Putting for Dough: 5 Rules For Combining Sales and Golf

networking sales success Jun 23, 2017

Using Golf to Make Sales

Any sales person worth their salt will tell you that the cornerstone of sales success is building quality, lasting relationships.  The beautiful part of that statement is, in the modern world, there are almost unlimited ways to connect with people on an individual level and nurture insight and trust.  Given the explosion of social media, networking groups, and events designed to facilitate this process, we sometimes lose sight of the obvious opportunities to bring people together in a less formal setting.  Golf is a classic example of this type of environment.  At its core, “the back 9” was made for building relationships and making deals happen.

Have a Plan

I recommend my clients use golf to build relationships in one of three ways.

Golf is a great tool for building relationships with prospects.

When I was in banking, one of my commercial bankers was a master at using golf to build relationships with the right prospects.  Here’s a great example of some of the success that can be had on the fairways.  He had scheduled a round with a local developer who was planning a large building project.  At the last minute, the developer called and let my banker know his father was in town, and could he come along for their tee time?  Due to the size of the opportunity, he graciously agreed.  Over the course of the round, my banker took the time to build relationships with the father and son team, only to discover that the father was in the process of starting another large development project on the other side of the state.  Both father and son were so impressed with my banker, and the time he took to get to know them, that they both asked him to bid on their projects.  In 2.5 hours on the golf course, he secured two deals that capped off his goals for the year.  Not bad for an afternoon’s work.

Golf is an excellent way to strengthen relationships with existing clients.

I once ran a bank in a market that featured a large, regional medical facility.  Yet when I took a look at the bank’s largest individual customers I noticed a lack of medical personnel that used us as their primary bank.  Sure many of them had accounts, but it was clear the bulk of their money was being kept elsewhere.  Recognizing the opportunity, we developed a strategy for growing our presence with the large number of doctors in town.  We tailored our marketing program to appeal to them, including special products, discounts, and rates.  We increased our presence on the numerous boards and fundraising committees at their facility.  We started a special referral program for those who recommended co-workers to us.  The expected lift never came.  Then one day, I was invited to go golfing by one of our doctor customers with some of his doctor friends who also happened to be limited customers.  Golf is a game of planning, persistence, and discipline.  Sales is too.  My goal for the outing was to make 3 new friends.  I researched the foursome on social media and the clinic website to learn more about them.  I planned the questions and conversations we could have.  Most importantly, I made sure none of it was about banking or finances and stuck to it.  I’m going to admit something, it was really hard.  I wanted so badly to pitch the virtues of the bank, or ask their opinion on some of our marketing efforts, but I didn’t and it paid off.  By the end of the round I had 3 new friends, and by the end of the week I had 3 new committed bank clients.  A winning customer acquisition strategy was born, and ironically over time it proved to be our most successful.

Use golf to bring people together.

One of the keys to building deep, lasting relationships with clients is by demonstrating the value you bring over and over.  My passion as a sales consultant is to help businesses turn corners.  Using my “Formula for Success,” I teach individuals and teams how to sell, and managers how to manage them, but sometimes my prospects don’t need a sales consultant.  They have other problems that need to be solved.  Golf is a great way to bring people together who need each other, but for one reason or another, have never developed the necessary relationship to realize it.  Golf provides an atmosphere that is unmatched in the networking world.  Business is being done, but somehow it doesn’t feel like work in the golf cart.  As someone who cares about my clients and their success, anytime I can help build a connection that helps their business meet its goals, then I meet mine as well.

How to “win” the round: 5 rules for sales success on the golf course

  1. Be a confident golfer:  I’m not saying you have to be Jack Nicklaus, but the last thing you want them to remember from the round is your golf game.
  2. Relax and have fun: If you are a confident golfer, try not to be a competitive one.  I have golfed with good sales people who threw clubs when they shanked a drive or stomped and pouted on the way to the next tee box after 3 putting.  You are golfing with clients and prospects to make a positive impression.  Don’t be “that guy” on the course that no one wants to be seen with in the clubhouse.
  3. But not too much fun: Stick to a 1-2 drink limit on the course.  When the weather is warm, the round is going great, and your company is paying for it, the temptation is there to forget the real reason you are driving in a cart instead of sitting at a desk.  Discipline is an important part of golf.  Forgetting your purpose can also ruin your chances with the important prospect you are golfing with.  Bear that in mind each time the drink cart comes around.
  4. Have a plan: Be sure to become an expert on your partners and their business before you hit the course.  Think through possible conversations, and how to time them so they will enjoy your company.
  5. Be patient: My rule is simple, close deals on “the back nine” or in the clubhouse.  Build a relationship to create trust first.  Your partner, and pocketbook, will thank you for it.

In today’s business world there are endless options for connecting with your clients and prospects, and all of them work when used properly.  As spring rolls into summer, don’t forget one of the classic relationship building strategies.  The next time you are facing a prospect that simply won’t commit, or a mistake is made with a client, find a way to create the trust that you need to work together.  Take them golfing.

Matt Middendorp is a nationally acclaimed speaker and banking sales coachwith over 20 years of experience turning connections into customers and advocates. In 2013, Matt founded Sales Math, and debuted his “Formula for Success” sales training system to banks and credit unions across the country. From the beginning, Matt’s clients have experienced learning that is fun, meaningful, and makes a difference in the real world. Today, Matt’s core philosophies of “Learn Together, Do Together, Grow Together” are taught through in-person coaching, the Grow Together Sales Mastermind, and by his leadership of the Cool Bankers Club Facebook Group. His clients are making millions based on the confidence and skills gained from learning a sales process tailored to their individual personalities and businesses. Learn more by directly contacting Matt at (715) 897-0879 or [email protected].

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