I’m not a huge sports fan. I certainly don’t play sports. I have the hand-eye coordination of a coffee pot. Throughout my corporate career, however, I got really used to everything being analogized to something related to sports. I know what a hat-trick means in the business-sense and that it has something to do with hockey, but don’t really understand what it means in hockey. That’s OK with me because it meant that I knew how to communicate in the language of business, which happens to borrow a lot from the language of sports. All of that to sort of apologize in advance for the annoying sports analogy.
Let’s say I’m going to have a free-throw content with Michael Jordan. Again, reiterating that I’m not really that good at sports, or anything that requires coordination or aim. But, in this analogy, I’m having a free-throw contest with Michael.
I am standing right at the free-throw line (or whatever they call that horizontal line that is right in front of the net) with about 5 basketballs queued up and some really fast kid to retrieve the balls so I can keep throwing them continuously.
On the other side of the court is Michael. He has the exact same setup. We are in the exact same position, with the exact same balls and all ready to go.
Now, it’s also important to know that lots of people have turned up for this event. The stadium is packed full of people just waiting to see who is going to win this free-throw contest. We are warming up. You can hear that distinctive sound of a basketball bouncing on a hardwood floor. There is a bunch of chatter coming from the crowd, there’s an overall dull roar of talking. I can even smell the fresh popcorn! As we (Michael and I) are warming up, our respective coaches come over to tell us its about time for the contest to start. My heart is beating. It is pounding and I’m getting nervous because all the practice I’ve been doing is about to either pay off or fail miserably. Michael looks unfazed. He looks like he just wants to get this over so he can go have a beer.
It’s starting. The announcer comes over the loudspeaker and says, “Welcome everyone to the free-throw contest OF THE YEAR! With Jeff Steinmann and Michael Jordan! We have a special announcement to make. Even our contestants don’t know this yet. Are you ready for the announcement?”
The crowd goes wild! They want to hear the announcement!
The announcer’s voice booms over the PA system, “General Motors has generously donated a BRAND NEW, fully loaded, 2013 Cadillac Escalade that will be presented to the winner of this free-throw contest!”
Holy crap, I think, I would LOVE a new Escalade! Wow, now the pressure is ON! I get even more nervous, knowing that there is more on the line that I thought!
The announcer comes over the PA again, “Are the contestants ready?” I signal a thumbs up, even though clearly I’m terrified, but I know I have to get this over with.
Michael does the same.
The crowd gets quiet. They’ve been waiting a long time to see this and want to know who will win.
“On your marks! Get Set! Throw!”
It’s time. Stop worrying, focus and believe in yourself, is what I’m telling myself. I shoot the first one, and I’m a little off, but it spins around the rim about 10 times and finally goes in. There is a 5 minute time limit, so I’m really irritated this shot took so long.
“Don’t think about Jordan,” I tell myself. “Focus and believe in yourself. You’ve spent a lot of time getting ready for this, you can do it.”
I shoot the second shot and it bounces off the rim. Third shot is an air-ball. Fourth shot bounces off the backboard and nails the pop-corn vendor. Popcorn everywhere. I’m thinking, “I just want this to be over so I can have some popcorn and a beer.”
“Don’t hit the beer vendor, don’t hit the beer vendor, don’t hit the beer vendor,” I keep saying.
“Focus!” I yell at myself.
Then the next ball goes in. And the next one. Followed by two air-balls and and other 3 misses. Then I get a few more in. Followed by a few more misses, then I sink the last two.
The buzzer goes off and the contest is over. I was so focused on what I was doing that I had no idea what Jordan did. My coach comes over with a strange look on his face. I don’t know how to read it, but I knew he had been watching Jordan.
He says, “Jordan made ever shot perfectly.”
My heart sank. I knew he had won. No Escalade for me. I wasn’t even getting any popcorn.
“But there’s good news,” coach says.
“What do you mean? If he made all those shots perfectly, there’s no way I won?” I replied, sounding really pissed.
“He didn’t have a hoop.”
“There was no hoop on Jordan’s side of the court. So, none of the perfect shots he made counted. There was nothing for the shots to go into.” Coach explained.
OK, you’ve read all this and now your saying, “Wow, this guy has really lost it, now he’s rambling on about basketball and making up fake stories about beating Michael Jordan in a free-throw contest. Well, you are correct, I am rambling on about basketball and making up fake stories about beating Michael Jordan in a free-throw contest, but I do have a point.
If you want to get known as an expert, you have to have a hoop and a net. The net is how you “catch” the shots you take. The shots you take are everything you do to promote yourself. The shots are your Blogs, Facebook updates, speaking engagements, and all the other stuff you do to get yourself known. But, if you don’t have a hoop to throw them through, none of them will stick.
Let’s talk about this a little bit more. When you meet someone at a party and want to talk to them some more, what do you do? You ask for their phone number, email, connect on Facebook, LinkedIn or something else. The point is that you are trying to create a way or a method by which you can stay in touch.
If you didn’t have Facebook, LinkedIn, email or a phone, you would have a really hard time remaining connected with these people. Also, while you were at that party, you said things that interested that other person. That’s why that person was willing to share their information with you.
That is exactly how it is when you are getting known as an expert. You need that “hoop” to capture the attention of the people you encounter AND (more importantly), impress!
In the expert business in 2012, “making shots” means getting email addresses onto your list. So, the point here is to get signed up with one of the major email list providers and start making those shots (collecting those leads)! You won’t make them all, but if you don’t have a hoop, you won’t catch any!