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Find Your Foothold Amid the Icy Patches in Sales

Traction is a key element in any business. Even the business of football, but especially so in sales.
By John Foust

Traction is a key element in any business. Even the business of football.

Pro football fans often recall the 1967 National Football League championship game, when the Green Bay Packers hosted the Dallas Cowboys. This was the famed “Ice Bowl,” in which the temperature was minus two degrees (F) at kickoff, and the winner advanced to play the American Football League’s Oakland Raiders in the second Super Bowl.

Before the season, Packers coach Vince Lombardi purchased an underground electric grid system to keep the field from freezing. On the day of the game, the system failed and the field was frozen solid. It was so cold announcer Frank Gifford, standing in an open booth, said, “I think I’ll take another bite of my coffee.”

In the final minute of the game, Dallas led, 17-14. The Packers faced third and goal on the Cowboys’ 1-yard line with 16 seconds remaining. Lombardi called for quarterback Bart Starr to give the ball to fullback Chuck Mercein. However, Starr – not wanting to risk a botched handoff – decided to run the ball himself without telling anyone in the huddle.

Before the snap, guard Jerry Kramer couldn’t believe his good fortune in finding a soft patch of turf at the line of scrimmage. It was a foothold. The rest is history. Kramer made the block, Starr scored and Green Bay won. The next week, the Packers trounced the Raiders, 33-14 to win a second-consecutive Super Bowl.

It all started with Kramer’s foothold. So what does this story have to do with sales?

There’s a lot of icy footing in sales. The first step in getting traction is to find the soft spot. The best traction you can find is self-interest. Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said, “Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.” Being completely sincere in this interest is key.

Here are some foothold areas for sales presentations:

1. Advance research: Do your homework on the company and show your work. Learn as much as you can before your first meeting. Study the company’s website or if possible, visit a store.

2. In-house research: In your initial appointment, ask questions. Lots of them. Get facts and opinions. What is the company’s marketing history? What kinds of ad campaigns have worked in the past? What hasn’t worked? What are their marketing goals?

3. Previous communication: Prior conversations or an email dialogue with your prospect are good starting points. If you’ve promised specific information to the meeting that’s good, too.

4. Common interests: This can be a good rapport-building foothold, as long as you follow two rules. Keep it brief, and don’t let it become political.

Perhaps you grew up in the same geographic area, or have similar hobbies? Or maybe you simply share an interest in football.

(c) Copyright 2013 by John Foust.

John Foust conducts training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Email to john@johnfoust.com for more information.
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