College basketball is my favorite sport, and since we’re smack dab in the middle of March Madness, I’m reminded of a premise that applies especially to the sport, but also to almost every aspect of life, including your job or business. The premise being that the best path to success is to focus and execute on what you do best.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament is such a clear indicator of this and can be related to the world of business. College basketball is comprised of school teams which play such a wide range of styles. When those teams get into the tournament, they’re forced to prepare for opponents in most cases teams they’ve never faced before. The unfamiliarity can many times lead the coach and players to focus on the style, and the strengths/weaknesses of the opponent, instead of focusing on what they excel at themselves. This often can lead to suboptimal performance and an early trip home from the tournament.
That’s not to say that preparing for your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses isn’t important. However, doing the things you do well, executing on your strongest skills is a more sure-fire way to ensure you’ll perform at the highest level possible, giving you a higher probability for success.
Relate that for a moment to sales. Of course it’s critical when preparing to pitch your product or service to understand the pains of your potential customer. While preparing your proposal you may find that your offering may not exactly address each and every pain point. If you decide to try and sell the prospect by addressing the spots where your offering is not as strong, you weaken your positon and may come off as disingenuous.
However, if your game plan for your proposal to illustrate the strongest aspects not only of yourself and your team, but those of your products and services; then you’re highlighting what you and your company do best, and giving yourself a better chance to not only make a sale, but also to build a long-standing customer relationship.
Another aspect of focusing on what you do best is to know your role. We see this all the time especially in college basketball’s biggest event. Faced with the opportunity to perform on a big stage, the team’s best defensive player, who isn’t known for his scoring ability, suddenly tries to take over a game. Suddenly he’s putting up multiple three-point shots or hogging the ball in order to try and be the hero. He’s doing things he’s not accustomed to doing. This impacts not only his performance, but the performance of the team.
I run an Accounts Receivable team and I’ve worked on collections teams for a large part of my career. Again there are many different styles to trying to collect past due payments from customers. My style was that of a conversational, solutions-based collector. However, there were times when my style simply didn’t work. We knew the tendencies of our opponent, in this case the debtor, and it required someone more aggressive and heavy handed in those situations.
It didn’t make sense for me to try and change my approach in order to try and illicit payment from that customer. As much as I may have wanted to gain the accolades associated with succeeding at that, it wasn’t who I was. Knowing my role and working within the framework of my team, leveraging the strengths of my teammates was critical to the success of myself, the team, and my company.
Ultimately there is always the need to balance what you need to achieve and what you know about your target, by performing the things you do well in order to succeed. It’s also important to continue to learn and be well-rounded, and not ignore skills that we lack currently. But knowing where you excel, knowing and sharpening your best skills, and executing on those skills will give you the best opportunity to succeed in business and in life.