I played tennis when I was a kid. I liked it a lot. I preferred one-on-one sports to team stuff. I don’t play now, but I watch the big stars playing, mostly because my wife loves those guys.
I once wrote about the importance of statistics in baseball, with a view to applying that way to sales. Metrics have now become one of the hottest topics in selling. Tennis is a sport wrapped up in stats too. One number that has always interested me describes the importance of the first serve in the game.
I read that Novak Djokovic wins 87% of his service games (where he serves first against his opponent.) So, if you want to beat him you had better be prepared to break his serve. The thing is, advanced players can do lots of sneaky stuff with that first serve, and their opponent usually doesn’t know what’s coming. The opponent must take a defensive position. A good first serve can determine the positional and strategic flow of the game – in favor of the player who made it.
Some lessons apply here for salespeople, whether they play tennis or not. Here are a couple of researched stats from Insidesales.com.
1. If you follow up on web leads within 5 minutes, you’re 5 times more likely to convert them (to business) than those salespeople taking longer.
2. 50% of sales go to the first salesperson to contact the prospect.
They only confirm what seasoned salespeople have known all along. The earlier you get into the customer’s buying cycle the better chance you have of winning the sale.
The reasons parallel the benefits of the first serve in tennis. You set the stage for the sale when you talk to the customer first. You tell your story the way you want it framed. If you are not there to do it, your competitor will be – and you can bet his version won’t be framed the same way as yours!
If you are “first in” you set up your position the way you want it, you control the start of the sales cycle, and if you are smart, you prepare the customer for the events that are coming later. You have a chance to lay down a winning strategy. Your competitors will be forced on the defensive.