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Words of Wisdom from Mike Tyson

2 min read

Mike Tyson was being interviewed before one of his championship fights.  The interviewer spoke at length about how his opponent had developed a very thorough, sophisticated plan to end the champion’s winning streak.  Tyson’s response?

“Everyone has a plan… until they get hit.”

What a great response.  In fact, in that eight-word sentence, Tyson gave all of us in sales a terrific piece of advice.  Or, if not advice, at least a good warning, particularly if we relate to those words to our sales calls.

We can’t stress this enough – pre-call planning is critical for success in sales, and skipping it can be like trying to fly a plane without any pilot training.  With a small investment of your time, you can analyze your objectives, obstacles, points of reference and other key information and come up with a winning agenda for your call.

But unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, and things don’t always go the way we would like them to.  As well thought-out as your call may be, unexpected changes can happen at any time. A service issue occurred.  There’s been a change in the organization.  The budget was cut.  An objection is raised.  An unexpected guest comes to the meeting with a question or two.    Regardless of what it is, if we can paraphrase Mr. Tyson again, you just got hit. And no amount of preparation can prevent that.

Here’s an example we heard from a client a few years back:

A team was buttoned up and ready for their Finals Presentation, their finely crafted PowerPoint presentation waiting in the wings.  They had rehearsed a few times prior and were locked and loaded.  But all that came crashing down when, during the introductions, they learned that what they planned to discuss was of little, if any, interest to the client.  It became all too clear that their presentation was far off-base.  They got hit.

So what should you do when you get hit?

  1. Quickly regroup and put whatever you had planned to discuss on the back burner
  2. Ask a few questions to clarify what the client wants to do…and go in that direction

If the diversion comes from someone besides your primary contact, ask your primary contact how he or she would like to proceed. But no matter what, do what they want to do.

A basic tenet of consultative selling is that the sales call is the client’s meeting.  You are there to address their needs, focus on their agenda, and help them accomplish their objectives.  Of course, you have an agenda as well, but that should not come into play until the client’s agenda has been satisfied.

Naturally, there are exceptions to all of this, and sometimes you need to explain why it is in their best interest to stay with the original agenda.  Strategic advisors do that when necessary.  But as a general rule of thumb, if things change, go with the flow.  Do what they want.  Your turn will come later.

We all get hit every now and again – even when we have a great plan.  When we do, we need to adjust, be flexible and make the meeting as productive as possible.  That leads to better relationships and eventually more success.  Even Mike Tyson knew that!

How do you regroup when you get hit? Tell us your best tips!


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