Jun 28, 2021 • Podcast

What can golf teach us about sales (and life)?

Paul touts the mental resilience of Jon Rahm (2021 U.S. Open champ) and how to apply that to sales…and life.

Show Notes: 

Those frustrating setbacks, out of our control, are painful, but they propel us forward.

Shrink your big goals to manageable targets.

“Don’t look at the ‘leaderboard.’ Look inward at your own potential. Tap into that first.”

Practice, prepare, until it becomes second nature.

Remain hopeful!


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What can golf teach us about sales (and life)?

(Transcribed from podcast)

Well, today we are going to talk about something that I truly love deeply within my heart, and that is golf. How could we not after Jon Rahm’s win at the U. S. Open. In fact, I’ll give you a little background on today’s episode. By the way the question we’re going to answer is, “What can golf teach us about sales (and life)?” And what we’re going to talk about today is what Jon Rahm has been through over the past few weeks. And I’m going to draw some parallels to sales and how we can use his mental framework, his resilience, to help us in the profession of sales (and life).

Before we get into that question though, a quick shout-out to Andrea over The Creative Impostor Studios. The Q and A Sales Podcast, it continues to grow. Every single month we’re setting records for downloads; new countries are downloading it. I’m sure Spain is definitely going to download this episode since we’re talking about her native son, Jon Rahm. But anyway, I digress. The podcast continues to grow and a large part of it is because of Andrea and her team and just the work that she does for us. So, if you need some help on your podcast; if you need help with editing, producing, whatever, it may be, reach out to Andrea and her team. They do an absolutely wonderful job.

Also, you know, one thing we’ll talk about today is mental resilience. And when I think about mental resilience, I can’t help but think of the new book coming out. In Selling Through Tough Times, there is a whole chapter dedicated to just building the right mental attitude. Building the right mentality as you go in there to compete. Whether you’re competing in anything in life, your attitude drives your behavior. In fact, we have a whole section in the book on this. It’s really exciting. I can’t wait for the book to launch. It is available for pre-order, so you can be one of the first to get your copy of Selling Through Tough Times hot off the press. You can go on Amazon and just search Selling Through Tough Times. Of course, we’ll have the link on this episode’s webpage. Search Selling Through Tough Times on Amazon, by Paul Reilly. You’ll be able to find it and you can pre-order your copy and you will get it as soon as we release the book.

Let’s get back to that question. What can golf teach us about sales (and life)? Well, to give you a little background, I am a golf nut. I’ve mentioned it a few times on this show over the years. So, I was obviously watching the U. S. Open—one of the majors—and I was thrilled to see Jon Rahm win it. I’ve always been a fan of Jon Rahm, one of the top collegiate players to ever play the game. Just exciting guy to watch. But the reason I was rooting for him is because of what happened at the Memorial tournament.

Just a few weeks before—just a few weeks before the U. S. Open, here’s what happened. Jon Rahm was leading the tournament and I think his margin was by like five or six strokes. I mean, he had a commanding lead on Saturday. He finished his round on Saturday, and on the 18th green, he was told by PGA officials that he had tested positive for COVID and that he would have to forfeit the tournament. Had to forfeit the tournament. And that means he couldn’t play on Sunday, which was sure to be a victory for him. I mean, having a six-stroke lead for a guy like Jon Rahm is basically a shoe-in. He was going to win the tournament, but he had to withdraw. Now you think about that. He was going to win $1.6 million with the tournament and all that. So think about it, first of all, not being able to win that money, but just the competitive nature too. He was basically going to win, but he was told he can’t even play. Imagine how frustrating that is. And here’s how he responded. I’m going to read you his tweet word for word. He said:

“I’m very disappointed in having to withdraw from the Memorial tournament. This is one of those things that happens in life. One of those moments where how we respond to a setback defines us as people. I’m very thankful that my family and I are all okay. I will take all the necessary precautions to be safe and healthy, and I look forward to returning to the golf course as soon as possible.”

You think about that. He talks about how we respond to a setback defines us as people. You know, in sales, and in life, you’re going to face setbacks; you’re going to face struggles. You’re going to face tough times. And those things are out of your control. He couldn’t control the fact that he was disqualified from the tournament. In those tough moments, those are defining moments. And the reason I mention that, I put together an article—my newsletter—just the other day, which, by far, was the most read newsletter that I’ve sent out in probably five years. And it was about Jon Rahm not being able to compete in the Memorial tournament. And the reason I sent that out is because, right now, a lot of salespeople are facing some tough times, things that are out of their control. I’m constantly hearing from salespeople that they’re, you know, facing supply disruption. One salesperson was able to win an order. It took them a couple of years to get the order, and now they can’t fill the order because of supply chain disruption.

And you think about it, it’s probably like how Jon Rahm felt. This guy just won a major order, won a huge piece of business that was a win for him, but his company couldn’t follow through on the PO. Think about how frustrating that was for him.

So, right now, there are things happening that are out of our control. But we’ve got to remember that those setbacks, those can propel us forward. Those can keep us moving. And they’re painful, yes, but some good is going to come from that. And when I think about that, just two weeks after I wrote this article about Jon Rahm and how he handled this adversity with grace, and he moved forward and he kept a positive, optimistic attitude, two weeks later, he’s at the U. S. Open and he wins it. Talk about an answer to the struggle that he faced just two weeks before. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. And this morning I was listening to his interview—at the interview that he gave after the round. And he talked about the round obviously, but he also talked about the Memorial tournament. He talked about the struggles that he faced and how he pushed through. And I wanted to share just a couple of thoughts, a couple of things that I think are relevant for salespeople, and really anyone that’s facing adversity.

