The late, great Arthur Ashe, for whom the Stadium Court at Flushing Meadows Tennis Complex in New York City is named, was not only a great pioneer in the sport, but was also known for his intellect and ability to teach in both words and examples.
I attended a tennis clinic one time where he was a guest speaker and remember him saying, "The single most important difference between the professional money players and the really good amateur players is "speed to execution"-the professionals are one critical second faster in their decision-making than the best amateurs. The best amateur players are one second faster than the averageplayers and so on and so forth. A mere one second in decision-making makes all the differencebetween a world-class player and a good club player. He gave example after example of this in teaching how to set up strategy for hitting baseline shots, volleys or overheads. When you think about this "speed to execution," it seems to apply in other places as well.
I was driving down the street recently on a beautiful clear, cool day and observed all the squirrels jumping from tree limb to tree limb; many were scampering across the street and up into trees. Occasionally I noticed along the road an indecisive, uncommitted, slow squirrel, which can be best described as a "Flat Squirrel!" What could have happened had that squirrel been faster in its speed to execution, a little quicker in reaction time or more committed to its plan? There is a good chance he would not be flat.
The sales world has "flat squirrels," salespeople who are uncommitted, unwilling to strategize, slow in reacting and indecisive. You may be familiar with some of them; they may work around you in your company. "Flat Squirrel" salespeople show signs of the following:
- Not willing to commit 65-70% of their time each week to prospecting, presenting, and engaging in sales activities.
- Spend more time dreaming about their next career, than strategizing on making their current career a success.
- Blame lack of results on outside influences or luck of their competitors.
- Self-destruct their own product and income by using price as their selling point instead of creating their real competitive advantages.
- Tend to wait on others to initiate the motivation for them to achieve, rather than implement a self-initiated and self-administered plan.
Pay close attention to the world around you-avoid the self-limiting habits that lead to the "Flat Squirrel Syndrome" for salespeople. Remember: all the worrying, scripting and planning in the world will be worth absolutely nothing without any decisive action behind it. Be that one-second quicker in making your decisions and taking action, and you'll find that your competitors will be flattened in your rear-view mirror.
Illustration by Rob Green