“Put that coffee down.”
Four simple words that might mean nothing to some, a smile to others, and cause others to break out in a cold sweat. Depends if you are a fan of the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Those four words signify the start of the speech delivered by the high-powered salesman Blake who proceeds to tear down the salesman in the struggling office only to find out that by the end of the week only the top two salesman in the office will have a job.
At one time in my life I have worked as a salesman and while I have never been told that second place this week will be a set of steak knives I have sat through enough sales training seminars to recognize the use of catch phrases such as ABC – Always Be Closing and know that in the end there are the sales you think you will make and the sales that truly close.
In the end it is the latter, those sales that only close that truly matter. Not what have been promised, those that look promising or that you “know” are going to happen, but in the end only what closes is what pays. Yes, a successful salesman knows he has to go through the work needed to fill the proverbial sales pipeline. There is that continued process of working through prospects and each contact must be started with renewed confidence knowing that the failures of the past must be left behind and the prior successes guarantee nothing in the future. It is a cold reality that sales in the pipeline do not pay the bills and in the end, the only thing that truly measures the success of a salesman is the business they have closed.
I am not the only salesman who can make the claim that if I was paid on every sale I “knew” I was going to make, every sale that had been promised to me, and those certainties in my pipeline I would not have to be working today. That did not happen and I am no longer in sales, but from my time I have developed a great appreciation from the people I have encountered who above all else could close a sale. It is indeed a skill that can be developed, but it is something that very few salesmen truly master at an elite level.
Countless books, seminars, an webinars have been produced addressing how to be a more effective closer. Guaranteed systems that promise to spur people to higher levels of success and yet over the years and after counting hours spent listening as well as countless pages read there are three key components that I have found in the most successful salesmen I have met and encountered:
- Be comfortable with who you are as a salesman and a person. People buy from people they trust and it might sound as horrible self-help book cliché’, but if you do not believe in yourself they will not believe in you.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Any salesman who has spent much time in the career can tell you a story about going into a sales presentation where everything gets turned upside down and they saved the sale by changing course and adapting to the situation. What often gets missed is that in most sales there are subtle shifts and changes which are made in such an efficient manner the salesman seems to be in complete control of the meeting instead of reacting which can only happen if they knew their product, knew their prospects, and had prepped for that meeting.
- Close what you can when you can because you never know what will happen tomorrow. Ask a salesman who just finished the best year of their career, exceeded all their goals, if they closed every sale and I will bet they can tell you about a prospect or two that they did not close that they know they could close if they were given just one more shot at the sale. If a salesman is lucky that second chance does happen, but for most those missed sales are just ghosts, which is why there are more of us ex-salesmen than old salesmen.
When this season was about to begin I wrote about how not this team was looking for an identity, but this program. Two years of a near misses and played them close had started to erode the reputation it took those years of success to build and while it might have been unfair to Gary Patterson, his staff, and his players that was the harsh reality of college football. Some programs are an established brand that can repel years of underachievement, off the field troubles as if they were coated with Teflon and others seem to fall out of favor at a whim.
It might sound harsh, it might sound unfair, but in the end, the only things that truly matters is the games you win. As the seasons pass people forget the reasons why a season might have gone wrong and they do not seem to be interested in what happened behind the scenes. It simply comes down to how many games you won and how many games did you lose. Great teams are not measured by their graduation rates, but their win percentages and titles.
Tomorrow TCU plays Texas and the team and the program are in a possible position to do something they have not done since 1938. The idea of TCU being part of the national title play-offs would have been laughable to most at the start of the season, but it is a real possibility with the Frogs sitting at number five right now in the rankings. Yes, it is far from a given, but it is a possibility and one they can always count on being there just like sales in a pipeline. Close what you can when you can and let the future play out as it may.
If any team in College Football should understand how dramatically and quickly things can turn for a team and a program it is this TCU squad. It is interesting to me how even when you look back in perspective at the season how what this program has endured over the past 4-5 years is overlooked by others. I was listening to the Texas basketball game last night and at half they were discussing the upcoming football game with TCU and how the Texas seniors have endured so much in their time in Austin.