One of the first things he talked about in his post-round interview, a reporter asked something about, “What were you thinking as you got towards the end of the round, when it was close and you look at the leaderboard?” And what Jon Rahm did is he set a target for himself. He said—he goes, “I knew that I needed two 4s and two 3s to finish out the round. So he needed two pars, two birdies to finish out the round to give himself a chance. And so he gave himself a target. Think about that. As salespeople, when we are in a position where, let’s say, we’re trying to hit our number for the end of the quarter, or we’re trying to hit our yearly number—whatever it may be—we’re trying to hit that target. How often do we tell ourselves, “Okay. I need to go out there, I need to get three more orders.” “I need to get two more prospects.” “I need to do this. I need to do that.” That is what motivates us. We take our goal, right? In this case, Rahm’s goal was to win the U. S. Open and he shrunk it down to two things, “I need two 3s. I need two 4s.” He gave himself a very specific target that was timed—he only had four holes left. And we, as salespeople, we do the same thing. That’s what successful salespeople do is we give ourselves target[s]. We shrink that big goal into manageable targets, we set the goal, and then we execute it. We can do the same thing.

Now, another thing that Rahm mentioned in the interview, he was asked about the leaderboard and it was, I mean, all the marquee golfers were in that. I mean, DeChambeau, McElroy was in there at one point, Oosthuizen, of course, as the guy who could have won it. Right? There were some top players up there, and he was asked, “Okay. What did you think about the leaderboard?” And he said, “You know what? I didn’t even look at the leaderboard.” He didn’t look at the leaderboard. Instead, he was looking internally. Think about that. In sales, how often do we look at, you know, our colleague that is closing more accounts than us? Or, how often do we look at our leaderboard? And I know we’re competitive as salespeople, but we want to be on the top of that list. But what Rahm did, he didn’t even look at it. Instead, he looked inward. He looked at his own potential. He was almost playing against the best version of himself. And because he was playing against the best version of himself, he focused. He was able to execute. Think about it. He was able to finish with two birdies on some challenging holes. And so, he was playing against his own potential, not the other players.

We do the same in sales. When it’s time to hit that quota, whatever it may be, we need to look inward at our own potential and we tap into that first. Another thing that Rahm mentioned in his interview. He was asked if he if he was nervous or, you know, how he was feeling towards the last couple of holes, if he could feel the tension and all that. Because he looked pretty calm and he, he jokingly admitted, “Well, you couldn’t really tell, but man, I was, I was pretty tuned up.” I forgot exactly how he said it. He did say, “You know, if you could see our heart rates, you could see that I wasn’t calm.” “It was tense.” I think he said it was very tense. But here’s what he said, “You practice so much that you let your body take over.” And he admitted that. He said, “My heart where it was probably out of control, but what happens is you practice so much, you let your body take over.”

That’s what we do in sales. Think about it. Some of the best sellers I know are the ones that practice their profession. They’re the ones that prepare. They write out a sales call plan. They role-play with themselves, with their sales managers. They’re constantly practicing because they don’t leave anything to chance. We should do the same thing all the time, just like Jon Rahm did. You practice until it becomes second nature. And that way, when you get thrown off, when you get an objection, when you are feeling stressed out, when you’re feeling those tense moments like Rahm, your body takes over; your practice takes over, and you’re still able to execute.

The last thing I’ll mention, Rahm was asked about Memorial and what happened. You know, again, at the Memorial tournament, he had victory within his grasp. He was leading by more than five or six strokes, whatever it was going into the final day, but he had COVID so he could not play. That would be crushing for many professional athletes, yet, he remained hopeful. In fact, here’s what Rahm had to say as he was reflecting on that. He said, “I always remained hopeful. I believed something good was coming my way. I never lost hope.”

In sales, it can be a tough profession when things don’t go our way: when we get the order, but now we can’t fill it; when we finally get that meeting and the buyer cancels on us; when we do our best to win a piece of business, and they give us a verbal agreement, and then they decide to go to a competitor. There are some crushing things that happen in sales, and a lot of people cannot handle just the emotional swing of that: of having victory, of having that success, having that purchase order in your hand and then not getting it. But Rahm says “I was hopeful. I believed something good was coming my way.” He never lost hope.

And you know, in the new book Selling Through Tough Times, we talk a lot about hope, and we talk a lot about tough times and how they’re good. And tough times are good because some good is going to come of the struggles that you face. We just have to remain hopeful. I remember, I was at church one time, and the priest was giving the homily and all that, and he talked about hope. And he said, “You know, hope is wanting something to happen with the belief that it will actually happen.” So, it’s wanting something to happen with the belief that it actually will happen. So, hope is sometimes, I think, misunderstood into wishing: “Oh, I wish that would happen.” You know, you kind of wish things would happen, and that means, yeah, I want it to happen, but I just don’t know if it’s going to happen.

Hope is something different. Hope is that deep belief that something will happen and that you want it to happen. And so, as salespeople, we always remain hopeful. That’s one of the things that keeps us going is that unwavering hope in our eventual success. And we might not know how it’s going to look, and we might not know when it’s going to happen, but we have to maintain that unwavering hope that it will.

Congratulations to Jon Rahm. What a great finish to the U. S. Open. So, folks, thanks for indulging me and letting me talk about golf on today’s episode. Hey, if you’ve got a question, make sure you visit TheQandASalesPodcast.com. While you’re there, you can ask me a question. I’ll turn it into a future show. Especially if you ask me about golf. I guarantee it’ll get to the top of the list. But also, make sure you hit that follow button. Share this with your colleagues, but most importantly, you know what to do. Make it a big day.

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