Why Salesmen Are Also Golfers

Ben Crenshaw's emotional 1995 Masters win.

… and that’s when legendary golfer, Ben Crenshaw, showed me how to correct my slice. (I’ll get back to that story in just a bit).

First off, let me explain that I am NOT a good golfer. I’ve joked on many occasions that I could lose a sleeve of balls on a Putt-Putt course. I’ve swung clubs at golf balls since I was just a kid, never really played well, never had lessons until high school. I was an alternate on our high school golf team (there’s a great photo in my yearbook of me taking a divot out of Hillcrest Country Club‘s 1st tee box.). So, no, I do not consider myself a ‘golfer’, but I can hit a long drive… and when it goes straight, it travels a good distance. But, usually, it tails out in front of me like I’m on a dogleg right fairway.

What I am, though, is a salesman at heart. A few years ago, I realized that most of my fellow-salesmen were also enamored with the game of golf. We had the usual weekly office pools for football and March Madness, but there was also a Master’s Pool for golf. What? I didn’t know anything about professional golf and was lucky enough to choose Vijay Singh as my golfer. I think I won $30 somehow. Anyway, I have put together a list of WHY salesmen play golf. Enjoy.

  • Before smart phones and the increasing overuse of mobile phones, golf was a sure way to offer a salesman a 4 hour escape from the office. It also relaxes the participants so that many business deals have been made on the course.
  • What I feel is most important, is that a salesman usually has a monthly sales quota. Unlike any other sport, golf also has a ‘quota’ called “par”. There is a goal and a golfer is able to determine how well he does based on a pre-determined quota. Exceeding quota, for a salesman, is the same as making birdie on a hole. Again, golf is the only sport that has a quota.
  • Unless the golfer is playing on a scramble team during a tournament, a golfer is responsible for his own individual score. There’s not much direct competition, but the success of a golfer is determined by his comparison to the others playing around him. Sound familiar? It should, if you’re fighting to be the top salesman on your sales team.
  • I’ve used this last scenario many times. A golfer can be having the worst day, losing balls into the water hazards and just be playing lousy. Depending on his temperament, he might be ready to break clubs, sell everything and quit altogether. THEN, he lines up and hits the most perfect approaching shot that lands a few feet from the pin to ensure a birdie. That one shot keeps him coming back for more. That one shot makes all the other shots seem petty. That’s how I often view prospecting for new business. You can have the worst time trying to sell your product or service, but that one “Yes!” keeps you hungry for more; It’s that realization that all your preparation has led you to success you’ve just had.
Oh, back to Ben Crenshaw. It was the Spring of 2002, I was at a book signing for Crenshaw’s new book. He asked if I was a golfer and I gave my usual response about my terrible slice. He stood up and gave me an on-the-spot golf lesson while everybody else waited in line. He told me that the great Harvey Pennick helped him to correct his own slice decades before. “Drop your left heal at the same time you drop your right elbow and you’ll never slice.”I’ve since tried it and I’m still an awful golfer, but I’ll never forget that lesson.
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