That is true, but is it any more than say Sam Carter or Kevin White? Both were red-shirt freshmen when they made the trip to California to watch the Frogs beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The next season they played in half a stadium during the Frogs farewell season in the MWC and got exposed to conference politics as the end of the year game with Boise got moved from TCU to Boise for reasons of construction as if the Broncos were going to bring a number of fans to Ft. Worth. They were part of a program that was rocked by the arrest of four players for selling drugs, two senior leaders, before their first B12 game, and then saw their quarterback attacked by the student newspaper. Teammates were lost to injury, grades, egos, and idiocy. People outside the program were quick to toss stones and even faster to bury the program. Media and opposing coaches leapt at the opportunity to proclaim how the first two seasons in the B12 were proof of what they had known all along, TCU’s prior success was more a product of the lower level of competition and not the strength of the team and the program.
Worst of all was that no one cared about the steps Patterson and his staff took to change the direction of the program. No one wrote articles praising him or the University for taking stances with players who would not conform to rules or when changes in the staff were made over the off-season. To many it was viewed as too little too late and given very little thought.
Maybe we should have taken notice by the change in Patterson’s tone last Spring, maybe we should have believed that there was indeed enough talent on this roster to be competitive, or maybe we should have remembered our TCU football history. In 1938 Dutch Meyer’s team lead by quarterback Davey O’Brien won their second national championship in four years. This was the last time the Frogs won a national title. What is never mentioned anytime people talk about that season is the 1937 season. In preparing to write this piece I decided to go back and see what type of year the Frogs had in 1937 prior to the 1938 team. You would think that a team that won a title one year would have had a pretty strong year the year before, but that was not the case. In 1937 TCU finished the year at 4-4-2 for the season and 3-1-2 in the SWC. I have no idea why that team finished with a .500 record nor if Gary Patterson and his staff knew that bit of history or not. The only thing that matters is come tomorrow what they can close against the Horns.
Two common questions when TCU joined the B12 was whether or not they had the talent in the offensive and defensive lines to match up with their new conference opponents and if the Frogs 4-2-5 could hold up against a true power running game. This Texas team presses those questions especially in the area of the Texas defensive line. Quite simply I think they are the best front the Frogs have faced since that Rose Bowl and that includes Michigan State in 2012, LSU last year, and Texas last year. They have two 2015 NFL draft picks in that front along with another future pick in Ridgeway. Malcolm Brown is the elite type of talent that can absolute take over a game and will pose the biggest single challenge the Frogs offensive line will face even if they play in the title game this year.
So what will it take to win this game? First no great team happens by accident nor hope. Some might scoff at the idea of the 2014 TCU being a great team, but in my mind if this team does finish the regular season 11-1 they have had a great season and thus a great team. It might be laughable to some and I might be well off base in my perception of greatness. This game is going to require a team with confidence to go out and execute. It will not be given to them as Texas is very talented and well coached. Blake would tell us it will take brass balls. I will say it will take leadership. Leadership from Boykin, but more importantly the seniors. One of the positives mentioned coming into this season was the amount of experience on this roster. I listed above some of the events that have happened over the past 4-5 years. They have seen the highs of that Rose Bowl team, fought through the lows, and realize how fleeting success can be for a team.
Two games ago against Kansas State the Frogs played their most complete game not only on the offensive side of the ball, but defense as well. That is where this effort must start. It is time for the seniors on the defensive side of the ball, Carter, White, Hunter, Dawson, and Mallet to close this deal. Take anyway any belief from the Texas offense that they can move the ball against the Frog defense. This is the game they came to Ft. Worth to play when they bought into Patterson’s vision for the program and if they want to have the chance to be viewed in the same light as very few teams have at TCU they will need to shut down the Texas running game and avoid the mistakes in the secondary.
Offensively the line came into this season as one of if not the biggest question mark on this team. To date they have exceeded all expectations and it almost seem unjust to doubt them going in this game. Tomorrow though they will not only go directly against the strength of this Texas team, but its soul. The Horns view themselves as a physical defensive team that has been able to impose their will and dictate game to their opponents. If the Frog offensive line can provide Boykin time to throw the ball and open the running game it will go a long way to take the will to win away from this Texas team. To go into Austin and execute against that front is something I don’t believe this Texas team thinks is possible which is what is needed to close this game.
Finally Trevone does not need to be anything more than what he has been this season. He does not need a game for the ages, but just another good game in a collection of good games this year. Time to close the deal and then grab a cup of coffee.