My son is in his first year of tackle football, and as a 10 year old, he’s been begging me to put him in, “full contact,” football for years.  The rule has been that until he was able to cleanly handle the ball, make catches, and memorize the primary receiver routes, he wouldn’t be able to move up to a level of play that would put him in protective, yet constrictive pads, and helmet.  Today he asked me why he needed to practice and why they couldn’t just play, and it got me to thinking about how much preparation that we put in to sports and other endeavors, and how much we try and sneak by with the basics in our careers.

Michael Jordan was famous for a lot of things, but one of the things that he was most respected for was that he practiced as hard as he played.  I asked my son if he practiced as hard as he played in the game, and without much thought, he said, “well, probably not.”  I’m not knocking on my son, frankly at 10 years old, it’s amazing that he’s able to balance football, karate, school and social life, but it did open my eyes to something that I want him to understand at his age.  Without proper preparation, you absolutely cannot perform at your highest level.  To assume that you can walk into any negotiation, sale, debate, or game without spending the time to really understand your counterpart, is to come into a situation only partially ready.  Simply ask yourself, could I have done more, been less nervous, or simply even been a little more knowledgeable if I’d taken even a few minutes doing, “X?”  This is generally an answer that we don’t need someone else to answer for us.

Athletes put in 1000’s of hours of training to run a 30 second Olympic race.  Football players will practice 6 days a week between games, work out all off-season, and go through multiple training camps to prepare for less than a dozen and a half 60 minute games.  The average professional football player will only play around 60 games, just 4 seasons, in their entire career.  The amount of practice they put in, compared to actual game time isn’t even close! Even my 10 year old goes to 3 practices a week at 2 1/2 hours per practice, to play a 40 minute game.  At his age, that equates to more then 10 TIMES the minutes spent in practice, versus game time.  Practice is preparation. Preparation is what makes you great.

When it comes to a sales career, this same line of thinking holds true. Being a salesperson in the field is just another athlete in the Game.  The vast majority of salespeople that quit their jobs, will do it within the initial stages of their career at a company.  This is especially true in the insurance industry, where attrition will generally happen within just a few months or even weeks.  Some of the fault may lie with the trainers who may not have properly prepared these agents for the obstacles that they would hit right out of the gate, but the real responsibility lies with the agent, who needs to understand that the beginning of a sales career is no different than preparing for a football season or going through Basic Training for the military.  You have to prepare so that you can execute at a high level LATER.  

What I love about sales is that a great sales person can get paid exponentially more than a lawyer, a doctor, or any high paying profession that requires years of effort and schooling.  Why is that?  These professions have such major barriers to entry, that only a small percentage of the population will join them.  Sales doesn’t have these same barriers, but in most peoples minds, the obstacles are even more daunting.  What are the obstacles?

a)  Dealing with rejection, and the fear of rejection

b)  In some cases, not having a protective, “base” salary

c)  Trying to remember everything you were taught about the product, while still trying to answer objections and sell it 

d)  Having to create something (a sale) out of nothing (selling to someone that wasn’t looking for your product)

e)  Dealing with rejection… again!

I LOVE that there are these barriers to overcome, and you should too.  If there were no barriers, then we’d make minimum wage, because anyone would do our job.  I sincerely believe that ANYONE can sell, including you, but not everyone WILL.  Remember, if you immerse yourself in the preparation necessary to become a great salesperson of your product, there’s no limit on what you can accomplish when you really start playing the Game!