Perfecting your sales strategy is like learning the art of boxing: Focus, precision, connection

We all sell something: 

Ideas, methods, technologies, products, services, artistic creations….

We all need people to buy what we sell. This is a basic, unadorned truth. 

Selling our products or services to people is not easy. If you would like to get better at it, or need a fresh vision, this story is for you.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I did it.

I finally made the leap. Today was my fourth session.

I recently started doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: learn the sport of boxing. And now I have a personal trainer—a coach—just for me.

When I got up this morning, and put on my sweat suit, my body was aching. I can feel muscles I’ve never felt before. Yes sir, there they are, being stretched and worked for what seems like the very first time.

We probably all think we know how to box, more or less. So why did I get a coach to help me do something that I could have done on my own? All you have to do put your fists in front of your face and punch into the air. Start swinging, right?

Wrong.

I tried that and something was missing. Preparation. Technique. Commitment.

I wanted to learn how to perfectly connect to my target, I wanted to use my energy efficiently and effectively and build new muscles, to explore new ways of moving my body. And I didn’t want to develop bad habits. So, I hired a coach.

I’ll never forget the third session I had with him. That was the day I got to put on the boxing gloves.

As he held the first glove open for me, I slipped my hand into the soft interior and he wrapped the wide strap around my wrist, fastening it at the top for a perfect fit. I felt like I was entering into the select and exclusive world of professional boxers. I was absolutely titillated by the ritual…though I played it cool in front of my coach.

After I had both gloves on, he then put on the protective pads to cover his open palms and raised his hands to the level of his shoulders, creating two targets to hit. He told me to practice the front jab we’d worked on together. With my gloves raised and positioned at each side of my face I began to deliver punches to the padded hands of my coach.

After a few seconds he stopped me.

“Jenifer,” he said calmly, “you are just swinging at me; you aren’t using any technique. Don’t just swing out into the air. You need to focus.” He gestured to the pads in his hands with a movement of his eyes. “If you don’t center yourself, focus, and try to use the technique we’ve been working on, you will just exhaust yourself and use all of your energy without any results.”

As I listened to his words, I could see what I’d been doing and it almost made me laugh; it seemed like a cartoon animation. I had been trying to hit the target any way possible, just wildly swinging, punching as hard and fast as I could. Now I had to stop, center my attention and try to connect to my target with precision.

I spent the rest of the session drenched in sweat, trying to stay focused as I punched his padded hands using the technique I had been taught.

On my walk home, weaving through the people enjoying the Spring air, I was feeling very alive and alert as usually happens after a physical workout. I was also thinking about what my coach had said.

 Where had I heard those words before?

“Of course,” I thought to myself with a smile. I have used those same words in sessions with my clients—helping them to connect their product to their public.

Helping them to perfect the art of selling.

The message I give goes something like this:

“If you don’t focus your attention on your targeted clients and connect to them with precision, you will exhaust yourself and use your energy without achieving clear results, without meeting your goals.”

This is what a good sales strategy and the sport of boxing have in common: focus, precision, and connection.

Let me explain:

Focus:

In boxing, you must focus at all times on the pads or bag hanging in front of you. If you lose that focus you won’t make contact with your target. You can’t let anything else in the surrounding space distract your attention.

In creating a sales strategy you must focus on your specific public. First you must identify who they are—clearly define the client population that is unique for what you sell. You should not be distracted by everyone else or try to include too many people in your client group. It is important to narrow and fix your gaze.

You must be able to clearly visualize this population of people—identify their gender, age range, where they live, their professions and income range, what languages they speak, what they fear and what they value.

Then you need to keep your focus on them at all times.

Precision:
In boxing, before you can deliver an effective punch, you must understand how to move your body correctly and know what exact points of the bag you’re aiming at.

In creating a sales strategy, before you can connect effectively to potential clients, it is necessary to understand what specific problems you are aiming to solve for this population of people.

You must identify what their unmet needs or desires are, and what exact points you can improve or change for them. When you can clearly define with precision how you will be relevant to and impact the lives of your potential clients, then and only then are you are perfectly positioned to sell something to them.

Connection:

In boxing, when you throw a clean punch with perfect contact to the bag, it makes a unique, unmistakable sound.

