Play Your Game and No One Else’s


(By James Bahm) When I started bowling, like every kid everywhere, I watched the pros on ESPN and thought, “If they can do it, I can too.” Reality had other plans, however. The first week, I averaged 102 for three games. I continued to progress over the next couple of seasons and eventually led the league with a high game of 277 my last season.

I’ve since thrown a 300, won multiple tournaments, league championships, and started teaching my daughter how to bowl. Like anyone who practices and hones their talents, improvement will come in time – though true improvement never happens in a perfect diagonal line; rather, it grows like a vine on a lattice: up, down, sideways, and every which way in between.

Here are three (and a half) hurdles many professionals trip over. When I learned to overcome these, I grew exponentially – and I’m sure you will, too.

1. Never compare yourself to anyone.

Whenever I tried to beat my opponents at their game by playing their game, I failed miserably until I began working with a coach who saw what my ego couldn’t

When you are in front of a prospect, and they say, “I’m talking with XYZ and ABC. They said….” it’s easy to get inside your head and start the comparisons.

Don’t. I never blink an eye when a prospect tells me that they’re talking with my competition. At that point, I focus on what we do differently and highlight our strengths and focus on my company. I could spend time talking about those stations; however, once you start talking about them, you cease to talk about your stations, and that does you no good.

Know your opponent (1.5)

If you play golf recreationally, your only opponent is the course. Do you bowl? Your opponent is the lane. In a sales call? The opponent isn’t the competing stations, but rather yourself. Be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. Ask better questions. Take better notes.

The only person to ever compete against is yourself.

2. Never make changes during the game.

Ask 100 people how to improve and you’ll get 100 different answers. I started asking my peers for advice on the lanes until one of my coaches told me that the time to really improve is during practice. Growth began when I developed my game by practicing and accepting my coach’s advice.

Your time to practice is when you ask your GSM to please look at the proposals you’re putting together. Role play in their office. Have them ask you questions that challenge you and make you wish someone was sitting next to you who could step in and take over.

My station manager used to rip my proposals so frequently … until I received this email: “This. Is. Good. Send it.” I did and started landing new business accounts.

Practice hurts. Training sucks. So what. You’ll never improve unless you fall and learn.

3. You’re no one else but you.

Type that out and look at it constantly. Every time I tried to be someone, I failed. I was too proud at the time to ask for help. The second I stopped trying to impress someone with my knowledge, and started caring about their advice, I improved, and success followed. Sure, I’ve had losing streaks and went through rough times. Who doesn’t? Everyone in the hall of fame struggled at some point in their career, too.

Heed the advice in Gary Allen’s song Like It’s a Bad Thing, “So what If I don’t do it like anybody else does?”

You are the one intangible no one else possesses. Until your sales game is uniquely your own, you’re going to remain indistinguishable from every other rep that darkens your prospect’s door.

Play your game, and success will follow.

Bottom Line: Don’t be an imitation of the seller you want to become. Become the seller no one else could ever be.

James Bahm has over 30 years’ experience in broadcasting, sales and marketing, and recruiting and hiring. He is the author of Don’t Yuck My Yum – a Professional Development and Sales & Marketing book – which is available on  He can be reached via email: [email protected]



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