This summer I was on the driving range at one of our local golf courses, hitting a few balls before our tee time.  I was watching an extremely focused individual working on his driving accuracy.  His ball continually floated to the right, missing his intended target area.  Little adjustments were made between shots, and naturally his golf buddy also had some advice.  The ball continued to travel to the right and as he worked through the bucket of practice balls, I noticed he began to shift his feet and aim just a little left.  Still the ball soared to the right side of the driving range.  He proceeded to aim left just a little bit more until finally he came close to the target.  In the next swing he “accidently” did everything correct and where to you think his ball ended up?  You guessed it.  On the left side of the driving range.  He sighed.

The average golfer (who by the way will always be average under these circumstances) is unaware of the mechanics or science behind the swing, and so, like salespeople, they are prone to making what I call “symptomatic adjustments” when things go wrong. 

As the ball continually flies off the right on their drive, average golfers begin to aim left (a symptomatic adjustment).  This doesn’t fix the problem, but rather only addresses the symptom – the problem remains a mystery.  Why do they do this?  Because they don’t actually know what they are doing – they are running on instinct and what “feels” natural to them. 

Once an average golfer understands the mechanics of a swing (grip, aim, stance, posture, back swing, impact point and follow through), the science behind what they are doing – then, and only then – can they begin to truly improve their game.

The same holds true in sales.  Without structure, a repeatable process and a strategic way of thinking through business development, sales professionals find themselves “winging it”, relying on their “natural swing”, after all it’s worked for them up until this point.  However, when pressured to improve performance, it is impossible for them to know what adjustments to make, and they are seriously challenged to determine what’s working and what’s not working.  No-one can improve that which is not understood.

So, if you want to improve your golf game go to an expert, learn the science behind what looks obvious, reinforce the learning (and unlearning)  by practicing deliberately (rather than symptomatically) and take full advantage of your coach.  A warning!  You aren’t going to like the way the changes feel and you will be terribly uncomfortable.  Your swing is going to feel completely foreign and your game might deteriorate a bit before it soars to new heights.  You’ll have a choice to make – go back to what feels comfortable and predictable, hoping for the best –  or you can dig in, persevere and take strokes off your game.

This, my friends is what it takes to become great!  On the course, and in the business of selling.

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