What Pole Vaulting Can Teach You About Selling Anything

I had a pretty bad experience with a potential supplier recently.

Potential is probably too strong a word. The guy’s lost any chance to have my business.

What went wrong? He vaulted.

Vaulted to the sale. I hardly knew the guy. In fact, I didn’t know the guy. He was an associate of an associate. Didn’t know him from Adam.

But for some reason he felt like I owed him something. Or at least that’s what it felt like.

I’m starting to sound like a 16 year old girl in the 1950s explaining a date gone wrong so let me explain a few things.

What is vaulting?

I learned about this from The Advanced Selling Podcast. a fantastic tool I’d recommend for anyone trying to get better at sales.

Vaulting is the act of getting to the sale before you should. Like a pole vaulter.

I love this concept, and think it can be applied to networking. In my experience, being someone who 1) attends a lot of networking functions and 2) runs a business that needs vendors, the amount of vaulting that goes on in this space rivals track day at the Olympics.

I get follow up emails after events that go something like “Hi Charlie. Great to meet you at the event last week. Here’s eight pages of generic crap to read about my company and products. I expect you to know it back to front. Then buy a bunch of things from me. Are you free next week?”

Networking is an essential part of the business cycle. To me, there’s no better way of getting leads in the pipeline other than leveraging nepotism. Cold calling people is hit and miss, as is cold emailing, and pretty much anything else.

But how do you turn a business card into a sale? Ask yourself one question before running at that mat :

Do I have permission to vault?

You will only know this by having definite answers to these questions:

  1. What is this guy trying to achieve?
  2. How can what I do help them do this?

How do you do this?

  1. Give.
    1. Are they an architect? How about a featured article on your website on a project they’ve done? This will raise their profile among the million other architects in the country.
    2. Are they a property developer? How about sending them (pretty) research they wouldn’t know that could save them money on their projects.
    3. Are they a hiring manager? How about sending 10 reasons why you should be looking to hire even when the economy is in downturn.
  2. Learn.
    1. How did they respond to the above? If positively – great. Get to know them better. Coffee works. So does lunch.
    2. Don’t use this to sell. Use it to learn. Go back to the two initial questions.
  3. Sell.
    1. Now you can vault.

People are complicated beasts with intricate needs that you’ll only discover by getting to know them.

A slow burn is better than getting burnt.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s