I love to ski and it’s a sport that I have every expectation of continuing into my 80s. I actually started at around age 3, and while I have had a few long gaps, I now ski every year. Last month I enjoyed a weekend of skiing in Colorado with some supplier friends and two of my coworkers. As your “Sales Coach” I am always looking for lessons to be learned from various sports and games and I found a few good ones during this trip.
Skiing is not an easy sport to learn as an adult. Maybe it is not easy as a kid either, but kids seem to be like a combination of rubber and sponge—they bounce up and soak up some more experience. Like many sports there are varying degrees of expertise, as well as some quite different styles. My coworkers were interested in improving, so they asked me for some tips and suggestions and we worked on techniques throughout the two days.
To improve in a sport or business there are a few common steps to success. First, ask for help from someone with experience. While mentoring has grown in acceptance in companies over the last few years, it is still underutilized. If you want to be an expert travel professional, then find someone who is currently successful and ask for guidance. I think it is obnoxious to provide advice on the slopes if not asked for, but when my coworkers asked for help I loved the opportunity to teach them. It is the same in business – but you have to ask first!
If you are open to instruction, then it is also important to set your goals. In skiing there are ratings that are given to each ski run as to the difficulty. Green Square is usually the easiest way down, then Blue Triangle for intermediate level skiers and the most difficult is Black Diamond. Within each category there are levels, too, leading up to the Triple Black Diamond. The beauty of downhill skiing is that you can set your goals easily by setting what type of run you eventually want to conquer. For my two students, the conquering of a Black Diamond was a top priority!
Now while there is certainly skill needed to make it down a Black Diamond, the overriding factor that is required is confidence. And so it is in business. After you determine what your goal is, you must build up the confidence and courage to see yourself achieving your goal. So the question is, how do you create confidence? In skiing, like selling travel, it comes back to the basics. All beginning skiers start on the bunny slopes, not setting out to master them, but to gain the confidence to move on to other parts of the mountain.
The key is to keep the basics in play no matter what the hill looks like. In selling travel it is the same situation. If you learn the basic steps to sales, then you have the confidence to sell up, sell in difficult times or sell to difficult people. The slope could be ridiculously steep (a high-priced product), full of trees (multiple objections to overcome) or have moguls as big as Volkswagen beetles (customers who are quite demanding). In some cases the hill has all three of those and more, but with confidence you can survive!
Of course, most skiers don’t want to just survive, they want to enjoy the experience and make it look easy. So, there are really two goals in skiing that go hand in hand. First is the confidence to try the Black Diamond, but the second is the way in which you made it down. And so it is in sales. You can just go for the big sales or you can work on your technique so that as circumstances change your basic style and approach does not. In other words keep going back to the bunny slopes and get to the point that your style is perfection personified, then start to move up the ladder to harder slopes while keeping the basics in play!
As a final word, remember that no matter how long you may have been doing something, you can still have your confidence shaken. Even the top skiers in the world occasionally fall or struggle to look graceful. You will have those days in sales, too, so just push yourself back up, shake the snow out of your ears, and go back to the basics. Soon Black Diamonds will become where you practice your skills so that you triumphantly ski the Triple Black Diamonds!