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How To Slow the Game

Great athletes perceive the sport or game they play as occurring at a much slower pace than others. Someone without the training, the development, and the experience would see the speed as shockingly fast.

There was an Air Force colonel named John Boyd. Boyd developed the OODA loop. The first “O” stands for observe. The second “O” stands for orient. The “D” is for decide. And the “A” is for act.

Boyd discovered the OODA loop while designing fighter jets for the United States Air Force. At some point, Boyd recognized its usefulness and strategy. The United States Marine Corps calls this “maneuver warfare.” And you can ask any Marine about OODA loops, and they’ll know what you are talking about.

It takes training, development, and situational knowledge (or experience, if you prefer) for your perception of the game to slow.

Training: The more time you spend training real-life situations (and for sales, this means role-plays around client interactions), the more you will have an opportunity to orient yourself to what you are seeing and hearing, to make observations, to decide how to respond, and then to act accordingly. The best performers in any human endeavor spend time training.

Training slows the game by providing you with the opportunity to make observations and orient yourself. It also lets you experiment with decisions and actions.

Development: Development is something more than training. It’s a maturation process. It’s a focused plan for growth. If you think about a great athlete, their entire life is a series of development. They learn fundamentals at a very young age. They learn more complicated skills and ideas as they mature. And as they reach higher and higher levels, they are given different developmental tasks in training.

Development slows the game by increasing your skills at observing and orienting more and more subtle differences. The reason a Grand Master at chess can play 16 games at the same time is because she only needs to see the pattern. Having studied the patterns before, she no longer has to spend time observing and orienting. This is true for sales professionals, too.

Situational Knowledge: Training and development are different from actually playing the game. The circumstances of playing the game are very different. The stakes are very real. There is a price to pay for making mistakes, namely losing the game when it comes to sports. The stakes are higher in real, must-win, high visibility, high-value deals. It’s the experience gained playing at this level that ratchets up the situational knowledge and slows the game. You see the patterns. You recognize the patterns. You leverage your training and development and past experiences to speed up the time it takes you to observe, orient, decide and act.

If you are new to sales, some client interactions can seem to sweep you off your feet. Aggressive questions and objections can make it feel as if you have too little time to make the observations, orient yourself and make a good decision worth acting on. But if you study and train like a professional, if you spend time working on understanding your experiences and the decisions you made, the game will slow down. And when it’s slower, it’s an easier game to play.

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Filed under: Situational Knowledge

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