Here in the Bay Area, the whole city is still celebrating the Warriors NBA championship, their first since 1975. I’m a huge Warriors fan, so this whole season has been huge fun for me. Even for casual fans or non-fans, though, it’s been hard not to get swept up in the excitement surrounding the team.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the championship run is how they did it – by winning more games than any other team and ultimately beating the best player in the world, LeBron James. Of course, we also have a star player who’s pretty good in his own right – Steph Curry, who won the league’s MVP trophy this year.
Steph Curry isn’t the biggest player on the court. Most nights, he’s actually the smallest. But he hits shots from all over the floor and a lot of times he’s single-handedly kept the Warriors in tight games. That’s one of the reasons why he’s become one of the most popular athletes not just here in San Francisco, but all over the country.
You don’t have to be a hoops fan to appreciate Steph Curry’s game. In fact, if you spend a little time watching him, you may learn some valuable lessons, especially if you’re a salesperson or in some other role that demands high levels of individual performance.
Here are a few important lessons that I think most salespeople could take from Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors:
Strong preparation is critical for a successful outcome.
In March, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News spent an evening shadowing Curry while he prepared for a game. Curry spent 90 minutes on the floor, with nearly 17 minutes of pregame shooting. The routine started with dribbling two basketballs at the same time, something Curry says he does to warm up.
Then Curry took shots from five spots around the arc and then repeated the process, but moved back behind the three point line. Finally, Curry did something a little odd. He walked halfway down the tunnel – way off the court – and launched five shots from nearly 40 feet away. In all, he took more than 120 shots.
Curry told Kawakami that he does the same routine every night, partly because it gets him in the right mindset. He said the start of the warmup session “starts the game process.”
Just as it is in sports, so much in business depends on mental toughness and having the right mindset. Having a disciplined and consistent preparation routine can help you channel your energy into the right actions for the best outcomes, just like Curry’s routine helps him get into a shooter’s frame of mind.
When you sit down for an over-the-phone prospecting session, how do you prepare for it? Do you have a routine that gets you in the right frame of mind? Do you gather your list? Research your prospects? Practice your script?
What about before you head into a sales meeting? How much time do you spend rehearsing your pitch or anticipating questions? In the Mercury News piece, Steph Curry says he’s not scared of any shot because he’s already visualized everything that can happen. We’ve talked before about the power of visualization. Are you incorporating visualization into your pre-sales routine?
Steph Curry wouldn’t go into a game unprepared. Neither would any other high-performing athlete. Do yourself a favor and treat your performance the same way. Develop a preparation routine.
Be confident enough to keep going.
In game 2 of the NBA finals, Steph Curry put up 23 shots and made five of them. From behind the three-point line, he made only two of fifteen shots. It represented one of the worst shooting nights of his career, and was one of the big reasons why Cleveland was able to win a game in overtime on Golden State’s home court.
One might wonder why Steph Curry continued to shoot after getting off to a terrible start. The reason is simple – he believes that he can make any shot.
As he told Kawakami in the Mercury News piece, “I’m not scared of any shot.” He knows he’s a great shooter and is willing to fight through a rough stretch to find his way out of it. That kind of persistence requires a high degree of confidence and mental toughness.
It also requires the ability to review one’s performance and make adjustments. That’s what Curry did and he came back to score 27 points in Game 3, 22 points in Game 4, 37 points in Game 5, and 25 points in the deciding Game 6.
In sales, defeats are inevitable. You will lose deals, sometimes ones that seemed like surefire locks to close. Sometimes these losses will be your fault. Other times, they’ll be completely beyond your control.
Either way, if you are to have long-term success as a salesperson, you have to have the internal fortitude to pick your head up and keep moving forward. You have to have confidence in yourself that you are good at what you do and that the setback is only temporary.
Do what Steph Curry does. Shake off the rough night, objectively review your performance, and then make adjustments to do better next time. There’s nothing to be gained by living in the past or, even worse, just giving up.
Be gracious and effusive with giving credit.
“He’s a great player.” That’s what Steph Curry had to say about Lebron James, after Game 3, in which James’s Cavaliers had just beaten the Warriors to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Curry was probably quick to praise James because Curry knows a simple fact of life: No one likes a bad winner or a bad loser.
Curry has shown that he’s not afraid of deflecting credit and giving praise to his teammates, coaches, and even players on other teams. In his speech after receiving this season’s MVP award, Curry thanked each of his teammates individually, specifically pointing out how they’ve made him a better player.
Grace and humility are important traits to have in sales, too. People often want to work with people they like. They want to work with people they respect.
When you use your time in front of a prospect to bash the competition or to subtly put down a colleague, you’re only making yourself look bad. There of plenty of ways to highlight the real and legitimate distinctions between you and a competitor without resorting to trash-talking.
If you have trouble with your competitive streak and find yourself bad-mouthing the competition from time to time, try setting a rule for yourself. Only discuss those things that are known facts and points of distinction. Stick to the product or service. If you can do that, you’ll likely earn your prospects’ respect.
Sports analogies are common in the workplace, mostly because there are a lot of parallels between athletic and sales performance. Sometimes those who excel in sports can offer us valuable lessons. Right now, I’d suggest you look no further than Steph Curry for guidance on how you can improve your performance.
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