Extra Time

....In which we remind ourselves to prepare. A sunny early October morning. Sweating, despite the cool air, a group of about thirty 16 - 18 year old boys sits on bleachers, listening (sort of) to final words from two coaches on whose soccer team they seek to play.

These are strong players. Some, as 16 year olds, won a national championship. They and others have participated on teams that have won state championships, a few of them every year since they were 10-year olds. A few are playing as part of the Olympic Development Program. Almost all of the 18-year olds present will play intercollegiate college soccer, some at the best programs in the country.

“Thank you for coming out this morning and for the last few weeks to try out for this team,” says the head coach. “In the next 48 hours we’ll make some decisions and notify you by email. We’ll have 18 slots on the roster…. The key thing to remember at this level is, ‘Things change.'”

“You may or may not earn a starting role on this team. You may play in different positions. You have to earn your time on the field. And things change. People get hurt. People don’t play well. It basically comes down to, how badly do you want it? In this country, both men’s and women’s teams, we don’t spend enough time with the ball. We’re not comfortable with the ball. And that comes back to how bad do you want it? Are you spending the time with the ball? Are you getting comfortable with the ball?”

These words could sound like the same tread-worn words from another tread-worn coach… except that the coach’s college team is again ranked high in national collegiate standings and these kids are among the very best soccer players in the region in their age groups.

And, even among this group, good as they are, there are players who put in the extra time… and there are players who don’t. While they play hard in practice and they play hard in games… they don’t put in the extra time… and you can see all of that in their work on the field.

Same with us, in our sales roles. There are some who work diligently, do their jobs, and go home. There are others who “put in the extra time” to get comfortable with the sales “ball.” They study their clients, their competitors. their markets, their products, and sales techniques. They develop scripts and transitions. They rehearse questions and responses to objections. They polish. They analyze. They read.

In my high school locker room was a sign I’ve never forgotten. “When you are not practicing, someone, somewhere else, is practicing. And when you meet them, they will beat you.”

We’re starting the fourth quarter. We’re making calls now that will feed the first quarter or all of next year. Putting in the extra time does not guarantee we’ll win every sale. And it raises the odds when we meet the folks who didn’t.

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