The Game of Life

Edition: September 2001 - Vol 9 Number 09
Article#: 1057
Author: Repertoire

Golf. Some call it an invaluable relationship-builder, others view it as a throwback to the outdated ''good 'ol boy'' days of selling. Some who do not or cannot play are envious of those who do, while others view it with contempt. Like it or hate it, golf is THE salesperson's game. It's never far away from reps' thoughts and conversations.


Readers of Repertoire's Dail-E News were asked to share a golf story for this month's issue. We got a bunch. Here are some of them, first from the golfers, then from the non-golfers.


Stories from Those Who Golf


Manufacturers


Recently, while playing best ball in a tournament, I was teamed up with a gentleman who wanted our foursome to win badly. I noticed on a couple of occasions we took more strokes than allowed. On the last hole, this fellow wanted to take a fifth shot and I said no! Several minutes later, I noticed a number of individuals had finished their 18 holes early and had been watching our progress. Fortunately, we lost the tournament and were not caught cheating. What people will do to win!


After lunch, golf was set up by my territory manager (I, the region manager) with a very important VP and his director of purchasing. Lunch went well, then golf was going well UNTIL the third hole. My rep gets hit squarely on the head by an oncoming drive from the tee at the next hole (by an attorney). Being a tight scalp wound, it proceeded to bleed quite profusely….He drove himself to the ER, only a few miles away. The customers and I played on. Making the turn at the nine, we look up on the tee and there's the territory manager with seven fresh stitches in his scalp ready to finish the back nine. What commitment! Believe it or not, the back nine went well until the cart our director of purchasing was riding in started smoking and caught fire under the seat. (The battery exploded.)…Certainly, built a bonding relationship hard to beat!


[I am] only an occasional golfer, and an important customer was looking for sponsors for their annual event. Wanting to sponsor, but fearing that I would embarrass myself on the course, I signed up anyway. Happily for me, before we could complete the first hole, it started raining. Not enough to cancel play, but hard enough that everyone played lousy – me included, of course. However, on that day, with the help of the weather, I played nearly as good as the regulars. And I made a handsome sale a month later!


I was driving my golf cart around the backside of a green, following the golf cart of a very important GPO marketing director. (The cart path was wet from morning watering.) For some unknown reason that we still laugh about, he locked his brakes up on his cart and forced me to do the same. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I determined that I would be unable to stop in time or change the direction of my cart in order to prevent a collision. Well, I made a split second decision to bail out of the cart prior to it slamming into the back end of my somewhat suspecting golf partner. He did hear the tires squeal right before impact. All I remember is him looking back at me with a look on his face of ''What did you do that for!'' Well, once we determined that neither one of us was hurt (thank God), even though I tore a hole in the seat of my beautifully starched dress shorts, we've chuckled about it ever since. A professionally bonding moment!


I remember playing golf with a good distributor customer and hitting him in the chest with one of my tee shots.


I don't play golf on a regular basis, but typically play best ball tournaments or other similar events so as not to be left out. One time I played with the COO of the company I worked for, and he wanted to keep score. I wanted to just play, but he wanted to play skins. I was the marketing director at the time and I hadn't picked up a stick in two years. I never used woods and ended up winning all but one skin and even worse yet, in his mind, beat his score after he had been golfing quite a bit. If you can't learn to lose, you shouldn't play because there is always someone luckier (that was me) or better than you.


Mine is not a very exciting story but it involves a very tough woman in hospital purchasing. She was very hard to get an appointment, and not overly friendly. We ended up in a foursome at a golf outing with her and my distributor rep. We had the most fun and never laughed so hard at a golf outing. Now, I can call anytime I am in the area and stop by to see her without any problems.


Distributors


Being on the financial side of the business, it's not often that I got out to play golf as a representative of our company. Once per year or so I would go out with our attorneys to basically maintain a relationship. Needless to say, I looked forward to this annual outing. On this one particular year, I had just birdied the eighth hole and parred the ninth. Being that I normally hit around 100 and I had just finished nine holes with a 44, I was ecstatic. Then the phone rang. The president of our company needed me to come back to the office immediately to go through the financial details of a deal that had just come up. It was urgent and I had to abandon the best game of my life. By the way, we sealed the six-figure deal when I got back to the office.


