How Hockey and Sales Go Hand in Hand

Men playing ice hockey
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For decades, people have associated sales with sports. Whether it's the motivational speeches heard during sales meetings around the world or the comparisons made between the extra effort needed to take your game to the next level; the similarities between sports and sales are everywhere.

While a case could be made for virtually and sport, hockey shares the most with a typical sales career. And here's how.

The Negotiation Table Can be a Slippery Surface

Hockey is played on ice and, in case you weren't aware, ice is slippery. So too can negotiations be. It's all too easy for a sales professional to lose traction during negotiations and fall flat on their face. It takes plenty of skills for a hockey player to stop on a dime, turn and change direction. A sales rep also needs the master the skill of stopping a sales cycle that is leading in the wrong direction and additional skill to alter the course and direction of the sales cycle or the mood of the negotiation session.

Power Plays in Hockey and Sales

In hockey, a power play happens when one team has a player (or two) penalized and have to sit in the penalty box for the duration of the assessed penalty. The other team has an immediate, one player advantage. 

In sales, power plays happen when a sales professional has an advocate, that works for the client, supporting them.

Your competition is immediately put at a disadvantage. You're up one player, and your competition needs to gather their defenses and do their best to weather the storm.

But, just like in hockey, short-handed goals are not that uncommon. If the team with the advantage gets sloppy or loses focus, their competition may steal the puck, drive the length of the ice and score a shorthanded goal.

In sales, if you are in a power play position, do not lose focus or take anything for granted. Giving up a shorthanded goal is pretty embarrassing in hockey and is pretty costly in sales.

Specialists

In hockey, players are assigned to specific positions or roles based on their skill set. A goalie minds the net, forwards drive the offense and defensive players defend their end of the ice. Many teams also have an "enforcer" on their roster, whose job it is to goat an opposing player into a fight, thus disrupting the flow of the game.

In sales, your enforcer could be a teammate who excels at hard closing, your defensive players might be your support team, and your product specialists, teammates, and managers can all be part of your offensive team.

The best hockey teams make sure their position players know their roles when they hit the ice and you, as a sales professional, need to make sure that everyone and anyone you bring into your sales opportunities knows their expected roles.

The last thing a hockey team wants to see is their goalies skating down the ice, believing he should try to score a goal instead of defending the net. Likewise, you don't want someone with little or no closing skills, charging into a closing meeting, and trying to bring home the sale.

Pass the Puck

Unless there's a breakaway, you'll see an awful lot of passing during a hockey game. Players pass the puck to their teammates to spread out the defense or to find a lane to shoot at the net. 

In sales, you need to build up your sales skills so you can notice who on your sales team is in a better position than are you to advance the sales cycle. If you notice your specialist is building a stronger rapport with the decision maker? Pass them the puck.

Notice your manager is more respected during a closing meeting? Let her take the lead.

And if you notice that your sales team are all in a weaker position than yours, drive towards the net and take a shot. As the Great One Wayne Gretzky said, "You miss 100% of all the shots you never take!"

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