Adaptability: General Stanley McChrystal, David Taylor and Jeffrey Gitomer

Over the weekend I watched the wrestling World Team Trials, with the winner of the tournament earning the right to represent the U.S. at the World Championships in August. One of the premier athletes in the tournament, David Taylor (national champion many times over) ran into trouble in a match on Saturday afternoon. Like any athlete, Taylor has a go-to attack (low-level ankle picks) that he uses successfully against the world's best. In this particular match, that attack played directly into his opponent's - Nick Heflin - strength, causing Taylor to fall behind early (which could have been a massive upset). 

Rather than letting stubbornness, or fear of being uncomfortable cause him to use the same strategy over and over, Taylor adapted mid-match, leveraged an offense not commonly used, and went on to beat Heflin.

From a sales or even personal development perspective, there are a few takeaways from Taylor's strategy that I can see: 

  • Take what's there: Many times in sales we become laser focused on fixing an issue that we think is important to the client, such as pipeline visibility or lead conversions. But, if we detach from the situation, many times we'll see that other problems are more pertinent to the client and by addressing those first, we gain the trust and permission to transform their business over the course of the partnership.
  • Embrace being uncomfortable: "Get comfortable being uncomfortable" returns 127k hits on Google, so I'm not saying anything new here. That said, Taylor's approach reminded me of the importance of this quote as his adaptation mid match meant that he had to use a strategy that he like wasn't comfortable with. In sales, we can deepen partnerships with clients by having conversations with departments that we typically don't work with - the source of being uncomfortable - rather than going back to the same well time and time again.
  • Adaptability: In Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal credits adaptability as a reason for the TaskForce's success in the War in Iraq. Taylor used adaptability to find a way to win this past weekend. In the customer relationship world, clients are leveraging technology to adapt to the new operating environment of digitization and IoT. It's no surprise that the most successful sales professionals are able to adapt / course-correct over the course of partnership to ensure the client's success. It goes without saying that those reps have researched and understand the implications of the new operating environment to your client.
  • Opinions / Perspectives: Have a 'go-to' opinion on trends affecting your client's business, but also have fall-back opinions in case the meeting changes direction or a department of the company that you didn't expect to be there suddenly shows up. Opinions are only developed by having a genuine interest in the client and their long-term success. Per Jeffrey Gittomer's Little Red Book of Selling, researching the client and competitors' blogs and social channels before every meeting can uncover shifts in their industry, which can in-turn help deepen the toolbox of opinions on your client's space. 

Like Bruce Lee says, "Be like water." Be adaptable.

The inspiration from this post can be watched here - Taylor v. Hefflin . Until next time. 

Ryan Warner is an account executive on Salesforce’s Financial Services team. Ryan also co-hosts the TR Talk Podcast, where co-host Tom Alaimo and Ryan interview leaders in their fields to learn how millennials can make an impact in today’s workforce.



Twitter: @Ryan_N_Warner