Our company recently realigned territories and reps. I found myself at lunch with a new important client and the sales rep whose place I would be taking on this account. They are very avid golfers. As for myself, I played minimal times and often felt left out of the conversation. On the big-screen TV was the opening round of a recent ''playoff'' (Is that what you call it in golf?) between a couple of men. Trying to sound informed and knowledgeable about sports, I made the comment that shouldn't we see a little better play since they had played the course once? To which my associate responded that they had been playing the course since Monday (this was Friday). After a small embarrassed break, I informed my lunch partners that I would probably not try the golf thing for a while now.


We were trying to hire a top manager from our competitor, but he would not make the move as he had heard that his potential new boss was not someone who he would enjoy working with. We convinced him to come out and play a round of golf on a great course. I did not play, so they played as a twosome. Within 18 holes he was sold on his new boss and made the move!


Manufacturers' Reps


I once was golfing in a hospital tournament. I am not a good golfer and fortunately neither was the OR supervisor. We were in the same foursome. Playing behind us was my competitor and evidently, he was pretty good, because he kept hitting into us. The third time he did it I knew he cost himself a big order because the supervisor said, ''I don't know whether that S.O.B. is trying to impress me or kill me, but he better not try to call me again!'' The key to golf is etiquette.


I had tried for weeks to get this good customer to play golf. He always talked about how much he played and finally he agreed to play. On the first tee, he got over the ball and you could see he was not very good. I was standing to his right and he shanked the ball right into my hands and I wanted to laugh but said, ''Try again, you must be nervous.'' That was the hardest thing – not laughing at a good customer.


HATE GOLF...BUT, I was coerced into playing at HIDA one year. I thought, oh heck, I could really, really irritate some of the guys who have bugged me over the years….We go to the course and it's the weekend where all the Harley dudes were in town as well, so I didn't know if my teammates (they drew them from a hat) were going to be tattooed with green pants or not….First hit? Sideways. Second hit, miss. Third hit miss…and so on….Oh boy, was that a long day!…The divot (I guess that what it was, as that is how it sounded) was the most exciting experience of the day. I whacked the biggest divot of anyone. I was very proud at that moment. The boys quickly replaced that poor piece of grass and mud and scooted me up the hill….A helicopter was circling and I said ''OH MY GOD, do they have divot police?'' The helicopter was just taking pictures, they told me, of the Harleys out on the street….They finally let me drive the little cart. Gawwd! I drove it for two seconds and we were at the next tee. What a lazy group of people I was with! I said, sorry guys, I need the exercise, I will walk the rest of the way. I will never understand this golf standard of getting business.


Others


Golf can be an effective means of gaining business. Where else can you get five hours of a client's time? [GPO]


I worked at a hospital that held an annual charity golf event that raised money for the hospital foundation.…The golf tournament was a shotgun scramble, which means that a different foursome starts on each of the 18 holes at one time to start the tournament. My foursome was assigned to start on hole No. 2, which was a 160-yard par 3. This also happened to be the par 3 hole that had a prize: If you hit a HOLE IN ONE, you won a car. Since it was the hole our foursome was assigned to, it was the first swing of the day for us to tee off. Everyone was grumbling because we had to start the round of golf with the prize hole and would not have a chance to warm up…. I said I had no problem hitting first because I would not come anywhere close with the first swing of the day. WELL, the miracle visited me that day because I hit the ball, the first swing of the day, and it went right into the hole for a HOLE IN ONE!!…I won a Mercedes C-280 class, a $40,000 car….That was a few years ago and it is still the most talked about swing at that event and throughout the medical vendor community in this area. [Hospital materials manager]





Stories from Those Who Don't


Manufactures


Yes I know I am missing opportunities but the pace of the game is just so slow.


I don't golf, or for the most part socialize with my customers. Very rarely do I bring gifts or lunch. I feel the pharma reps have set a standard: ''Feed me and I'll see you.'' I disagree with this strongly. I sell my products on their merits and quality, not because I bring pizza or doughnuts weekly.


At present, I do not golf because I work six and sometimes seven days a week. I think that it is a great sport and one that I would probably enjoy if and when I do have more spare time.


I don't golf! I could see where it would be helpful if I did. I could interact with customers or distributors easier.


Sorry, do not golf. Six hours at a crack is too much to give up. Besides, I've tried it and can't bring myself to embarrass myself that often.


