- Posted by Graham Dockrill
- On July 26, 2018
- 0 Comments
- boxing, coach, joe parker, lessons, mentor, networking, sales, strategy, success, tips
I recently had the privilege of meeting boxer Joseph (Joe) Parker. During our time together, we discussed his upcoming bouts and ambitions. What surprised me were the parallels between his discipline and mine, and what constitutes success.
By way of background, Joe was born in 1992 and is a New Zealand professional boxer. Joe held the WBO heavyweight title from 2016 to 2018. Previously he held multiple regional heavyweight championships including the WBO Oriental, Africa, and Oceania titles, as well as the PABA, OPBF, and New Zealand titles. As an amateur he represented New Zealand at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the super-heavyweight division, and narrowly missed qualification for the 2012 Olympics.
Joe turned professional in July 2012, defeating Andy Ruiz for the WBO title. In doing so he became the first heavyweight boxer from either New Zealand or the Pacific Islands to win a major world championship. As of March 2018, he is ranked as the world’s third best active heavyweight by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
So, what did a world heavyweight boxing champion teach me about business? I asked Joe what constitutes success to him and how he became a professional boxer. Below are some of the lessons I learnt.
- There’s no such thing as a ‘pretty good’ alligator wrestler
There’s a saying: “There’s no such thing as a ‘pretty good’ alligator wrestler”. In business, as in boxing, if you’re over-confident in the arena, at best you’ll get beaten up, at worst you will get killed and eaten by the alligator. While the sales arena won’t get you killed, over-confidence and arrogance will lose the deal. We all have a touch of delusion, when that goes beyond normal thresholds things get problematic. Know your strengths and your limitations.
- Understand the key pillars of success
Emotionally, ‘sales’ is one of the most gruelling professions. There are the extreme highs of success and lows of failure to work through. To my mind, only the professional athlete exceeds the trauma and pressure of a high performing salesperson. Of course, air traffic controllers, doctors and firemen all experience pressure and if they get it wrong people die. While nobody dies (hopefully!) on his or her sales cycle, a good salesperson’s conversion rate for cold calls are about 2%, compared to 20% for solid leads and 50% for referrals.
To put that into perspective, for every 100 cold calls a salesperson makes, 98 will reject them. Some of those 98 will passionately reject you, most won’t even bother with a response, and some will be rude. If those statistics applied to a professional tennis player, losing 98 matches out of 100, they wouldn’t be professional by the end of their first season. Selling is a tough mental game!
To be successful in sales you need to understand the four pillars of any endeavour:
- Happiness: being content in life – you need to enjoy selling.
- Achievement: achieving goals that compare favourably against those others have strived for.
- Significance: having a positive impact on people you care about.
- Legacy: establishing your values in a way that helps others find future success.
Happiness = enjoying
Achievement = winning
Significance = counting (to others)
Legacy = extending
Joe began training at a local boxing gym at a young age. He worked with a coach to learn the fundamentals and hone his skills.
In sales you need a coach or mentor too. There are skills and techniques to learn. I share these skills with my clients, and touch on them in my recent blog post Sales Prospecting: how to pan for gold
- Spar with amateurs
Joe didn’t start at the top, he participated in amateur tournaments. Boxers are matched up with fighters in their age and weight class.
To become a top sales-person you need to engage with and learn from other sales people. When you do lose a deal, learn from the opposition. What did they do to out-manoeuvre you and ‘beat you in the ring’?
In sales, like boxing, you need to continually ‘train’. To be successful, you must be fully engaged with your customer and constantly reaffirm their trust in you and your offering. Boxers are in top notch physical condition and maintain a rigorous training regimen. To face your competitors, you must be well informed, maintain the highest ethical standards and show professionalism.
- Assemble a team of professionals
While a boxer can opt to represent themselves, they typically surround themselves with a team of professionals. Most important are manager and promoter. Ultimately, success in the ring is a combination of skill and discipline and having a good manager and promoter.
In sales, you need the support of a team around you that can deliver domain knowledge and answer specific questions, whilst providing strong leadership. You don’t always need to know all the answers. My clients, such as www.insuredhq.com, offer very specific software solutions to their customers. I work closely with the senior leadership team to ultimately win the deals and throw a knockout punch to competitors.
- Never quit
Joe doesn’t win every fight – but he almost does! He’s had 25 professional fights and he’s won 18 by knock out and 6 by decision. One of the greatest lessons I learnt from Parker was be humble in your wins and be gracious in your defeats.
In sales you can easily become cocky and arrogant in your successes. This will ultimately be exposed as a weakness by your competitors and exploited. When you do lose a deal (and you will) learn from it and adjust for the next one. Never quit. It takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer. As the old saying goes “quitters never win, and winners never quit”.
- It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Parker is an excellent communicator and while only 26, a superb networker. Joe continually made a point of remembering (and addressing) people by their names. While an incredibly simple technique, you instantly felt part of “Team Parker”. It’s a skill that is over-looked in sales. A name is the most fundamental identity of any individual. By remembering names, you ensure that you establish a bond with the people you meet. They will remember your name because you remembered theirs. Networking is all about synergies. What better way to start than by remembering the names of the people you meet?
Don’t underestimate the contacts you already have. This contact base is vastly experienced! They are sure to have a diverse and lengthy list of contacts. Tap into this network by talking to them about your interests, skills and the kind of work you are looking for. You might not get a sales lead directly from them, yet they will be able to spread the word when an opportunity presents itself.
Don’t be overcome by shyness or the fear of rejection. Feeling shy is natural, but you can still network. Introverts are usually genuinely interested in people. That can be your biggest asset as an introvert. All you need to do is to stop waiting for people to approach you. Approach them instead and start a conversation. Make people feel important by listening to them. People enjoy being listened to!
Networking is about listening more than speaking. As for rejection, this is a natural fear to have. After all, you will not find everyone receptive to your initiative. Neither will every person want to connect. However, the number of people who will connect will usually outnumber those who do not. Take things in your stride and forge ahead confidently. Remember that networking is not a one-time activity. It is an ongoing process.
Networking is about collaborating with others. That means looking out for them as you would like them to look out for you. As the old proverb says, “help someone else’s boat reach the shore and you will find that your own boat will also reach the shore.”
My last point is incredibly important. Don’t leave getting in touch with people until you need them. There are some people in my network that unfortunately only contact me when they want something. Ensure that you keep the relationship alive. Establish the relationship, then e-mail them something that might interest them or share your latest blog post. Continually find reasons to stay engaged and keep them interested.
What a pleasure it was to meet the mighty Joe Parker. I never realised how much I had in common with a heavyweight boxing champion. Maybe one day he’ll ask me for lessons in business, but for now, I’m happy to sit ring-side and cheer him on.
Graham Dockrill is an expert ‘sniper salesman’ specialising in the alignment of strategy and sales. He draws on over 20 years of selling experience in various global markets to develop strategies that deliver results and achieve success for his clients. A sought-after business strategist, investor and entrepreneur, Graham is Adjunct Associate Professor and Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship. Graham is also the founder of Citrus Tree Consultants.