brad Gilbert, her coach, is adamant about moving forward and improving. He says, “Great players want to get better and if you don’t think you can do better and work and improve your game, you don’t get better and the people below you do.”
You have to recognize in sales that your strong competition isn’t standing still. Great salespeople are always looking to learn better ways to serve customers, learn more about their products and better understand their customers business.
Coco is clearly not the same player who lost in the first round at Wimbledon earlier this year. She’s figured out a strategy and assembled the team around her so she could win. Can you do the same in sales?