Over my 25 years or so in business I have enjoyed golfing, and more importantly the relationships built hitting a little white ball with a 46” long stick into a 3” hole 18 times per round. Outings with clients break down barriers that never seem to be addressed around the board room table. Golfing with current and or future clients also helps create history, a series of shared experiences that helps build relationships.
It’s interesting if you back away from the game of golf and analyze the lessons you can learn about a new individual (buyer) you are inviting into your sphere of influence. Aside from admiring their Ping or Taylor made equipment or their amazing 310 yard drive, you truly receive a glimpse into the character, integrity and ethics of the individual and this lesson can become a strong precursor into how your future business relations will transpire with this buyer.
Some of my most memorable rounds of golf have been shared with the partner who always finds the positive and provides a suggestion to improve in the future. I have enjoyed the four hours with these individuals as they truly have a positive and giving spirit. You know the guys…you just teed off on the number one handicap hole, par five and your drive landed 250 yards out but in someone’s pool 30 yards off the right side of the course. Do they criticize you? Do they laugh or judge? No. When you are golfing with a coach they may softly compliment you on the distance your ball carried to reach that pool. They discuss how your swing was smooth, you had great contact, and they ask permission to give you advice. They may kindly state…” you know, look at your right knee, that ball landed in a direct line with your right knee at your finish…what do you say we have you change your alignment on your next shot?”
Should your buyer exhibit the signs of being a coach?
- expect a partnership in all you do
- Do’s; layout future work step by step, keep them informed
- if conflicts arise, you may need to probe this type of buyer to openly discuss the issue
- this type of buyer is ideal to become a industry or product champion , and participate in dealer focus groups
- Don’t talk to fast , don’t expect them to make snap/ knee jerk decisions
For these partners a ball from their right front pocket is quickly retrieved and placed on the tee when their first drive goes out of bounds. Pay attention to their scores. If they count the ball that went OB then chances is they may be hitting another ball to keep play moving for you. Should they reach down into the cup after putting to retrieve their ball and say “another par” you may be dealing with someone who understands the rules, however has processed some exceptions to those rules for mitigating circumstances. These are the folks who pick up the “gimme “puts without being told to do so. They may drive the cart on the par three fairway although the a sign says “no carts aloud”
When doing business with these buyers you need to consider
- it’s all about them, how they feel, not necessarily the company
- winning personally may be more important than winning as a team or for the company
- Do you get a sense they are overly competitive? Expect this in all you do moving forward
- they may be on the impatient side
- deep fear of a loss in a task sticking them with the title of looser as a person
- Do’s ; flatter their ego, ask questions about their needs, provide direct answers
- Don’t; interrupt, arrive late, or give too many details
When I lived in Ohio a number of our courses had water. You will know a Water Ball buyer when they are faced with a shot that needs to carry 144 yards over water and they reach into their bags for a “Bad Ball or Water Ball.” This may be a ball they found in the ruff two holes prior or a discolored yellowing ball with an Enron logo on it. These buyers mentally rationalize and prepare for the worst. They are actually willing to sacrifice the opportunity for a good shot on an old yellowing ball that will no longer carry the distance it once did to save the cost of losing a new ball.
A water ball buyer will:
- be cost driven verse value driven
- may trip over dollars to save pennies
- when you visit their office you may see a number of charts and graphs displayed
- when you present them a new product or new way of doing things, expect them to be suspicious
- Do’s; be on time, prepared, speak in terms of saving
- Don’t ; interrupt them, rush them, or make mistakes in written follow up
Punch it” or “go for it”
So you have teed off and you are playing cart golf, both balls went into the trees on the far left side of the course. As you enter the forest and the light becomes dim you find both your shots carried a great distance. However to reach the barely visible flag you will need to thread your shot through trees and keep it low enough to not become entangled in the branches shadowing the fairway. Do they go for it? Do they risk hitting another tree and possibly having a worst shot? Or do they hit the smart punch shot into the fairway and have an easy 100 yard approach?
If your partner chooses to go for it, keep in mind
- win focused, risk taker
- their office may be full of pictures at famous golf courses, trophy’s, awards
- embraces challenges , not afraid of new products or services if they can see the risk has a high reward
- because of this devil may care attitude at times, their biggest fear is someone taking advantage of their fearlessness
- Know this buyer will fall into the demanding category
- Do’s; focus on bottom line, the win, use words like; challenging , results
- Don’t: not follow up, show up late, sell beyond the close, give too many details
All sports have their unique beauty. Aside from some stunning landscapes of Firestone and their old wooden lockers I have found the true beautify of golf is it is a “gentleman’s game.”
You are not in a physical confrontation with another practitioner or relying on another team mate to hit you home. You are responsible for your own performance and corresponding score. Golf is a game of skill and honor. To truly improve you must accurately log each stroke to tally your performance. Is your game improving, in a plateau, or has it added five or so strokes?
