Win the Last 30 Seconds

The following excerpt from Larry Steinmetz’s book “Kansas Sense: Simple Business Wisdom from the Heartland”, illuminates practical and philosophical stories that easily resonate with leaders from all walks of life.

Sugar Ray Leonard

For those who do not know, a boxing match consists of a series of three-minute “rounds.” Most prizefights today consist of 12 rounds. Many boxing matches do not end in a knockout.  They are often decided by a panel of three judges using a rather complex scoring system to calculate how each boxer performed in each round.

If a knockout does not occur, the winner is determined by consensus of the three judges scoring. This means that in the three judges’ opinion, whichever fighter won the most rounds wins the fight.

Since the judges scoring for each round occurs at the end of each round, Sugar Ray Leonard believed that usually the most critical influencing factor for a judge was the result of the last 30 seconds of each three-minute round. He felt this last period of a round is what the judges remembered the most.

Consequently, Sugar Ray would make sure that he gave his best effort to “win” the last 30 seconds of every round. This strategy proved very effective for Sugar Ray as he outscored his opponent in practically every fight. Of course, it did not hurt that he was a great fighter, but his intelligence and fight strategy certainly contributed to him being considered one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Applying Sugar Ray’s Mentality to Business

At one of my previous companies, we held a dealer conference meeting, and all of our top customers attended. Normally this type of meeting lasts about three days and consists of product and program presentations, social events and lots and lots of interaction with our customers, the dealers. As vice president of sales and marketing at the time, I was the host of the event.

During the course of this particular meeting we had bright spots, but of course, like all meetings, we had areas where the dealers told us we needed to improve. On the last evening we held the annual dealer awards dinner.

A lot of serious issues had been discussed over the last few days, and it was time to close the meeting out on a positive note. We wanted the dealers to leave the meeting re-energized to sell more of our products and re-committed to continue partnering with our company.

I gathered our sales team just prior to the start of the awards dinner and told them the story about Sugar Ray Leonard. I told them the awards dinner was our chance to recognize and thank the dealers for their business and to communicate our sincere message that we were in this venture to succeed with them together as a team. If we were successful in convincing the dealers that our message was genuine (and it truly was), then we could overcome any obstacle presented now or in the future.

The dealers would leave the meeting on a high, and together with the dealers, we would be on the right path toward achieving our common goals. It was up to us to produce this feeling, and we needed to deliver. Or as Sugar Ray would say, “We needed to win the last 30 seconds of the round.”

We pulled it off! Of course, it’s always easier if your message happens to be the truth and what you actually believe in. The evening was a huge success and in the next 12 months we experienced the highest volume of dealer sales in company history. I believe winning the “last 30 seconds” of the dealer meeting helped us achieve these results.

Win the Last 30 Seconds

This advice does not just apply to customer situations. Try to apply Sugar Ray Leonard’s theory to all of your interpersonal dealings. Whether meeting with clients, fellow employees or in social situations, always try to finish strong.

When you sense that a meeting or encounter is coming to a close, and even if the encounter did not go particularly well, close with a bang. Be positive, be enthusiastic, be generous, be considerate, and be sincere.

You will be surprised and pleased with the results you achieve if, like boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard, you commit to “winning the last 30 seconds of every round.”

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