Jun 22, 2009 at 01:58 PM
written by Jim Loria

In the Game of Sales, It's OK to Fail First!

Key Learnings is a regular weekly posting that covers insights and stories from thought-leaders within the sponsorship industry. Today's key learning comes from Jim Loria who has over 30 years of sports management experience and for the past 10 years as served as President of the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede.

Before approaching the major sponsors or corporations in the business world, you have to be prepared, plain and simple. It’s no different than a coach on a sports team. They develop a plan and scheme prior to each game. They watch film and look for tendencies. In the business world, there are some sales people that go on hit & run missions. Hoping for the person behind the desk to say “YES” until you get told by a client “that you’re sitting behind the 8-ball” (yes, this bold statement was said to me years ago!)

During my career as a manager, I have assigned my more inexperienced team members to phones sales first (the air attack in the armed forces of selling) to learn how to converse, introduce our product, its benefits and even to start hearing the many different forms of objections that will be heard.

Then, supplement the ground force attack with visits to some small shops around town, which is essentially like stepping up to the plate during the pre-season of a sports team schedule or like a hairdresser taking their first cuts on a family member to gain their real life experience. If the rep fails to connect on sales during this training period, the club does not suffer any financial harm. This is how I learned the business of sales myself. I went to the very small businesses. Not only did I develop a routine but I quickly found that you had to adjust too many different personalities. No presentation would be the same.

I asked questions: Why do you buy and why not? I found that I had to become more comfortable in my approach as I walked into the client’s office. Watched my body language & eye contact. I had to learn how to even begin a conversation and when to stop and listen. To use my voice so that it was not always the same monotone level. Along the way, I saw how some of the experienced CEO’s used sales tricks to their advantage… some actually had little wooden blocks placed under their desk so that they could look down on me. Some had their secretary answer my call and place me on hold, long enough in a way, to tell me that this person was in charge of the conversation because I was waiting for him.

Sales are like a game and it’s how well you play it that will determine your success and longevity. In the game of sales, it is OK to fail first, but just not for a long period of time, mind you. Take the sport of baseball: most players can get to the ‘Hall of Fame’ by making an out “seven times out of every ten at bats” during their career and still bat .300. Keep that in mind!

Jim can be reached at loria@sfstampede.com. If you are interested in contributing your key learnings, shoot us an email at info@sponsorpitch.com.