Yesterday I said salespeople who golf make 17% more money than the salespeople who don’t. Salespeople who golf with clients make more money than those who don’t. It’s true because I did it with many clients. But first I had to learn how to make the most of our time together. That means not asking the VP Client who was my guest a Big Time Business Question on the second hole! Listen for the nongolfers reading this, you are with someone for 5 hours, golf and a bite afterward. The conversation runs from the NBA finals to kids graduating and everything in-between but NO BUSINESS! You are getting to know each other, build trust and friendship. I was a young salesperson when I made the above over eager mistake and was put in my place. The 17% was in a Forbes or HBR story but I personally believe it could be more. One last thing, do not take it too seriously life is too short for that. Explain to your client that we are to have fun and a BIPSIC is ok. Translation if you are having a bad hole and we all do, it is ok to have a BIPSIC Ball In Pocket Sitting In Cart! Now go and have some fun out there. #radiosalespeople #salespeoplewhogolf #radioresults #salesfundamentalsca
It established a relationship that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
What kind of an advantage does being able to play golf provide in the business world? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Answer by Stan Hanks, building “the Internet” since 1981, now building web-scale companies, on Quora:
Years and years ago, I thought that golf for business reasons was completely ridiculous. I played golf “for keeps.” I had a 3 handicap that I was defending. All this screwing around with drinking and chatting and stuff put me off my game. Eff that. Anyway, life happened, and I stopped playing enough to compete at that level, and typically only took my clubs to the driving range when I needed to think hard about something, not really playing much at all.
Then, sometime in my 30s, after I hired my first VP of Sales for my consulting and staff augmentation company and he was just killing it in terms of bringing in new business, he asked me over lunch, “Is there any chance you’d be willing to learn to play golf?”
I broke out laughing, assured him that “learning” wasn’t an issue, and asked why. He said “I’ve got a huge contract on the line, and the client wants to play golf to discuss it.”
Crap. I’m stuck. I explained my previous stance, that I wasn’t sure how the experience would be for me, and he assured me that it was all good, as long as I could actually play. So, he set the date.
A week or so later, I’m sweating my way through 18 holes on the Pecan course at the Sweetwater Country Club with a VP from a Fortune 50 company, one of his technical leads, and my VP of Sales. It was an interesting experience — a huge learning experience for me. Pat, my VP of Sales, did this all the time. He managed the conversation in many ways, going from what do you think about brand X balls to how ’bout them Astros to why building a SAN in-house was a better solution given the parallel I/O requirements of the supercomputer cluster that the company was using.
It kept things casual, but made room for getting in key points. It also gave us all a chance to meet in a no-ties, no-press-of-business environment. We literally got nearly four hours, un-interrupted, together. And then on to happy hour afterwards for another couple of hours.
Nothing “happened” that day. No contracts were signed, no deals were made. But it was significant in a very large number of ways. The VP got to see me in action, got to hear me think on my feet (which frankly is my strongest suit), got to see me deal with frustration and things not exactly going my way. I got to spend time with him and see what he valued and prioritized, whether he was a “go for it” guy, or a “let’s keep this in the fairway” guy — which is really important to know, when you’re pitching a deal.
Most important, I got nearly six hours of his time, without interruptions, on one day. That’s … that’s frigging GOLD. It doesn’t get any better than that. I couldn’t have done that in a dozen meetings spread out over a couple of months. It established a relationship that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and economically, created a couple of million of dollars worth of business, because I was now a “known quantity.”
Completely changed my opinion on the matter.
My experience at Enron Broadband amplified that. My VP of Sales there made a huge point of letting me know that doing multi-tens-of-millions of dollars’ worth of deals meant not just face-time on the golf course, but actual entertaining. So, we didn’t just rip over to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (which is admittedly pretty entertaining) but we were sending corporate jets to pick people up to play at Pebble Beach and Shoal Creek and Pacific Dunes (admittedly much closer to home). For all the same reasons previously noted, but also to get their attention. “Hey, how about we discuss this over golf” doesn’t sound quite as drop-what-you’re-doing-and-go as “Hey, how about we discuss this over golf AT PEBBLE BEACH?” When the stakes are higher, you up the ante.
So, when someone in my BD or sales organizations asks about playing, I have no problem with it. Sometimes, I even look forward to it.
Do note, this only applies if you’re in a world where playing golf is valued. In the past, that was true for most businesses. These days, your mileage will vary. It’s not something that you can count relevant to modern C-level execs. In some industries, it’s still normative. In others, it’s as obsolete as buggy whip polish.
But the principle is still the same: what can you do to get non-business-setting face time with the decision makers, in a way that lets all parties really get to know each other, without interruption? In tech, particularly in startup-land, I’d get more traction asking if someone wanted to play this insane new mod I built for Minecraft, or team on League of Legends, or participate in a weekend of go-kart racing, or have an epic paintball battle, or…