In creating a sales strategy, when you use just the right words and images to communicate to your client population, they will identify with you and with what you offer. Unmistakably. They will feel connected to your project or business.

It is essential to construct language that can be easily understood and is meaningful for your potential clients and then take that content to them. Go where they are. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

Identify what means of communication they use and trust, and choose carefully how you can best reach them with the resources and time you have available. If you try to be present in too many places at the same time, you will surely drain your energy and weaken the strength of your connection. Use your time and energy wisely.

When you make a meaningful connection with a potential client, they will want what you are selling, and they’ll buy it.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Once you practice and perfect the skill of focus, precision, and connection, it will work for you time and time again.

When I help my clients to build sales strategies to connect to their clients, I understand that a natural tendency is to come out with their arms swinging. Just like I did in my third boxing session until my coach helped me to focus and taught me to use technique.

Yeah, I’m sore these days. It’s even a little painful to lift my arms to the keyboard right now. But I know I’m learning how to build and use my strength in a new way.

Like boxing, perfecting the art of selling can be learned.

You can put your hands into perfectly fitting gloves, center yourself and deliver a smooth punch, or you can just step out and start swinging wildly into the air.

Me? I’m going to slowly get up from this chair and rub some tiger balm into a few places on my body.

I don’t know why it took me so long to begin to learn boxing. But it really doesn’t matter. The time is now.

  “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t touch what the eyes don’t see.”

 Muhammad Ali – American Boxer

Thank you to my personal trainer in Barcelona, Daniel Benites, for inspiring this story.

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Strategic fortune cookies: A small ritual for 2015

It’s that time again. Are you ready?

It’s time to open The Strategy Blog fortune cookies. If you have done this before, you know how it works. If you are partaking for the first time, welcome; it’s a great moment to pull up a chair and join in.

As every year, there is one fortune cookie waiting just for you. And, as every year, the contents of the cookies are unique and freshly baked for this particular moment.

Inside you will find a message in the form of a brief ritual centered on your business or project —whatever its stage of development. It could be a business of many years or a project that you are in the process of creating.

The small ritual inside each cookie has been especially designed to help you move forward with your project during the course of this year. It will be particularly useful if you are in a moment of feeling stuck, not knowing what your next step should be, or if you simply need a jolt of inspiration to get things flowing in the right direction.

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What problem do you solve?

That is the question.

And, believe me, answering this question is the key to the strength of your project or business.

You can think of this quest as a part of your story, though this chapter won’t be about you. It’s about your clients. The beauty of this story is that it’s being written right now, as you read these words, and soon it will have new and compelling narrative.

My intention is to help you connect to the people that belong to your client population. I know that sometimes this is the most difficult thing to do for any project or business, no matter how excellent the product or service.

Hopefully, after you read this article, something will shift that will help you to make the connection to your potential clients even stronger.

Let’s begin by asking this fundamental question: what problem or need does your client population have that your project or business can help solve?

To be able to answer accurately we first have to do a different kind of thinking.

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The three words for 2014—for the existentialist entrepreneur

The year 2014 is made up of days. 365 uncharted, unfilled, wide-open days.

As entrepreneurs and independent professionals, we have, or definitely should have, concrete goals for this year. Earn more, connect to more clients, become a trusted professional within our networks, help the world understand our project’s vision, etc. But how do we really meet these goals? The real results that can be seen and measured by the end of the year depend on what we do every day. It’s the decisions, planning and actions of every single day that build our success. We can look at ourselves as existentialists—each one of us responsible for giving meaning and life to our own projects.

There is a wonderful freedom in professional independence along with heavy doses of fear, doubt and uncertainty. To be able to build strong and lasting enterprises and to keep our objectives clear we need a toolbox that is constantly replenished with new and useful tools.

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When your talent is on fire, finding the perfect language is your coolest strategy

Outside, Barcelona was in flames.

Inside, the waiters in white mandarin collar jackets fluttered and fussed around me. And that was exactly what I wanted. Air conditioning, a small space to call my own for as long as I needed it, a few professionals paying attention to my every need, a Mediterranean menu and a glass of sparkling water with ice and lemon.

A moment of paradise.

In a city on fire.

Outside, it was hot, very hot; a sun-drenched July day in Barcelona.

