I started surfing a few years ago. It has been an amazing, and sometimes grueling, experience to paddle out on my long-board and practice catching that ‘perfect wave’ – especially during the winter months here in New Hampshire – yes, a 6/5/4mm wetsuit with a hood keeps you warm enough to surf even when it is snowing.

Once I became comfortable with the basic fundamentals of paddling out past the break, ‘duck-diving’ or ‘rolling’ to avoid the onslaught of waves that kept me from getting out to sit and wait for the ideal ‘set’ of waves, my confidence grew.

Along with enhanced confidence came peace and clarity while sitting on the board and ‘reading’ what the ocean was sending my way. Having time to think while waiting for these waves, the thought struck me how similar successful surfing is to successful selling. The parallels between the two are numerous!!

Here are some of the secrets for sales representatives to learn that surfers know and live by in order to be successful on the water:

How to Sell More Effectively Using a Surfer’s Perspective

1. Surfing: Select Your Ideal Surf-Hole = (Selling: Proto-Type Your Ideal Prospect) In surfing, it is critical to select a surfing spot that matches your skill level and knowledge of what lies beneath the surface. At this stage of the game I will not be surfing the Mavericks in CA or the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii, since these are both over my current skill level. I also will not go into an area that I know has rocks near the surface, even if I have the skills to surf the waves. I only spend time at the surfing spots that I know will be a fit for me.

In sales, it may seem fundamental, but in order to maximize our time and effort, we mustProto-Type our ideal prospects by identifying those characteristics that increase our likelihood of closing a deal. Creating a “dart board” (aka prospect or target list) of ideal prospects based on Vertical, Geography, Revenues, and Sales Cycle duration is crucial to our success as a sales person. If we know specifically who we are going to target down to this level of granularity, our likelihood of obtaining our “ideal clients” goes up dramatically. Don’t waste time on prospects outside of this focus group.

2. Surfing: Plan Your Surf Session =  (Selling: Create a Sales Plan) Surfers stand on the beach before they enter to examine and study the break. They paddle out and ‘triangulate’ their location three ways; against their position relative to the shore where they entered the water, a location to the north or south of their spot on the water and against where the waves are ‘breaking’ to determine if they are getting pulled in one direction or the other. They need to know where the best spot was and how to get back to it if they get pulled off course.

Just like surfers, sales people need to have a strategy and plan that helps them know when they are on the right course or if they are getting off track. Preparing a Pre-Engagement Outline of all steps in the sales process is one way to outline a sales cycle. Having a step by step action plan of what it will take to move a prospect from cold call to a signed contract is critical. Managing and monitoring how long it takes to complete each step will provide you with tangible metrics to use and work to shrink the sales cycle.

3. Surfing: Wait For The Best Wave In The Set =  (Selling: Don’t Sell Only To Low-Hanging Fruit). It is very tempting to grab that first wave of a set. I recently surfed with a friend of mine in Santa Cruz that called the first wave the “sucker’s wave” or the “clean out” wave. We would sit on our boards and watch as 5 to 10 surfers attacked the first wave of the set because they were anxious. Some of them caught the wave and several of them missed the wave. For those that missed the wave, they were now out of position and could not catch any of the other waves (usually the bigger waves) in that set. Lost opportunity.

In sales, just because a lead was given to you doesn’t necessarily make it a good deal for you or your company. Sales people often feel the urge to jump on any ‘low-hanging fruit’ opportunity (aka ‘the sucker’s wave’) and figure that it is better to have this deal rather than no deal. In reality, if you start to chase this deal and invest time, money, resources and effort on this deal, and it doesn’t fit your ‘Proto-Type Prospect’, then you may have missed out on several other great deals behind it. Be selective and know what a good deal is for you!

4. Surfing: When You Feel The Wave Grab You, Pop Up! =  (Selling: When Prospects Take Action Steps, Nurture The Deal) There is a split second in time when a surfer feels the wave grab hold of them and propel them forward. This is the exact moment when the surfer needs to ‘pop-up’ and assume the surfer’s stance to catch the wave and ride it out.

In sales, this same moment occurs when a prospect that we have been targeting starts to take steps with us in the sales cycle and aligns their buying cycle accordingly. Examples of this can be signing an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) or LOI (Letter of Intent), taking a meeting at our location or sending us documentation we have requested as the selling party. Actions the prospect takes to show interest in buying our product or service give us the signal that they are serious buyers and are propelling us forward in the sales cycle. Recommendation, nurture this opportunity! Remember, you can’t trust what prospects say, only what prospects do!

5. Surfing: Quickly Scan Around You To Avoid Collisions = (Selling: Always Convey Value So You Don’t Lose The Deal) Once the surfer is on the wave and riding, it is very important to quickly scan to the right and left to see if there is anything that could possibly knock them off the wave – other surfers, rocks coming up or the wave breaking in a way that they didn’t expect. All of the above will cause the surfer to quickly change direction and adjust the ride.

In sales, these obstacles could be expected or unexpected hurdles or roadblocks in the sales cycle. Examples could be a change in decision makers or decision making process, budgetary shifts and changes, competitive pressure or timing issues. To maintain a leadership position in the course of the sale, always qualify and re-qualify the decision making criteria and always communicate your business value upfront and continually through the sales cycle to avoid losing the deal to a competitor or another line-item in the budget. Value, value, value.

6. Surfing and Selling: Share Success – Everyone gets excited to hear stories of success. Surfers always like to talk about the biggest wave they surfed or the most unique surfing experience they have ever had. Coincidentally, the audience also loves to hear stories of bravery, challenge and victory as well.

In sales, effective storytelling and the sharing of how your other prospects and clients have achieved significant benefit from the business value you provided is an advanced sales technique that will help you close more deals. Prospects like to hear how others have become successful using your products and services and it is human nature to want to be entertained by a well delivered story.

Share your successes in a way that inspires others and you will close more business!

If you follow these guidelines, you will become more efficient and effective in your day to day selling duties.

Have a great surfing and selling day!