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On Moving the Chains

I can’t think of a better analogy for advancing an opportunity than moving the chains in football.

Football teams run plays that are designed to move them down the field, eventually allowing them to cross the goal line and score. Their efforts are opposed by forces over which they have no control and that must be effectively managed in order to succeed. Not every play succeeds, and failed plays are run again or new plays are called in so that forward progress is made. All of this is done while the clock quietly and relentlessly ticks away in the background. It sounds a lot like sales.

In sales, we too run plays that are designed to create forward progress. The plays that we run are designed to help us move successfully from target to close. If we run the plays effectively, and if everyone plays their a-game, the plays often succeed. If we run them poorly, we make no forward progress. Poorly run, or poorly planned, plays can cause you to lose ground and can even move you away from your goals.

While we run our sales plays, there are forces working against us. We sell in the most difficult and challenging economic environment in almost a Century. We sometimes sell against a brutal headwind. We have competitors that are running their plays in an attempt to prevent us from succeeding and that may instead allow them to succeed. We run our plays even when there are forces aligned against us within our dream client’s company.

We play the game of sales for four quarters while the clock keeps time and the score is kept. But all of this is too big. It’s too much. And focusing on the scoreboard does nothing to improve the actual score. You have to play the game.

Winning the long game means executing each play to the best of your ability. How you play is the only thing that you really control. That means bringing your a-game on every play. It means studying, practicing, and planning. It means playing your heart out.

For those of us in business-to-business sales, success is found by effectively moving the chains. It would be a very different game if every play resulted in putting points on the board, but they don’t. To succeed, you have to pick yourself up after a failed play (or a lost game), dust yourself off, and play the next play.

To succeed in sales, you have to run the plays that allow you to move the chains and to keep your forward momentum.

Questions

How do you ensure that plays that you run result in forward progress being made?

What does it mean to “move the chains?”

What prevents you from moving the chains? What do you have to change about you to overcome that which prevents you from succeeding?

What do you do when the plays you run fail?


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Comments

comments

  • Anonymous

    Anthony: great points, esp on executing every play to the best of your ability. To wit I’d add: give me new performance stats that reveal how well I’m doing so, then coach me based on those stats on what adjustments would probably improve my performance, and you’ll raise the bar in terms of my abilities. It’s what savvy sports teams do to improve performance. It’s increasingly what savvy sales organizations do. It improves both the predictability and frequency of success. – John

  • Mckra1g

    Great stuff. One of the mantras/reminders that I have for myself is that in order to move forward, I must focus on blocking and tackling. While it’s true that the occasional game is won via a Hail Mary pass, dogged attention to the fundamentals is what truly builds a consistent tally in the “win” column. 

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    Great analogy, Anthony! Just like doing cardio with weights in hand, it becomes easier when you later work out without the chains. So, I might add that anticipating the “weight” and preparing for it eases the burden!

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