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Love and Basketball

“Whether you are a sports fan or not, anyone can respect “the greatest scorer of all time”. In the sport of professional basketball, that honor does not go to Michael Jordan.  It doesn’t go to Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Dr. J or even Kobe Bryant. Though all tremendous players, that honor goes to one Kareem Abdul Jabbaar. Over the course of his 20 year career, he scored a total of 38,387 points – making him “the greatest scorer” the sport has seen thus far.

How on earth did he score all of those points? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. His primary focus was…well…scoring. He didn’t call plays. He didn’t dribble the ball up the court. He didn’t try any fancy maneuvering in between defenders. For the most part, he found a good position on the court that gave him his best opportunity to score. And he waited for someone to get the ball into his hands. Once they did, he lifted up and took a particular shot that he had perfected. Sometimes it would miss, but most times it went in. Someone else was responsible for calling the play, dribbling the ball up the court, maneuvering through the defender, and getting the ball to him. Once he got it, he scored. That was the plan. Worked like a charm.

Imagine how odd it would have looked to see Kareem Abdul Jabbaar, standing at over 7 feet tall, trying to dribble the ball up the court, maneuver in between defenders, and then score. Sure he could have tried, but he probably wouldn’t have been very good at the first two. Due to his height and coordination, dribbling the ball up the court would have been very awkward for him. And since all of the other players were shorter and faster, trying to maneuver between defenders would have been difficult also. He would have likely discovered that trying to do everything himself would not have worked as well. Plus, he would have burned out much quicker and might not have lasted 20 years. It was best to choose a single area, focus on it, and perfect it. Scoring was the best one to focus on.

Your business can probably learn a lot from Kareem. Here’s how:

If you have the type of business that relies on outside sales representatives to bring in new client orders, you should think of Kareem Abdul Jabbaar. Your sales rep should focus his attention on one thing and one thing only – scoring (aka closing sales). That’s it. He shouldn’t be trying to bring the ball up the court (aka searching/generating new leads) nor should he be trying to maneuver in between defenders (aka qualifying the lead to determine their interest/need/problem). Sure he could try, but as Kareem has so eloquently showed us, trying to do everything yourself is not the most effective way to go. A true salesman might not even be as good at these other two areas. In fact, he might not even LIKE these other areas. A true salesman wants to spend as much of his time closing. Because the more he closes, the more money he makes. And the more “hats” he is forced to wear, the less time he is able to devote to closing. The more “”hats”” he is forced to wear, the faster he is likely burn out. Just as Kareem would have.

Your point guard (aka marketing department) should be responsible for generating leads, qualifying them, and passing them over to Kareem (your sales guy).  Whether it’s through advertising efforts, public relations efforts, search engine marketing, direct marketing, social media, or perhaps some combination of all the above – your marketing department is responsible for calling the plays, dribbling the ball up the court, maneuvering in between the defenders, and then “passing” the ball over to Kareem (your sales organization) who then takes the shot and scores. If sales and marketing function as a team with clearly defined roles, your organization will reap the benefits just as many of Kareem’s teams won championships. However, if one or the other tries to do all the work themselves, your organization will likely suffer the same fate as every sports team with a superstar that tried to “do it all themselves”. None of them have ever won anything. Ever.

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