The Unlikely Lesson a Karate Master Taught Me About Sales

The first job I ever had was as a karate instructor.

I thought I had the coolest job on the planet. I got to teach people how to throw punches and land a mean kick – as a teenager.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to teach people of all ages the art and loved the practice. I would practice and train every spare moment I had growing up.

On vacation, in my room, in the backyard… You name it.

Out of all the instructors at my dojo, there was one in particular that I really looked up to. He was highly respected and and a real master at the art–someone I aspired to be like (and still do).

Let’s call him Mr. B.

Mr. B made an impact on thousands of people at a fairly large and established karate school every year. He can line an entire apartment with the trophies he has won over the years.

Decades later, he still trains there.

A naturally curious person, I asked Mr. B one day after working out why he chose this school 20 years earlier against fairly other well-known schools in the area.

He replied:

“Even though this school was out of the way, they picked up the phone when I was trying to schedule my first class. All the other schools in the area didn’t. That’s why I chose this school over all the others.”

“Wow!” I thought.

In my 14-year-old mind, I was expecting some sort of over-the-top answer about how he felt when he toured the facility, or how he loved the instructors right from the get-go.

I was looking for some serendipitous, universe-conspiring epiphany that made all the other schools look dwarf in their karate “skillness” in comparison to the one he chose.

It turned out that we literally got one of our best black belts of all-time because our school picked up the phone and the competitor down the street didn’t.

My mind was blown…clearly, as I remember it vividly 15 years later.

This same dynamic is happening across B2B businesses all over the world. Thousands of times a day companies lose their future best customers because of little, almost intangible errors at the top of the funnel.

The very first interaction is forgettable, not prepared for the buyer, and not empowering the buyer. I’ve been on all sides of this…the purveyor, the prospect, and hopefully now the problem-solver.

There were times as a sales rep where I could have immediately made the buyer’s life better but didn’t.

I’ve also gone through hundreds of funnels for tools to evaluate as a sales manager over the years. Many times all I wanted to do was buy but felt like I was performing in a circus act.

Why do we do this to each other?

This question is what drove me to work at Chili Piper and what motivates me day-in and day-out to help companies with their first interactions too.

I’ve compiled a list of the top offending business habits that we can easily tweak to make the buying process better – to enable the buyer to purchase seamlessly. At Chili Piper, we call this Buyer Enablement.


1. Forms that follow up with “Thank you, we’ll reach out soon.”

There are so many times where I have genuinely been interested in a product, but the current model in B2B is for a prospect to fill out a web form and then direct them to some version of a “thank you, we will reach out later” page.


With the speed of doing business increasing at an exponential rate and in the age of InstaCart, Instagram, Insta…Anything, the B2B world is still catching up.

The fact is, we simply don’t have the attention spans to wait and hear back after that initial interest.

When is the last time you went to a retail store and they said, “Cool you want to buy this shirt, come back tomorrow and we will talk to you about it.”

Now obviously SaaS product demos are more complicated and so is the scheduling process, but meetings are still the #1 correlate to revenue in B2B.

Getting the meeting when the prospect’s interest is most piqued, or even speaking to them right when they demonstrate interest (i.e.when they are on your site) is a better guarantee that they’ll take action on that interest.

Here’s how our customer’s have flipped the classic thank you page on its head.


2. Sending a link to your calendar in emails

There is definitely a time and place to use generic links to your calendar By generic links, I mean links that just list your available times and require the prospect to go through the work of finding a time and filling out their info.

There’s definitely a time and place for this and I use them sparingly, but in many cases it’s much more efficient to suggest times so your prospect can book in 1-click.

Like this:


From being in sales myself and also doing A/B tests internally, we’ve seen upwards of a 25% difference in conversion rates from suggesting times versus using just a direct link to your calendar. No small potatoes.

One of the best opportunities to suggest times is via email when a prospect replies to something you sent them.


3. Failing to ask for or receive training

Next to having the right tools in place to make the buying experience super fast, easy and straightforward is the salesperson’s ability to control the call.

I’ve spoken with a ton of companies and I’m constantly surprised by how many inbound sales reps receive little-to-no training. This lack of training can often lead to a fumble in the sales process that is especially not noticeable if you’re not measuring success on MQL to revenue.

We have the perception as an industry that inbound leads are slam-dunks, but they aren’t. They can most certainly be botched.

My main point here is that we should train our inbound reps as well as our outbound reps.

At one company I’m familiar with, outbound reps were mandated to attend weekly trainings and were monitored much more closely than their counterparts on inbound, who when it came time for training, were dismissed from duty.

Where outbound teams focus on best strategies for piquing interest and curiosity to take the first meeting, inbound reps should get training to focus on that plus be better equipped to remove obstacles to buying by being experts. They should also get them to the right place expeditiously while delivering added value that the prospect can’t Google themselves.

I have seen this happen with both AEs and SDRs. At every company I’ve worked at, there has been a big variance in close rates on inbounds with the same lead scores, the same way it happens on outbound. This not only indicates training gaps, but also suggests that reps should be put into roles where they are most likely to thrive.

As sales leaders, we should be providing more enhanced training on a regular cadence for these teams, measuring how sales reps perform on different channels, and using that data to optimize the floor.


4. Slow lead response times

Or even worse…never calling at all.


Slow lead response times are a symptom of a larger issue which is marketing/sales alignment. This slow pace hurts the conversion rates and diminishes your overall brand.

In my personal life, I can order anything I want from my couch, but when I’m at work and looking to buy a piece of software to help my team I may never even get a call back.

The most refreshing leaders I’ve worked for in this area are always in a growth mindset, rather than that of the status quo. They’re proactive about finding the right solutions for their business and know what to keep, discard, and continue testing to get optimal results.

Their hyper awareness and openness to new ideas sets them apart in moving the brand forward. It was a joy working for people like this and we made the company a lot more money by taking that approach.

We often delude ourselves about our customers – that we’re their first thought when they think of x type of product or industry. The truth is they can use someone else down the street in a heartbeat.

If we don’t make it easy for them to buy on their terms, then they will simply go somewhere else. They’ll keep calling until someone else picks up the phone.

Think of all the thousands of lives impacted by Mr. B and the millions of micro-moments my dojo enjoyed that another lost. The people he impacted so indelibly (like me) that it would last a lifetime.

The skills learned. The trophies won and tournaments competed. The unruly children who became disciplined. The adults who strived toward a health goal that they too reached.

All because someone decided to pick up the phone and schedule his first class.

About the author
Connect on Linkedin
The Sauce Newsletter
Join 20,365+
1x a month.
No spam, just spice
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Link copied

Most Recent Articles