Selling Lessons from Mohammed Ali by Tom Ninness

by 07 Mar 2009
Mohammed Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all times. I watched him as a kid growing up and marveled at his quickness and skills. Ali would have been a great sales person if he went into our profession. He could have taken the lessons that he learned in the ring and brought them to the sales arena and done just as well. Being an avid boxing fan, and trying boxing as a sport during my teenage years, I learned some valuable lessons that have helped me in my life and sales career. Stick and Move In boxing, you have to keep moving your head or you?re going to get popped and it doesn?t feel good when you get caught with a punch. In sales, we have to constantly be moving; Stick and move?stick and move. The more prospects with whom we interact, the more opportunities we have in obtaining closings. In this challenging economy, we need to work different angles and try different techniques to produce results. Those who nest at their desk and wonder why their leads aren?t coming in are what we call in the boxing world?punch drunk. They stay in one spot too long, or work a lead that isn?t going anywhere; the end result with nothing to show for it. Mohammed Ali?s Greatest Weapon One of Mohammed Ali?s greatest attributes was his mouth. He would play mind-games with his opponents. Ali once said about an opponent, ?I?ll beat him so bad he?ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.? He compared himself with no one. Mohammed Ali said, ?I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey were just jet pilots. I?m in a world of my own?. Ali said about Joe Frazier, ?Frazier is so ugly that he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wild Life?. Many of Ali?s opponents lost before they even got into the ring because of the ?head trash? that Ali put on them. The same is true with sales professionals. They listen to the television, radio, read the paper and all of it says doom and gloom. They buy into all of the negative news and decide not to call on clients as they?re not going to buy anyway. Those who succeed in challenging markets do so because they understand that there is going to be those who succeed and it might as well be them. Vision, Discipline and Skill Mohammed Ali hated the discipline of training for each fight, but he knew that he had to work through what he disliked in order to accomplish his goals. ?I hated every minute of training,? Ali said, ?Don?t quit! Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.? Vision is how you look into the future. It aligns with your values and the roles that we play. For me to be the best in my sales field, I have to look forward and view what I want my business to look like when it?s finished. Skills in selling are learned and practiced. I have to be good at prospecting, time management and customer relationships. I need to be great at follow thru and asking for referrals. I know that these are skills that I need to be successful, but do I have the discipline to work on these areas of my business? Discipline is the hardest of all three attributes but for me to get where I want to go in my sales career, I need to be disciplined in all areas of my business and work to improve my sales skills. Study Your Opponent My youngest son is a very successful car salesman. While watching the Super Bowl and in the process of writing this article, I asked him why he believes he is great at what he does. He said, ?Because I ask a lot of questions and know my competition?s product better than they do.? The same holds true in boxing. Professional boxers will study films of their opponent?s last matches. They?ll analyze their strengths and where they are vulnerable. When we enter a sales call, we need to realize that there are three people involved in the sales process: us, the client and the person who currently is occupying the throne as the client?s current service provider. For us to be successful, we need to study our competition and come up with a plan that will win the client over to us. The more we prepare and do ?recon?, the better chance of success. Listen to Your Trainer. For three minutes a round, boxers are in the ring maneuvering, punching and trying to outwit their opponent. At the end of the round, the bell sounds and the boxer returns to his corner and his trainer is busy reviving the boxer for the next round. The trainer is an expert in identifying strategies, giving advice, pointing out weaknesses of the opponent, and encouraging the boxer to press on. If the boxer doesn?t listen to his trainer, and continues to use the strategies that are allowing the opponent to get the upper hand, then the boxer?s chances of winning will be reduced. Having a trainer in the sales arena is just as important. I?m a sales coach for many sales professionals and I also have a business coach. I know that I need someone looking at what I?m doing and pointing out the areas that I need to improve on, just like Mohammed Ali had in his corner. Suck it up when you lose Ali said after he lost his first championship, ?I never thought of losing, but now that it?s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That?s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.? Ali knew that in boxing and in all aspects of life, there are risks that have to be taken. Ali said, ?He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.? ?Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even?. I?m not sure where I heard the saying, ?You can judge a man?s character by the way they handle defeat,? but it?s a very true statement. Since I oversee a region of loan originators, I witness how they handle victories and defeats. Some will bounce right back when they lose a big deal and some will go in a funk for days. The faster you rebound back after a loss shows your will power to overcome diversity. Affirmations Mohammed Ali?s ?I am the greatest? came across arrogant. Ali said, ?It?s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.? Believe in yourself, convince yourself that you are one of the greatest in your profession and you too can be as great as Mohammed Ali. Tom Ninness is Vice President/Regional Production Manager for Cherry Creek Mortgage in Denver, CO. Ninness is also the President of Summit Champions, Inc. and creator of the ?The 90 Day Journey to Your Sales Success?, a powerful 90 day action plan for the sales professional. To learn more about The Journey and what Summit Champions has to offer, go to, or contact Tom at Office: 720-221-4396.


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