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How to win at sales and ping pong

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Recently, my husband and I stayed at a lovely golf resort in St. George, Utah. But golf was not the game we played. Instead, when checking out the pool area, we discovered an outdoor ping-pong table.

It had been decades since we last faced off against each other, so he quickly grabbed one paddle, while I picked up the other. (We were never very good, but we were always competitive.)

After a brief warm-up, I felt the old rivalry reemerge. I noticed that my husband had moved too far to the right side of the table. With a nice hit to the left corner, I could score an easy point — maybe even a bragging point. 

Eagerly, I whacked the ball into just the right spot — or so I thought. Instead, it sailed six feet beyond the table into the underbrush. Too much adrenaline! 

Moments later, another opportunity presented itself. My husband was playing too close to the table, making it difficult for him to hit a ball placed directly in front of him. I swung hard and fast, but it hit him in the chest. Another big miss for me.

The problem

After a few more lost points, the root cause of the problem became glaringly obvious. My eagerness to score big was causing me to make mistakes. To win, I needed to control my emotions, which is, of course, easier said than done.  

I need to do that in sales, too. Good sales opportunities get my adrenaline flowing. I see so clearly how I can help, I know I can make a difference, and I want to pounce on my prospect. 

But that doesn’t work. Instead, it creates serious, sales-ending obstacles. Prospects decide they don’t want to play with you anymore. They begin to think you’re only out for yourself. It’s probably not true (although I have to admit that early in my career it was).

The solution

If you really want to win at the game of sales, it’s crucial to learn to control your emotions. Sometimes the first step is hardest: recognizing your own actions are causing the problems. Then, you have to figure out new ways to respond and perhaps even learn new skills. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.  

As for my ping-pong game, I realized that mastering the skills I needed to beat my husband would take longer than a weekend. So I decided to focus instead on having fun — and keeping the ball in play.

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