A very curious thing happens every summer to the habitants of this city—we enter into a collective amnesia. We forget what summer is like and has always been like. And to express this curious condition we throw ourselves into a type of verbal and emotional ritual. We don’t formally organize any of this, but all of us, at the same time, are truly astounded by the heat. We are incredulous and morally wounded by the blasts of hot air that are projected onto our bodies and penetrate our souls. As if we had never had this experience before. 

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Out of the dark and into the light: the secret of content marketing

At the end of this post you will no longer be afraid of the dark. Or of the bogeyman. Or of marketing — content marketing in particular.

The word marketing makes many of us feel intimidated; it has somehow gotten blown into the status of a looming mythological and demanding god ready to cast down bolts of lightning if we do not pay homage and offerings to its power and greatness.

It is a word that often produces anxiety because most of the time we feel like we are not doing enough. Or know enough. Or are up to date on the latest tricks and trends. Or are fast enough. Or loud enough. Or cool enough.

Marketing, until now, has been the divine terrain of a few creative elite. Not of mere mortals such as you and I.

Marketing is kind of like the bogeyman with Ray-Bans.

But, by the end of this post, that will be different. You will have unclothed the myth and tamed the beast.

Sound good? Well, let’s get going.

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A holiday fortune cookie: What’s cooking for you in 2013

Being a creature of both tradition and innovation, the chef at The Strategy Blog has baked a new batch of fortune cookies to celebrate the closing of 2012 and to start the new year cooking with the most enticing ingredients and a pinch of mystery.

The unique recipe of these fortune cookies is especially blended to be eaten by entrepreneurs, free-lancers, artists, small businesses owners and the decision-makers of organizations. They are also easily digested and nutritious for management of large businesses, members of parliament and agents of change.

Because these cookies are only offered once a year, they are carefully cut and baked to offer the savory flavor of reflection topped with a glaze of creative thinking.

If you are not in the mood for reflection or creative thinking at the moment, perhaps you should wait to open yours when your appetite gives you the signal. The cookies have no expiration date and will stay fresh for as long as you need. Only the most natural, local ingredients are used, and they will be housed safely in the digital shelf of this blog — tightly sealed, toasted and crisp.

But if you do have the appetite and curiosity to unveil the fortune that is waiting especially for you, the chef would first like to help you enjoy these cookies to the maximum by telling you the underlying culinary secret in all of the fortunes offered here: The belief that our projects and businesses are extensions of ourselves — of our talent, skills, emotional landscape, blind spots and desires.

The chef believes that the personal is the professional, and it is difficult to separate the two. And with that in mind, how wonderful it is to observe the way we nourish our projects and how they also nourish us. We are, in fact, inseparable.

So enough chit-chat, let’s get on to the fun part.

If you want to open a fortune cookie, first you should contemplate all of the numbers, then, when you are ready, choose the number that tempts you the most. Click on the number, not on the cookie, to open the fortune.

It’s the one meant just for you.

Read, savor and enjoy.

Thank you for being here, dear reader, with me and The Strategy Blog one more year. You are what inspires me to keep writing.

Happy holidays and happy new year!

Jenifer

(Remember, click on the number, not the cookie.)

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The ancient aroma of cutting-edge business strategy

Umbrellas closed and dripping we hastily ducked into the small waiting room leaving the rain and narrow street behind. Immediately, softly, we were wrapped in the ancient scent of burning incense —the aroma of healing.

One of the most wonderful aspects of my line of work as a freelance strategy consultant is precisely this: the opportunity to intimately know, to see, hear and feel people’s projects with all of my senses. I help people to draw a personalized strategic map and plan of action for their idea, business or organization. That’s why a client and I were standing in the cosy waiting room, swathed in the fragrance of sweet wood on that rainy day.

My client will soon open a small business to offer her health services in Barcelona, and she is doing it by herself as the sole creator, investor and worker. I am helping her to draw the map she will need to be successful. She is excited, afraid and full of desire.

Because this the first time she has embarked on this type of venture, I thought it would be helpful for her to talk to someone who has a business similar enough in size and content to invigorate her ideas, but different enough for that person not to worry about us copying their blueprint.

I knew of just the right business a nearby town. Using my network of contacts, I found a close colleague who personally knew the owner and offered to make a call on my behalf, opening the door for me and my client to have a conversation to learn about his experience. He invited us to come to his shop on a Friday afternoon.

