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Game, Set, Close: Inspiration from Andy Murray’s perseverance

Finally, after a grueling journey of five Grand Slam finals in seven years of professional tennis and an Olympic Gold medal, Andy Murray ventured where no Brit had ventured for 76 years. His victory over Novak Djokovic in the US Open final earlier this week propelled him into the British sporting elite, and when you trace his route to lifting that title it’s impossible not to admire the perseverance of a man who has gone home empty handed on so many occasions. 

Could this really be the same Andy Murray who cried on Centre Court back in June after an emotional and anguishing contest with Roger Federer?

Getting close to achieving your goal, but missing at the final hurdle is disheartening – and something that anyone working in a selling environment will understand all too well. But experience of failure can help us build up the strength and knowledge to smash future goals out of the water. Never underestimate the importance of perseverance – it can be essential to ‘making the magic happen’.

In selling, perseverance and determination are essential ingredients to success, because that path to closing a deal can be a long and arduous one.

As Neil Warren – the founder of Modern Selling, describes in the opening chapter of Natural Training’s new book, research has shown that it can take sales people up to 40 attempts to get through to the right person.

I think if you’re still calling someone after 39 rejections, you clearly have the determination to get through eventually.  For more information on that research click here.

The good news is, not every sales professional has that determination – we know that many give up after three or four attempts. Success in the competitive world of selling requires staying power.

That said, it also requires a positive outlook. Sounds obvious, but actually this is a real art. Some people say they are positive, but inside they allow negative thoughts to slow them down and dent their confidence. Others develop a positive strategy that simply allows defeat to be a springboard for success.

Here’s the perfect example…

I remember working for an ad agency and getting through to the final stages of a huge pitch. It was the kind of pitch that would have transformed my profile within the organisation and secured the promotion I was after. After weeks of prep and research I delivered my pitch. It went well. So well in fact that I got through to the last stage, and found out it was my company versus one other competitor. So close.

But I lost out. As I put the phone down to the prospect I felt my heart sink. All that work, and for what? Nothing. The time lost, the customers queuing up to moan at me because all my time had been sucked up by the pitch, the director I had to face because I hadn’t sold, and the commission I’d already spent…

I could have thought about negatives all day. But what was the point? The smartest move I made was to call the prospect back the next day and ask to take him out to lunch. We had lunch and he talked for hours about what I had done that got me to the final stage, and why I eventually lost out. It was the most important two hours of my career. Why? Because I learned some big lessons that day, and got the kind of insight that is so rare and valuable. Everything changed from that point. I haven’t felt negative towards losing a pitch (probably because I haven’t lost one) since that moment.

Going back to Murray’s victory, would he have won if he dwelled on the near misses he’d in the past? Would he have won if he hadn’t taken the advice of experienced coaches and cooled his temper on court? No, of course not.

Overcoming failure is the true mark of a high performer. In the same way, sales professionals must understand that opportunities come from rejection. It’s crucial to see the positives in every negative situation. They are there, you just need to be able to see them.

Without those positives, how can you build on every performance? This is about setting milestones and achievable goals. When Murray stepped out onto Centre Court for the first time he didn’t think he was about to win Wimbledon, he saw it as a great opportunity to learn and grow. He grabbed it. This year he got so close, closer than ever before. That’s progress. It fuels success.

Next year, who knows?

The top performers see every contest as a learning experience and savor every moment. What a lesson for selling! Next time you walk into a sales pitch think about what you did right last time and what you did wrong.

Here’s a thought…

It’s actually a great thing that rejection is so rife in sales, because the ones with the patience and determination to stick around get stronger every single time they lose a sale or a pitch. Then, when the learning and development comes into fruition, the possibilities are endless.

Murray has just ticked off a massive ‘to do’ on his impressive list of tasks. What’s on your list? And, what can you do today to help you get closer to achieving it tomorrow?

At Natural Training we understand the challenges that the modern selling professional faces, and the importance of developing a selling strategy rather than just hitting and hoping. If you want your sales team to think differently about the way they approach sales, get in touch with the Natural Training team on 0207 043 1582 or email hello@naturaltraining.com.

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