Selling Solo – Why Sports Analogies Don’t Work For Me – by Stephen Lahey

A friend of mine is obsessed with the NBA playoffs. He’s also an entrepreneur and fond of using sports analogies to describe what it takes to “win” new business.

As a kid, playing basketball and other sports was a great experience. But when it comes to selling my services today, sports analogies just don’t work for me.

As a business owner, I think of myself as more like a physician who heals pain than an athlete competing to win. This frame of reference means approaching sales conversations with a strong desire to quickly and accurately diagnose each clients’ problem and provide lasting solutions. Prospective clients sense the positive, caring intent behind my approach. This helps create trust and opens up a dialogue about their situation.

In getting to know lots of solo entrepreneurs over the years, I’ve discovered that their frame of reference around selling always influences their results. For example, they may view sales calls as a battle for control – perhaps they feel like a basketball player trying to wrestle the ball away and drive to the hoop. Does that analogy lead to behavior that builds openness and trust? No, and if you want to develop a long-term working relationship then that’s not the way to approach sales.

You can probably think of many other analogies that people might use to describe selling. I’ve heard them all, from sports to dating, farming, fishing, hunting, chess, solving a puzzle together, etc. Do you relate to any of these?

Perhaps it’s time to consider your own frame of reference on sales and how it influences your results. If you’re open to some honest self-reflection, I think you’ll find these questions worth pondering:

  • What type of analogy best captures your approach to selling, and why?
  • How does this relate to your sales attitude, behavior and results?
  • What shifts in perspective might help you improve your sales results?

Most of us haven’t thought about selling from this perspective. The novelty of these questions often leads to creative insights and opportunities for growth.

I’d love to know your thoughts on what I’ve suggested here. Leave a comment below, thanks.


Stephen H. Lahey has been happily self-employed since 2000. He owns two companies: Lahey Consulting, an executive search firm and HR consultancy serving consumer products companies throughout the USA, and, providing business building resources and sales/marketing guidance to self-employed professionals worldwide. You can find Stephen and his companies online at (subscribe to the podcast and claim your free LinkedIn guide to attracting ideal clients) and You can also connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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