Sales Calls and Basketballs

About 5 nights a week, my soon to be 4 year old and I spend about an hour in the driveway shooting hoops. Technically, I spend the hour shooting while she entertains me with stories about her day, the different pictures she colored and all the mischief her brother got into.

For about the first 10 minutes we are in the driveway, she is genuinely interested in playing basketball or, “taking some shoots,” as she calls it. So with secret ambitions to parlay my $300 basketball goal investment into a full-ride college basketball scholarship, I run thru some basic basketball drills with my little girl. We work on dribbling, passing and correct shooting form. She loves “taking shoots.” It’s the highlight of my evening too.

Tonight, we were passing the ball back and forth like any other night and Evy was jabbering on about all her daily adventures while I had been off at work. All of a sudden as she caught one of my passes I heard the familiar “thud” that only comes when a basketball has jammed directly into one of your fingers. Anyone who has ever played basketball knows exactly what I’m talking about. In my lifetime of playing basketball I must stubbed my fingers a thousand times. But this was the first time for my daughter. She immediately stopped in the middle of her story and grabbed her finger. Her eyes were welling with tears but I could tell she wasn’t going to let herself cry. I asked her, “Do you want to go in and call it a night?” “No way, Daddy!” She said, holding back the tears. “We haven’t finished our shoots yet!”

I was so proud of my little girl. I remembered back to when my dad was teaching my brother and me how to catch a baseball, and my brother caught one with his upper lip. Instead of going in right away to clean up the blood, my dad made him catch the next one so he wouldn’t give up and be afraid of the ball.
Stubbing fingers and catching baseballs in your mouth hurts. But making the perfect shot or the perfect catch makes all the busted lips and stubbed fingers and rolled ankles and worn out days in the driveway worthwhile. Evy understood if she decided to call it a night after stubbing her finger, she was going to miss out on the rest of the driveway time that she and I cherish so much. Evy knew the time she and I spent together tonight on the driveway would make the hurt of the stubbed finger worthwhile.

She got me to thinking. I work in the sales world. This has been a long week for me. I have stubbed a lot of fingers this week. This was a week of wheel spinning and fire-fighting. It seemed like every time I had a chance to focus on prospecting, another major issue would come up with a current customer. Some days I wanted to call it a day after some of those stubbed fingers. Just go home and not worry about prospecting or looking for new business. I figured I’ll take my shots another day when I’m not nursing all these wounds.

When you take a shot in basketball, within about a second you know if it’s going in or not. When you take a shot in sales prospecting, it usually takes 30 days or so before you know if it’s going in or not. Just like in basketball, no one is going to sink all the sales shots they attempt. But you are guaranteed to not make any sales at all if you are not taking any shots. Stubbing fingers in sales hurts. Hearing no several times in a row, dealing with customer issues, getting doors slammed in your face and Murphy ’s Law in general can make you want to stop taking shots and prospecting.
You gotta keep shooting. The only thing that hurts worse than stubbed fingers in selling is no commission on a paycheck. Some days you won’t get up your best shots. Some days you may have to make some calls outside of the golden hours of selling. Some days you are going to have to force yourself to turn around, go back in the office and make one more call. Take the shots. I don’t know how many will go in; you can let me know in 30 days. I do know this; sinking just one of those shots will make a week’s worth of slammed doors, and stubbed fingers all worthwhile.