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‘Play the game, not the score’ at boat shows

“Play the game, not the score.”

So says sports marketer and author, Brandon Steiner in his book “You Gotta Have Balls: How a Kid from Brooklyn Started From Scratch, Bought Yankee Stadium and Created a Sports Empire.”

Steiner, who built a sports empire, observes that the most successful athletes he knows say, ‘‘Play the game, not the score.'' They are the truly committed players. They know that consistency over time equals credibility. If you watch them on the field, you have no idea whether they’re winning or losing because they’re giving it their all, all the time.

Let’s face it — in the boating business, everything doesn't always go as planned. Like at a boat show when the end of a long day is approaching and there have been no sales. It’s like the Yankees being down 10 runs in the ninth and sensing you’re about to lose. But, if you’re watching Derek Jeter, you’d never know it — you’d see him play with the same intensity no matter what. He plays the game.

Is the game different at our boat shows? Yes and no. Selling in an exhibit is different than selling back in the showroom. The showroom is peaceful, the boat show chaotic. You are frequently seated in the showroom, but always standing at a show; you might get three to five sales contacts per day in the showroom, three to five good possibilities an hour at a show. And there’s no competition looming at you in the showroom, but all around you at the show.

Truth is, the longer the show, the more difficult it is to work consistently. Mental and physical fatigue is real, especially when the score isn’t going your way. That’s when a great salesperson remembers to play the game, not the score. Being prepared to play the game makes the difference.

I’m reminded of a good dealer friend (now retired) at the 10-day-long Cleveland Boat Show. It was near the end of the show, just before closing one night, when Bill and his wife were manning their information counter at the front of the display. So far, they’re score for the show was zero.

At the rear of the exhibit were their largest boats, 32’ and 37’ Marinette Cruisers. Bill observed a couple with two kids going back and forth between the two boats. But he was tired from the long day, decided they were just hull thumpers and chose to ignore them. However, his wife was playing the game and she went back to the boats. What happened next is absolutely true. The gentlemen said to her: “As you can see, my wife is rather large and we’ve been comparing the room in the heads for her.” That night, after the show closed, Bill’s wife closed them on the 37’. Play the game, not the score.

As Steiner contends, when it appears a team has virtually no chance of winning, that’s when it becomes a great indicator of who the best players are. Who's still launching himself out of the batter's box, scrapping his way to first? Who's still diving for balls and leaping for rebounds?

Let’s face it: sales on the floor of boat shows (anywhere for that matter) aren’t easy or as plentiful these days. And because we traditionally kept “score” by the number of contracts taken at the show (no longer a fair measure), it might be easier now than ever to lose enthusiasm and drive as the show progresses. But it’s a scenario that separates the average from the great. Remember, the champions always play the game until the last out.


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