Questions: The Answer to Sales

Why can’t I compete anymore?

Mitch’s drive off the second tee was pretty good, a slight fade landing nicely in the fairway. Harry wondered when Mitch would get around to telling him the real reason why they were on the course this morning.

The call had come a week before, Mitch phoning out of the blue to invite Harry to play a round of golf. “I have an ulterior motive,” Mitch had said. “I want to talk to you about a career issue I’ve got.”

Though they spoke on the phone from time to time, they hadn’t seen each other for almost four years. Now Mitch had something on his mind. But what? The conversation so far had been limited to catching up on wives, kids and current events. Mitch was fun to be with, as always—outgoing, upbeat, confident. But now the cheerfulness felt a little forced, and the confidence seemed brittle, as if it would shatter if he weren’t careful. That was new. So were the worry lines around his eyes.

You’ve been under some stress, buddy, Harry thought. Why don’t you tell me what this is about?

Harry’s drive was a good 20 yards beyond Mitch’s. As they began to walk up the fairway, Mitch finally came to the point.

“Bet you’re wondering about the career problem I mentioned,” he said.

“That bet you might win,” Harry said, hinting that Mitch wouldn’t win their golf bet after his double bogey on the first hole. “What’s up?”

“I’m losing it. I can’t sell anymore.”

The mask of cheerfulness dissolved altogether as Mitch trudged across the grass, suddenly oblivious to the beautifully conditioned golf course and the clear, sunny morning. “I’m losing it, Harry,” he said. “I can’t sell anymore.”

“Ah,” Harry said when it became clear that Mitch was waiting for a response. “I get it. So you’re training to go on the Champion’s Tour.”

“I’m serious,” Mitch said. “Ever since you showed me the ropes back at Walco, when I started out, I’ve been a top salesperson – number one at three different companies. Or, rather, I was for, what, 12 years? But about two years ago, I started to slip. Lately it’s gotten worse – a lot worse. And I don’t know why! I’m good, Harry, you know I am. But now it ain’t working. I’m only 40 years old! I’m too young to be losing my grip.”

They reached their balls, dropped their bags, selected clubs, hit their next shots, and moved on. The conversation continued as they played, with breaks dictated by the requirements of a game that was no longer either man’s main concern.

“The most important things I ever learned about selling, I learned from you.”

“Harry, you’re the best salesperson I ever knew,” Mitch resumed. “You were my mentor and my role model. The most important things I ever learned about selling, I learned from you. You helped me become successful. And you’re still at the top of your game. I did some checking, and I know you’re a sales star at your new company. I want to ask you to help me figure out why I’m sliding…”

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling.  He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations.  Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).