What Skiing in Japan Taught Me About Getting Better in Sales


The powder was amazing, up to my waist at times. (and yes that’s my pink hat and goggles)


I’m back. Skiing in Japan was an amazing experience, but I almost missed it. It took me almost the entire time to “get it”, to get the experience that is skiing in Niseko Japan. I ski Vail 40 plus days a year. Therefore, I had a preconceived notion of what skiing was and should be and it was nothing like Niseko. My preconceived notion of skiing included;

  1. sunshine
  2. high-speed lifts
  3. easily accessible terrain
  4. easily accessible town
  5. apres ski
  6. lifts that work ALL the time

Niseko had non of these and it took some time to get used to. It snowed EVERY single day we were there, it never stopped snowing. This was awesome, but it took some getting used to not seeing the sun for 8 days. Yes, the skiing was sick, BUT it was constantly windy, you couldn’t see the trails and the terrain your were skiing on. If it weren’t for the trees, which is all we skied, it would have been terrible.

The lift system was straight-up out of the 70’s. With a few exceptions, the lifts were mostly two person, attached chairs. This means they were slooooowww and that made it hard to get in a lot of runs and get around the mountain quickly

The mountain was separated into 4 “villages” that were divided on the mountain by avalanche zones, so you had to take lifts to the top of the mountain to ski to another village or ski that villages terrain. If a lift wasn’t working, which many weren’t during the last 3 days, you couldn’t access any other part of the mountain, you were stuck, unless you took a 30 min crowded bus ride.

There was no apres ski. In Vail everyone goes straight from the slopes to the bar and has a drink. Not so much in Niseko. This took some time to get used to. We tried to make our own apres ski. 😉

Because of the wind, the lifts that took you to the top of the mountain stopped working. This made it impossible to move around the mountain which significantly limited our terrain choices. It sucked. Each “village” area only had a few runs, so to optimize the mountain required going to the top and skiing down to different villages. The lifts closing, severely limits the terrain.

Needless to say, we found ourselves bitching a bit, and making negative jokes about the experience. However, as the week progressed and we became more familiar with the way things worked, our experience began to change. We began to work with what we had and this was the sales lesson.

Every sales opportunity is going to be different. Expecting each one to be like the last is suicide.  Each buyer will put you through a different process. Every company will have different buying criteria. Each process will take a different amount of time. Each deal will require a different deal strategy. Each buyer will buy for different motives and for each of these unique differences, a unique approach and outlook will be needed.

Too often we attack sales like it’s cookie cutter and become frustrated when things don’t turn out like we hope. That’s what happened to us the first few days in Japan. The snow was better than any place I’ve ever skied, but we almost missed it because we were too focused on what we didn’t have, what was different from Vail. Once we accepted that we weren’t in Vail and learned the mountain, things changed. We found pow stashes we didn’t know existed, we got in more skiing and had more fun!

Every sale is going to be different. Once we accept that, our chances to close the deal increases. The key isn’t getting good at what’s the same, it’s knowing what’s different and getting good at that.


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