I’m getting my stroke back.

This week I am in South Carolina on a self-imposed writing retreat.

While most of my day is spent writing, I decided to take this time away to get back to my favorite sport…tennis.

Having played well over 10,000 hours, just none in the past 4 years, I’ve been hesitant to get back on the court. If you’re as competitive as I am, you don’t want to lose! If you’re in sales, you probably know the feeling.

My first day back to the game was amazing. It was a mix between hitting the perfect shot and missing an easy shot. But I realized that I still have it – muscle memory kicked in and I was swinging backhands and forehands like no time had passed.

Well, some time had passed. Others on the court probably had no idea, but it was clear to me that time had affected my timing. I had some great shots, but they weren’t consistently great. How’s your timing?

The key to winning is being great EVERY time. Consistency plays great and pays great.
How consistently great are you?

Winning a tennis game, is just like winning your sales game. Here’s how to win BOTH:

1. Get ready to win. Before even stepping foot on the court, I did morning yoga and stretched my body. I’m ready. I’m flexible. What do you do prior to entering a customer’s office? Think about how great preparation could change your sale. What you do off the court before and after the game sets you up for success or failure on the court. Show up to the sale like you’re competing in a big match, ready and determined to win. What do you do every day to work your body and your mind?

2. Dress for the win. The minute I put on my tennis gear, I knew I was ready to hit the court. What’s your sales outfit look like? Look in the mirror and make sure you look sharp. Make sure you feel like a winner. Your “look” will boost your internal confidence.

3. Practice in a safe zone. I could have joined a league at home, but as more and more time went by, I hesitated — I didn’t want to fail in front of people I’d be playing with all year. The courts on this retreat are safe – I’m playing with people who’ve never met me, and will likely never see me again. Rather than test this out on a new customer you’ve never met, take my opposite advice. Think about which customers you have your BEST relationships with. Meet with them to talk about new products and get your pitch down in a safe environment.

4. Practice leads to consistency. There’s no shortcut. Practice makes you better. You have to put in the work to create the consistency. Study yourself. I wish my game was filmed so I could watch it and pinpoint exactly where to improve. Film your sales conversations – you’ll figure out what you need to change. Watch yourself and learn from your good shots and your not-so-good ones. When you practice the foundational skills and become an expert, your muscle memory and your sales memory will kick in at exactly the right time.

5. Get the best coach. A great coach is someone you WANT to listen to – someone who wants to help you improve. And, be coachable – make sure you want to learn. The minute you think you know everything, you will begin to fail.

6. Improve 1-2 skills at a time. The human mind can’t handle more than that. Make a list of everything you want to improve, then prioritize the list. For the next two weeks, focus on the top 1-2 highest priority items on your list. Once you succeed in those, move to the next two and add to more to the bottom – ALWAYS add to the bottom of the list and you will continue to grow. Learn from your errors, don’t lament them.

7. Timing is everything. I was practicing approach shots and kept getting to the shot too late to make it my best swing. Make sure you’re meeting with your prospects when they are ready to buy. If you get there too late, you’ll miss your best shot.

8. Focus on the game or get hit by the ball. This may seem like an obvious one, but in today’s day everyone is multi-tasking. Even at dinner when I look around at restaurants, people are on their phones instead of talking to the person at their table. Bring your phone on the court? Stop paying attention for a second and you’ll likely get hit by the ball! It’s the same in the sale – put your phone, computer, tablet, distractor away so you can play the game.

9. Take care of yourself in between games. After two days of 2-hours a day of tennis, I needed a day to rest and recover. My body needed a break. Listen to yourself. Make sure you find time for yourself in between a grueling sales schedule. Your body and mind need to recover.

10. The small details make the biggest difference. If you’re holding your racquet just a little too open, the ball will fly outside the court. If your body isn’t positioned correctly – hips not turned, feet facing the wrong way, you’ll miss the shot. Pay attention to small details during the sale. While they seem small, they’ll end up making the difference between winning and losing.

11. Surround yourself by people who will challenge you. People who will help you grow. If you’re the best on the court, you’re on the wrong court.

12. Keep your eye on the ball. Keep your eye on the sale. Know your purpose and stay on track.

13. Find the pleasure. The pleasure and pain of sport is just like the pleasure and pain of sales. Even though it was tiring, it gave me energy and inspiration. Try to make it at least 51% pleasure. You’ll have more fun, and you’ll win more often.

Game. Set. Match. Sale. What do you do to reward yourself whether or not you win the sale? Reward yourself for practice and growth. Your best reward after tennis is: just a nice shower. Your best reward after a sale is: go make another one.

Zero in tennis is love, but in sales it’s a loss.

Here’s a hint: MAKE PROGRESS!

Win the game, not just the point. Then win the set, not just the game. Then you’ll be prepared to win an entire match, not just a set.

I’ll see you on the courts.