I have never picked up a golf club in my life (excluding the challenging game of miniature golf) due to the fact I grew up in New York City, aka Flushing, Queens. The courses in NYC tend to be covered in asphalt, so the game to play was stickball. I am not sure what I have missed not playing golf. The complaints I overheard (profanities removed) at several of the last distributor meetings from just-returning golfers ranged from ''I can't believe it was that hot,'' to ''I should have stayed off the course,'' to ''These new clubs cost me a fortune and my game still sucks.'' I guess fun can be defined in many ways.


If I ever tried doing business on a golf course, I would have no business! I don't play, and my client would be laughing so hard, he/she would never be able to sign their name on the contract!


Never played golf. Never thought I was missing anything.


Distributors


The following should be noted when comparing regional sales managers within my company: Exactly one-third of the regional sales managers are non-golfers; however, they account for 73.3 percent of all new company-wide business year-to-date. The golfers account for 26.7 percent of the company wide new business year-to-date. Golfing, in and of itself, is not the significant issue. Maintaining a good work ethic seems to be more important than if one plays golf. Just maybe the golfers should play less golf and do more work securing new business.


When Mr. T. Woods can play at all golf clubs, I will start playing.


I don't golf anymore. I have two little girls instead. This is the same reason why I don't own a boat anymore, either. I don't miss golf or the boat. What can I say? I'm a boring guy that would rather spend all available time with my girls!


I'm a distributor rep. I'd love to play golf if I had the time to learn and practice! Unfortunately, this job takes a lot of time and I don't think I could do both well. I'm envious of reps who can take an entire day to play!


I do not play golf. I actually just played my first round as part of a team building and enjoyed it. To this point in my career, I haven't missed that much not playing golf. I am in a new role and a new company (of golfers), and it will be very important to play. I look forward to it. It will be easy to let my guest win; I'm a beginner. We'll see how it goes!


I am pretty independent and haven't taken up golf for the sake of golf. I find the sport to be time consuming and expensive. I have enough expensive habits. When and if I feel I need to golf to close a deal, then I will know that I have lost my edge.


I do not play golf, but I do think social occasions offer more opportunity to get to know your customers on a personal level. Customers seem to relax away from their place of business, which helps them to open up more and share information they might not at their place of business.


I'm not a golfer and I think I am missing out a little bit because of not being able to. However, every time I try, I absolutely die of boredom.





Manufacturers' Reps


I am not a golfer. Sometimes I feel I am missing out on important business opportunities because of this, not with customers as much as with the manufacturers. Some of the important ''good old boy'' stuff happens on the golf course. But where do I start? They are all experienced, and I am a beginner. They are mostly male, and I am female (and, YES, YES, YES this makes the social networking part of business difficult!! I cannot risk appearing as if I am ''coming on'' by suggesting a purely social activity, especially when I am a very green beginner!) And finally, they seem to enjoy it and I see it as boring and taking entirely too much time! But I would be willing to learn if I could get involved with some other beginner females in business.


I used to play a lot of golf. Then my outings got down to one or two times per year. One day I simply said to myself, ''I don't like this game, it takes too much time, I can't play so little and ever play well.'' So that was it and I haven't played since. For some, golf is a religion and if you choose not to ''believe,'' you are ''suspect'' and are most likely a heretic. Enjoy your game, boys, just leave me out of it.


Other


No, I'm not a golfer. And, yes, I do feel as though I am missing out sometimes. However, I have managed to participate in some golf outings by offering to drive the cart. This is not always possible, but in ''scramble'' type tournaments, it's usually allowed. That way I can mingle with at least three company reps and participate in the awards dinner that usually follows. [GPO]


I don't golf and I do feel that I am missing the opportunity to build relationships that go a bit deeper….By taking a prospect or customer golfing, I feel that in many cases I would be creating an opportunity to extend mindshare beyond what I can do in their office. [Internet company]


Not a golfer, not missing anything. [Hospital]


I don't play. Life is frustrating enough without inflicting it upon myself voluntarily. [Internet company]


What amazes me is how much money can be made by playing with a ball: golf, base, foot, basket, soccer, tennis and bocce. Those who care for people don't seem to get even close to the ''good'' incomes. My daughter is in special ed and budgets are being cut…The sacrifices by men and women through the ages back to Plymouth Rock weren't made so we can ''play ball.'' Am I teed off? What do you think? [Respiratory Therapist in Milwaukee]