The Will to Prepare to Win

Vince Lombardi, Hall of Fame coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said, “Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.” Think about that for a moment. Everyone wants to win, whether it’s sports, business or life in general. When we compete on the athletic field we want to win the game. In business perhaps it’s winning a new client. In life “winning” can be defined in many different ways but each of us has our own thoughts about what will bring us some measure of happiness and security. Each of these could be defined as “winning” in their own ways.

For any of you who follow sports I’m sure this makes complete sense. We know nobody becomes an Olympic champion without countless hours of hard work and practice. That’s the will to prepare to win. We know nobody becomes a professional athlete without a tremendous amount of dedicated work and preparation. Again, the will to prepare to win. However, when it comes to business quite often people start to view things differently. Based nearly 25 years in the business world, most of that time as a sales trainer and sales coach, I can confidently tell you business people don’t appreciate preparation in the same way athletes do. For salespeople preparation might be role playing to sharpen current skills and learn new ones in a safe environment. It’s necessary work in order to be successful and is just as essential for salespeople as practice is for athletes.Too often people think they’re good salespeople because they have “the gift of gab” or because they know how to think on their feet. Those traits are certainly helpful because being a good conversationalist and being able to think on your feet make you appear confident in your sales presentation. However, there are other things I believe separate good salespeople from great salespeople. I think great salespeople have the will to prepare, so they do things beyond just the moment of the meeting. In the Principles of Persuasion workshops I stress that it’s not what you do in the moment that ends up being persuasive as much as what you do before that moment. It’s the ground work you lay that helps you become a person of influence, a person who’s able to persuade others to your way of thinking. It’s the will to prepare to win.
So what does the will to prepare to win look like in sales? I usually tell people you can’t just determine how successful a salesperson is simply by observing what they do on a sales call. For example, two people could go on a sales call and essentially say and do the same things and yet one person might be consistently more successful. How could that be if their sales calls are virtually identical?What really needs to be analyzed isn’t so much what happened during the sales calls as much as what happened before the sales call. Again, it’s not unlike sports. How someone prepares for the game is what really makes the difference. Being able to hit the winning shot or taking the momentum late in the game is usually due to proper preparation. And so it is in sales. If I’m successful during a sales call maybe it’s because I didn’t just drop by, say hello and then throw out some sales pitch to a prospective client. I think the successful salesperson calls the customer to set up a meeting beforehand. They discuss the agenda then follow up that phone conversation with an email confirming the date, time and agenda. The really smart salesperson will resend that email, or a similar one, the day of the meeting to make sure the meeting is still on and to reinforce the previously agreed upon agenda. When they arrive, after getting past the small talk and rapport building, they get down to business and remind the client of the agenda. Did you catch what happened? In what I just laid out the customer has seen or heard the agenda four times! This results in the customer being mentally ready to engage with the salesperson on the agenda items. The client is thinking about their current state, products, needs, the salesperson, etc.
I contend that the salesperson who consistently follows a process like I’ve outlined stands a much better chance of making the sale. As I noted earlier, the same things could be observed during the sales call where the salesperson walked in – greets the customer, states the agenda and gets down to business – but the big difference is with the customer because they’ve just heard the agenda for the first time and aren’t nearly as ready to engage on the agenda topics as what I laid out in the previous scenario.

Taking time to do what I outlined is an example of the will to prepare to win. Taking the extra time to make sure that those “little” things are happening will help the salesperson consistently follow through and make more sales.
It’s no different than athletics, but as I said earlier, sometimes there is a real disconnect when it comes to business. Whatever your profession or passion, do you have the will to prepare to win? Without it you’ll never attain all that’s possible.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
1 reply
  1. Bob Fenner
    Bob Fenner says:


    This is an excellent post. I am really interested in this disconnect. Practice and preparation seem to get pushed to the side.

    I believe "winning" to someone in sales is often connected with closing a deal. I sometimes see that once they've closed multiple deal over many years, they let experience replace the need to prepare.

    There are plenty of examples of winners or champions who cannot repeat their success. I wonder if they push preparation to the side or do the people who lose have more motivation to prepare to win?




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