And this is where the story begins.

We were greeted at the door by the owner, let’s call him Julian,

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The hard drive and the brain

The first image is my hard drive. It stopped functioning.

The second image is my brain. It continues to function.

One important difference between what our computers do and what our brains do is that even though our hard drives stop functioning; our brains don’t.

Another difference is that hard drives are made in identical series.

Our brains are wonderfully and remarkably unique.

Yes, that’s right.

But this is just the beginning; it gets better.

Our brains shape who we are.

And it is who we are that leaves its mark on the world and on the people around us.

Not our hard drives.

It is who we are that creates our projects and dares to give them life, dares to fail, and dares to try again.

Not our hard drives.

It is tempting these days to fuse the two together—the brain and the hard drive—to make them into one, to celebrate their similarities, to desire that they function the same way.

Don’t.

You will miss knowing the very nature of your existence:

Your ability to engage in creative thinking, slow thinking, re-thinking.

Your ability to make a mistake, to take a risk, to fall and to stand up again.

Your ability to connect ideas, to perceive needs, to ask questions and listen quietly.

Your ability to grow, to laugh, cry, feel anger, to ask for help, and then learn.

Your ability to have an insight, to see the whole picture, to come to a realization.

Your ability to act, to take a leap of faith, to defy reason, to begin again, to change directions.

Your ability to succeed at doing what you believe in and draw strength from what you value.

What the world needs, more than ever, right now, is who you are—who you decide to be, what you decide to do, what you decide to communicate, and who you decide to communicate it to.

A computer and its hard drive can’t do that.

You and your brain can.

…………………….

Author’s note: the image of the hard drive is from my Macintosh laptop. The image of the brain is from an MRI that I had done because I was very curious.

If you would like to see a few intimate moments of a brain—my brain—in movement, click here or watch the video below.


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Delight in a moment of mystery: Fortune cookies for a strategic 2012

The beginning of a new year is a symbolic time for many people.

In the West, this is a rare occasion when our highly commanding society actually dictates very little. When publicity and advertising and cultural mythology are not telling us what to feel, to want, or to do.

Depending on where we live in the world, as the clock strikes twelve midnight, there are different customs that many of us follow, but the deeper meaning of this moment is up to every individual to define or embrace for themselves.

In my adopted region of Catalonia, populated by large clock towers throughout every town and village, we eat a grape with each dong of the midnight hour. Hastily shoving one grape per second into our smiling open mouths under our laughing eyes, and secretly wondering, every year, if we will choke upon reaching the twelfth grape, the ritual thereby becoming our farewell to the world instead of our entry into a new year. At the end, we don’t choke, we never do, though the risk is exciting and palpable.

So we enter the new year, alone or in the company of others, chewing, swallowing, and full of desire. A year marked by the cyclical 12-month calendar that structures the parcels of time for most of the people on the planet. 

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The mirror, the dress, and the digital paradigm

In a hurry and feeling impatient.

There I was, standing in front of the mirror attempting to tie an attractive knot in the long cloth belt of the taupe colored wrap-around dress I had chosen to wear that morning.

I needed to be out the door; I didn’t have much time before the beginning of a meeting with a group of clients.

I tied the knot, stood back, looked in the mirror, frowned, untied the knot and tied it again.

“This one”, I muttered to myself, “is worse than the first”. I let out a sigh, and then something unexpected happened.

I had an immediate impulse to go to the menu and select and click Undo. To go back to the previous knot with the quick, simple click of a mouse. 

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The motorcycle story

While running, I saw it.

Parked next to others, tail outward, resting between two chalky diagonal lines.

I don’t even recall the color of its body because a memory came at me fast and smooth as my eyes swam over the details and took in the word, Ducati.

The memory felt easy. The images that came to mind were familiar; it was the same sequence that unfolded every time I saw a motorcycle with this name.

I remember the way his eyes looked as he explained what he wanted me to know with the simplicity of passion.

Many years ago, my friend and I were walking to work through the backstreets that wound around the neighborhoods close to the college campus; we were both waiters at the same restaurant. He stopped abruptly, got quiet and looked down at a lone red motorcycle parked on the gravel. His face softened and he shook his head for a moment as we stood in silence. Then, he raised his gaze, locked his shining eyes on mine and with excitement in his voice he said: 

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