let me say before I start, these are two of my biggest heroes of all time, if not the two biggest heroes of all time. Tiger Woods, the worlds greatest golfer, and Steve Jobs, the worlds greatest Tech guru. Tiger Woods for being the single greatest exponent of a game I have tried to get to grips with over the years, and that still gives me loads of pleasure, yet continues to frustrate! And Steve Jobs for brining us, singly handedly the legend would have it, the IPod, the IPhone, the IPad, the Mac etc.

But, in my opinion, they are also among the greatest sales people I have ever seen, and we as sales people can learn an awful lot from them and from just observing them from afar.

There is so much stuff written about these guys, and I am not going to try to compete with that here. Steve Jobs’ very sad passing will particularly and quite rightly dominate the news agenda for days to come I’ve no doubt. Plus I have a sneaking suspicion a certain Mr. Woods will be on the back pages again this week, for doing what he does best at the Frys.com Open in America, rather than continue to appear on the gossip pages with various lurid and sensational stories.

Rather, I’d like to talk about the stuff we can learn from them as consummate sales people. The stuff that every one of us can access, whether we have a talent for golf or not, or a talent for tech or not.

Lesson one: BE FAMOUS FOR SOMETHING (and preferable one thing) Both these guys are brands first and foremost. let’s be clear. I don’t mean the corporate brands of Apple and Nike that they represent, I mean the personal brands they have created through their talent, and granted, all that media exposure. Both Tiger and Steve STAND for something, and pretty much everyone in the world it seems, knows what that is. There is no doubting Tiger is the ‘Greatest Golfer in the World’. Sure, his personal brand has taken a battering over the last two years, but that in itself maybe highlights the extent to which this brand had been built. Steve Jobs on the other hand is without doubt ‘Mr. Technology’. Like Tiger, there are many other elements to Mr. Jobs brand, which depending on your perspective either add to or take away from the personal power that we are talking about. Do you think, if Steve Jobs or Tiger Woods rang you for an appointment, that you would put them off?

Lesson Two: BE REALLY GOOD AT WHAT YOU. I mean REALLY good! Selling is a craft, an art even. Practice it. Study it. Get better at it! There is no substitute for experience here. The best sales training you can get, is face to face with your clients, asking them to buy from you. You’ll learn more by paying attention to what the market is telling you, than you ever will from any sales book or sales trainer. And this training is free. The more sales calls you make, the better you get.

Lesson Three: Work Smarter AND Harder. Tiger Woods, even today, 71 PGA tour titles and 14 major championships later, the most recognisable sports person on the planet, and at one time the highest paid athlete in the world, in fact the world’s first dollar billionaire sports person, still practices all day, every day. Golf is his PROFESSION. Is Selling yours? Do you think Steve Jobs pulled Apple from the brink to become the largest and most valuable company in the world by working a 40 hour week? How many iterations were there do you think, of the IPhone? Or IPad? Before they get to market? All Apple devices have certainly changed and improved since they were all launched, but that’s just the end of the process – imagine how long it takes to perfect them before they are launched?

Lesson Four: You set the agenda, you create the environment in which you sell. Take a look at a Tiger Woods press conference, or a Steve Jobs product launch. Firstly the ultimate in terms of professionalism. You won’t hear or see anything that varies from the ‘message’ whatever that maybe. Secondly, and Tiger is famous for this, there are no surprises in even the questions that are asked. Everything is pre vetted and agreed. In both cases, the press and other guests that are invited are ‘friendly’ to the ‘brands’ in question, and so can be relied upon to give a positive spin to what they report and share. It’s unlikely we can go this far! But we can certainly make sure that nothing in our presentation material is ‘off message’. And when it comes to questions, there should be no surprises. You’ll know what the clients will ask. They all ask the same questions at the same point as every other client does. Prepare your answers. Don’t let yourself be surprised. On the ‘off chance’ there is a weakness in your presentation, rehearse your ‘come back’ before getting in their to make your presentation. And finally…

Lesson Five: Don’t give up. EVER. Apple famously, has risen from the ashes to be the biggest and most valuable company in the world. At one time, they were (and still are in some circles) derided as a fanciful, limited, closed minded company. Style over substance. Microsoft, for so long the arch ‘enemy’ was always cited for the scale they had achieved and success they had. But Apple never varied its approach. Style AND substance. Beautiful machines THAT JUST WORK was always the mantra, and now has shown to pay off in spades. At least twice Apple have created market sectors from nothing, simply by making devices so damn cool, everyone wanted one. And we are seeing this currently with Tiger. He has changed his swing for the third time. As a young man, he won the US Open by a record margin with a swing that many experts described as simply the best swing they had ever seen. He changed it and got better. There followed a period of domination of his sport that the world had never seen, nor most people think, will ever see again. The so-called ‘Tiger Slam’ when he held all four major golf championship at the same time. He changed the swing again. And so it goes. I, for one, would not bet against him once again rising to the top of the heap, and dominating golf as he once did

I started by saying I was worrying about Tiger, worrying that he would ever regain the place in the world’s estimation that he once held. Thinking that this weekends tournament, which will be his first competitive golf for months, would either be the first step on his road to redemption, or another false dawn, once again dashing my hopes of ever seeing my sporting hero break the record of major championships that has for so long driven him to succeed.

And then Steve Jobs died. And life is brought into sharp focus. Steve was arguably the most powerful business man in the world, and it was all for nothing in the end, all his talent and well deserved fortune couldn’t save him from the most cruel of fates.

But at least we can learn from these guys, and revel in the legacy of brilliant, brilliant people, and perhaps try to emulate them in whatever small way we can.

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