Pacing (Issue 618)

In which we are encouraged to pick interim targets to guide our pace through each sales period.

A spirit lifting, cloudless spring Saturday morning in Cambridge, MA. Notwithstanding the 42 degree start, the morning warmed quickly as I made my way to the Cumnock Field sidelines at Harvard University to watch the students we know on the Harvard Men’s Club Soccer team play their counterparts from Boston University.

The game was even until, mid-way through the first half, Harvard’s defense allowed a BU player to slip through the middle, unmarked, and beat Harvard’s goal keeper easily. A little time passed and then (unbelieveably) BU’s goal keeper attempted to clear a routine ball by kicking it (rather than picking it up); he missed, the ball rolled into the net, score tied.

As the game continued,  Harvard’s offense was ineffective and the defense sagged again, allowing BU’s right wing to turn the corner toward goal, shoot, and score from a tight angle.

However, as we reached the last ten minutes of the game, the Harvard men roused themselves, attacking the BU goal ferociously.  Harvard’s ‘never smiles’ center midfielder took a shot in heavy traffic from about 20 yards out. GOOOOOAAAAAL!   Score tied.

Harvard’s attack continued. A free kick from 25 yards clanged off the cross bar.  Harvard pounded the BU offense from all angles, largely keeping the ball in BU’s end of the field for the last seven minutes.  BU’s keeper stopped multiple shots from close range and then… time ran out.

Harvard lost in penalty kicks, 5 – 3.  Bummer.

After asking ourselves, “How could they miss penalty kicks like that at this level?”, the fans then wondered,  “Where was this intensity and offense in the first sixty minutes of this game?”

Good question. Unanswerable.

We know that maintaining peak intensity for entire games or sales years is VERY challenging.  Sales people, like soccer players, tire physically and mentally.

I recall another game in which another team was behind four goals at half time in a tournament game.  The coach gathered his players at half-time and said, “I need one goal every seven minutes, gentlemen.  That’s all you have to do. One goal every seven minutes.”  And, somehow, they did it, almost to the minute, winning 5 – 4.

The coach set the pace for the team.  Seven minutes, one goal. Next seven minutes, another goal.

We have choices about how we manage our practices. We can take the ‘high risk’ pound-‘em-at-the-end approach or we can take the “one goal, seven minutes” approach,  setting interim goals for sales activities and outcomes  that help us maintain a more even level of intensity and offensive production through the game.

Experience suggests that “maintaining the even strain” gets the nod.

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