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Football analysts often talk about a quarterback’s vision, the way they can quickly assess a developing play. They see openings, they make adjustments, and in a few seconds, they calculate the timing of a throw—all while staring down a charging herd of super athletes, giant linemen clawing forward, fighting for the sack.

When you watch the close-up replays of a professional quarterback making a play, they look calm and collected despite the chaos developing around them.

(Related: 6 Ways to Capture the Rewards Hiding in the Unknown)

In interviews with athletes, especially the most experienced ones, they sometimes talk about how the game “slows down.” They can see the field more clearly, and they feel like they have the time to choose the best play. Beyond football, you can see this kind of vision at the highest levels of any competition. Boxers are somehow able to slip a punch by mere millimeters. Baseball players hit 90 mile-per-hour fastballs. Basketball players dribble between the legs of opponents.

When you gather vast amounts of thoughtful practice and field experience, you can develop skills that to outsiders look superhuman.

In sales—such as in life insurance and annuities—we might not be dodging linebackers, but we have the same opportunity to slow the game down. Early in our careers, every appointment feels like an entirely new problem. We encounter roadblocks we didn’t expect. Prospects ask questions we weren’t prepared for.

After a few years, we find a rhythm, and we learn to roll with the punches. We come across fewer surprises during the sales process, and we feel our control and comfort with the sales process increase to the point that what used to feel difficult now feels natural.

The idea that practice and experience make us better is not groundbreaking, but as advisors we sometimes forget how this works:

  • When we first start something new, not being good at it feels pretty terrible, and we may not be able to see the future where the game slows down for us. As a result, we give up well-before our new initiative has time to bear fruit.
  • When we are an expert in one area, we may be quick to discount opportunities in areas where we are less experienced. In this way, our own self-confidence can work against us.

In our world as an appointment-setting firm, we often see both ends of this dynamic play out for new clients. The advisors that come to us are often some of the best in their field and are highly successful in their own right, but taking an appointment set by our team is different from their typical sales meeting. The context is not what they are used to, and succeeding in that environment takes sales skills that may not have developed or have not used for some time.

They aren’t good at the skill, and that’s frustrating. They also know what it feels like to be the rockstar in a sales meeting, so feeling like a neophyte again is difficult. It can sometimes be so difficult that they abandon a worthwhile opportunity too early. They don’t feel like they should have to put the practice in because they have become so masterful in other areas of their businesses.

This is what can make growth challenging for a mature business. In order to tap into new opportunities, the top-level quarterback might have to learn a new skill or to play his position a bit differently. Those growing pains are difficult, and they can keep you from reaching the rewards on the other side.

— For more ideas about how to grow, try Your Best Selfon ThinkAdvisor.


John Pojeta

John Pojeta is vice president of business development at The PT Services Group. Before he joined PT, he owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years.