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The Tennis Ball Theory

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In Relationship Selling I wrote a whole chapter on what I call The Tennis Ball Theory. It isn’t anything too over-complicated, and yet is a great way to think about how you sell, and perhaps get to the bottom of why you are facing so many rejections and objections.

The Tennis Ball Theory is a great little way to picture a poor sales presentation. Let me break it down for you a little…

Imagine you and I are sitting five metres apart in your living room facing each other. In my right hand I hold a tennis ball – just a standard tennis ball. If I were to take this ball and throw it as hard as I can, without warning, towards you, how will you react? The likelihood is that you will do everything you can to protect yourself from that ball, right? You will duck, dive, dodge, put your arms up or it will smack you straight in the face – which is going to sting a little bit!

Let’s think about something else for a minute. We are sat in exactly the same manner, facing each other five metres apart and in my right hand I am holding the exact same tennis ball. I first of all ask you if you would like to catch the ball. I warn you I am going to throw the ball. I explain to you what you need to do when the ball comes your way. Eventually, I throw the ball in your direction. You reach out, catch it, and rest it on your lap.

You should now be wondering what on earth this has to do with sales. Well, here’s the thing:

The tennis ball is a metaphor for a sales opportunity. In a sales meeting, if you force the opportunity down your prospects throat, how do you expect them to react? Have you ever encountered someone whom without any warning, qualification or any test closing has just come to you and said; “You need to buy my stuff. Now!”. How did it make you feel? I bet you did not take them up on your offer!

But then on the flip side of that, how often have you spoken with a sales professional whom has taken the time to develop a rapport with you, started a business relationship with you, asked you the right questions, and then when the time was right has asked you for the sale. Surely that is the better approach?

The point of this short article is this: overly pushy tactics don’t cut it in the sales world anymore. The consumer is wiser to this sort of tactic and as we live in a world of choice, your prospect has every right to walk away and make sure whatever you are offering is the right fit for their needs. Therefore, an over-pushy approach is only going to scare your prospect away!

Take the time to study your sales process and presentations. Are you being too pushy? Think about the Tennis Ball Theory; are you throwing your opportunity too hard in people’s faces? Are you scaring your prospects away?

It is amazing how many people will reach out their arms and catch a hold of whatever it is you are selling if you talk to them first about it.

Go and try it for yourself. Get a tennis ball and throw it at your colleagues face. How did they react?


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