Coach Herb Brooks, as depicted in the movie Miracle, was speaking to the members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team as they were assembled for their first practice session in preparation for the Olympic Games.
They were gathered in a room watching film of the Soviet team. Coach Brooks said, speaking of the Soviet hockey team, “Forty-two games in the last three months, forty-two wins. Their main weapon, intimidation. They know they are going to win and so do their opponents…. I know there is a way to stay with this team. You don’t defend them, you attack them. You take their game and you shove it right back in their face. The team that is finally willing to do this, is the team that has a chance to put them down. The NHL won’t change their game, we will. The rest of the world is afraid of them. Boys, we won’t be. No one has ever worked hard enough to skate with the Soviet team for an entire game. Gentlemen, we are going to work hard enough!”
How does this hockey story relate to sales? There are a few similarities, and certainly a few lessons we can all learn.
First of all, no one and I mean no one gave the U.S. Hockey Team a chance in the world at beating the Soviets. Remember, the Soviet team was a professional team and the U.S. Team was made up of college players, none of whom had any NFL experience. This team did not have the talent of the Soviet team, but they had desire and the willingness to work hard enough to win. In the world of sales, skills are very important for achieving success. However, desire and attitude are even more important. The combination of skills and attitude, presents a winning combination.
Second, they were not afraid. They believed in themselves and their ability to perform in the heat of battle because they had prepared. They believed in their coach and in their own abilities. Many teams who faced the powerful Soviet hockey machine were defeated before they even set foot on the ice. They didn’t believe they could win and they were paralyzed by fear. If you are to be successful at selling, you must believe in your ability to be successful and be willing to stand up to your fears. Once you stand face to face with your sales fears, they will no longer have power over you.
Third, the U.S. Hockey Team believed victory would be found in a solid offense and not in just defending their goal. They knew they would have to take the game to the Soviet team if they were to win. Selling is not an easy career. It requires hard work and preparation to be successful. Successful salespeople work hard at finding opportunities to sell their products and services; they don’t just wait for the phone to ring. Become proactive. Create the opportunities you need to be successful.
Fourth, this team knew preparation and practice were the key to victory. As coach Brooks said, “No one has ever worked hard enough to skate with the Soviet team for an entire game; gentlemen, we are going to work hard enough!” Most salespeople have never worked hard enough at selling to really know what they are capable of achieving. Until you have pushed yourself to the boundaries of your capabilities, you will never know how good you can truly become. Work hard enough to achieve your true potential.
Fifth, Coach Brooks had a plan; a specific plan based on what he believed was necessary to beat the Soviet team. It wasn’t enough to just practice and work hard. They needed to work hard and follow a plan. As history has recorded, the perfect execution of a well-crafted plan allowed the U.S. Hockey Team to defeat the most powerful team in the world of hockey. The typical salesperson spends their day doing “stuff.” They do whatever seems appropriate for the moment. They have never considered the value of developing a winning game plan to ensure their sales success. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, in preparing a specific plan to achieve the success you desire with a specific prospect. The world of selling has reached the professional ranks. You are in the big leagues. In this league, winging it is out, and planning is the law of the land.
To summarize the five principles taught by Coach Brooks to his young hockey players as they relate to selling: You must believe in yourself and have a positive attitude. Don’t be afraid, but rather, stand up to your fears and defeat them. Be proactive. A strong offense is often the best defense. Create the situation you desire, don’t wait for it to come to you. Preparation is critical for success. Study, learn, practice and apply the principles and skills of selling. Don’t just wing it. Develop a plan for your sales success and follow it.