If you find yourself with someone needing a pocket score counter that consistently tee’s up their ball 6” to 8” ahead of the tee marker you may want to consider
- they will do anything to win
- wining is all it’s about, and all encounters will be a competition, they win and you lose
- expect that your dealings may not be 100% upfront and honest
- Do’s ; set them up to win publicly in their firm, speak in completive language, keep your physical distance as to not crowd their space, find other influencers within the organization that can supply you a more accurate and thorough assessment should the need arise. Keep a strong paper trail and follow up all transactions in writing.
- Don’t ; expect them to take a bullet for you or your company even if they were partially to blame, don’t make them wait for dinner reservations, meeting rooms
If you have golfed with the club thrower, equipment or grounds destroyer I feel your pain. I find these buyers the most disturbing as their stress must be very high to let missing a four foot put send them into an uncharacteristic tirades and a lesson for all those present in new ways to communicate. This individual obviously has a strong correlation between what he does, or does not do and whom he is. When the putts are dropping from 20’ out he is happy, fun, and a great guy all around. However when the 3’ put does not break or slowly twists around the lip of the cup for a gimme the fuse is not only lit, but instant combustion occurs without notice. These Folks I call volcano’s as beneath the surface lay a bubbling magma waiting for a break in the surface to spew forth. For these individuals, I recommend not allowing future complications to be attached to these individuals in any way. Be forewarned as someone who erupts among new acquaintances or strangers over a missed putt must be handled with kid gloves.
These individuals lack the emotional intelligence to process what occurred through a filter mechanism that rationalizes the occurrence that triggers the eruption.
Should you find yourself having to do business with one of these buyers I recommend the following considerations?
- they will be very competitive, and moods will vary so you must be flexible, be able to dance on your feet
- they often talk fast and talk over others
- they change vendors frequently
- Do; learn about them and their needs verse focusing on company needs. Expect irrational outbursts both good and bad. Do not own these outbursts as this individual will move on after the occurrence as if it never happened , set them up to win, expect a white knuckle roller coaster ride of a relationship
- Don’t; try to quiet or soften the outburst no matter how embarrassing, don’t expect your relationship will shelter you from the explosions, don’t try to coach as they will see it as patronizing and only fuel the magma they spew.
Cell Phone guy
You have been invited to a golf scramble and when you approach the cart you notice your partners clubs are covered in grass stains. The bag is loosely resting in the back of the cart and his putter is mixed in with his driver and irons. The tear in his golf bag pocket dribbles balls every time your cart turns left.
When your cart partner introduces himself he likes to chit chat, seems to know a little bit about everything and everyone at the event and offers you a beer from the ice cold six pack he produces at 7:30 a.m. By the third Tee he has received five cell phone calls.
- he likes to talk a lot, expect cell phone calls at all hours verse written communication
- very social , will prefer work over lunches, nine holes after work with his buddies
- may have a golf shirt on from your competitor when you meet next ( that’s a hint he wants one from you)
- may show up to sign a purchase order without a pen, not organized
- Do’s; be friendly, build relationship, show enthusiasm and energy, be a great listener
- Don’t; be negative, dwell on details, or expect them to be on time or have picked up a pencil in the club house to keep score
Big Ben (Time keeper)
As you approach the fourth tee you are quietly informed by this golf partner you are trailing the appropriate course pace by 7 minutes and 15 seconds. This buyer has little if any emotion when dropping a 30 ft put or hitting a drive OB.
When he does speak it is very precise. He is most likely to have the satellite GPS and he will let you know you are 156.6 yards out. (That, .6 really helped in my club selection) You will notice they take a little extra time setting up for their tee shot and aligning their put. Chances are they viewed the putt from a variety of planes and angles before feeling comfortable to make the stroke. Their clubs are placed meticulously in order in labeled slots in their golf bag. Often times each club has its own unique head cover that is removed prior to each shot, and then returned to the club after the club has been cleaned.
- you may want to not speak as often as they are comfortable in quiet
- don’t expect chit chat, and never speak once they have stepped on the green
- This is the guy who feels completely comfortable renting a cart and golfing alone Saturday mornings
- Do’; be on time, be precise , expect them to read every proposal in detail and ask questions about the smallest detail
- Don’t; don’t interrupt them, push or rush them, or make mistakes in your follow up
- They like meetings and time in general well planed, and are comfortable to sit alone and complete their work
- They prefer smaller groups
- Their biggest fear is criticism of their work or mistakes
In summary,the game of golf is a strong indicator of someone’s overall values, attitudes and integrity. Golf can be a key tactic to support the strategy of getting to know your key buyers and how you can best interact with them and create a win-win.
Choose a buyer and schedule a round of golf and take note the type of golfer you spend the next four hours with.Let me know how you find their game relates to other experiences you have had with that buyer.
Tell me about any other buyer / golfer types?