Hands-On Beats All Else

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In the National Hockey League, there’s a saying: “You can’t ride the boards to glory.” In other words, you’ll never win the Hart Trophy–recognition for being the League’s most valuable player–with your fanny glued to the bench.

For sales–as with everything else in life–there is no substitute for hands-on experience, day in and day out. If you’re in the majors, you can bat a thousand in the batting cage, but there is no replacement for going up against an ace reliever with a nasty change-up while 40,000 riveted fans in the stands hold their breath.

When I was 19, I played for Minnesota in the NCAA golf championships at Purdue, confident I would be the next Ben Hogan. Competitors from the South like Don January and ken Venturi banished my dreams to the rough forever.

My mother sat me down and explained the facts of life: “Harvey, you started playing golf at age 7. That’s probably the same age as these other guys. But weather makes it impossible for you to practice much of the year. So you’ve been playing 6 months for 12 years. They’ve been playing 12 months for 12 years. And 72 months of live experience will never beat 144 months. You better find another dream.”

Same goes for sales. Hawking lemonade and Girls Scout cookies can teach you a lot about rejection and renewal while your sales bones are still growing and resilient. Get in the ring early…and often.

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