Michael Jordan, “His Airness,” is a 6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA Finals MVP, 14x NBA All-Star, and 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, and this is only a sample amongst a surfeit of many other star-studded achievements throughout his career. He is unanimously the greatest to have played the game of basketball, and arguably the greatest professional athlete ever.
Although his name, his Jumpman brand and his likeness helped sell $2.25 billion worth of Nike shoes in a single year, it’s highly unlikely he possesses the same prowess in the field of sales as he did on a basketball court. Nonetheless, there is a lot we can learn from Jordan’s commitment to excellence in trying to close our own deals.
Here is a look at three key traits Jordan lived and worked by that demonstrated how to close a deal.
1. Winning Doesn’t Happen by Accident
In many ways selling is winning, and in this fast-paced highly competitive market, there is a very fine line between being the hero (Jordan Game 6 1998) and coming up short. It’s important to prepare, preparesome more, and always be prepared. Know your differentiators inside and out, know your customer’s pain points, use cases, and understand what it is they are trying to solve, not what they are interested in buying. But success doesn’t stop there.
People were awed by what Jordan did on the court, but few consider the hours he put in off the court. He was consistently pushing himself to be better and improve any weaknesses he may have in his game. At the start of his career, Jordan wasn’t known for defense. By the end of his career he was a 9x All NBA Defensive First Team. Don’t be content with being good at what you’re good at, find ways to improve and bolster weak spots.
2. Refuse to Lose
As Chicago Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf put it, “The thing that separated [MJ] from all the other athletes I’ve ever seen was his desire to win.” Reisdorf constantly compares Jordan to legendary boxer, Raging Bull Ray LaMotta, who was never knocked down in his entire career. Winning isn’t just a result, it’s an attitude.
In sales, one of the oldest platitudes is “Don’t take no for an answer.” Live by it. Despite your product or your pitch, at some point in a deal you’ll face adversity whether it be competitors, approvals, or buyer objections. The art of sales is inherently associated with objection and rejection, but most can be overcome by perseverance, building a sense of credibility, trust, and re-framing the way your buyer sees what you’re selling. Solidifying yourself to those characteristics can play a major role on how to close a deal.
3. Many Are Greater Than One
Although it’s the individual sales rep that is tasked with hitting quota, selling isn’t an individual effort, nor should it be approached by one. What made Jordan a special was he had the rare ability to make others around him significantly better. He understood what it took to get the most out of those around him. Doing the same within your sales department and company altogether by utilizing the resources around you is a terrific approach to closing a deal.
In Game 6 of the 1997 Finals, coming off arguably the most notorious game of his career in which Jordan scored 38 with the flu, Michael passed up the final shot of the game to teammate Steve Kerr who buried it, clinching another championship for the Bulls. Why pass when you’re the best player in the world? Because Jordan knew everyone was expecting him to shoot and Kerr would be wide open, and that is exactly what the Bulls needed to win.
In your deals, understand what resources you have at your disposal, from executives to marketing assets to internal champions within your prospect company, and make the most of them. You never know what might tilt the deal in your favor, so don’t leave any stone unturned. Follow these key traits, and you’ll be on your way to closing more sales deals.