The 3-Foot World: How a Rock Climbing Technique Can Help You Thrive in Sales

Looking up at a 100-foot sheer cliff face, it might seem impossible for any human being to ever climb it. From the ground, it’s difficult to see the very top, high above the trees. But rock climbers are able to not only scale that wall; they can do it quickly and safely.

What drives climbers to push themselves to reach those heights, and conquer mountains? It takes determination, drive, and — most of all — focus.

There’s a well-known concept in the world of rock climbing, called the “3-Foot World.”

The idea is that a climber needs to mentally focus on a very small area — the 3 feet of rock above. If you look too far up, or too far down, you’ll be discouraged by the seeming impossibility of the climb. But if you focus intently on the 3 feet directly in front of you, the problem seems simple and easy to overcome.


This concept is incredibly powerful when you apply it to the world of sales. Sales reps also face a strenuous task: to bring in the revenue that drives the entire company. This challenge also seems impossible, unless you focus on just one step at a time. Here’s why sales reps need to work within their own 3-Foot World.

Start with the Basics

Every rock climber understands the basic techniques of climbing — keep your body close to the wall; keep your arms extended; shift your weight before you make a move. If you forget these basics, you’ll never be able to climb a difficult route, let alone a massive cliff. The same holds true for sales. If you forget basic sales tactics to overcome objections, navigate within an account, and negotiate the deal, you’ll never succeed in the long term.

Sales reps should be focused on executing these techniques on every call, through every stage of the sales process. Sometimes, reps can feel overwhelmed by the many opportunities in the pipeline and can’t prioritize what to do next. That’s where reps have to remember their own 3-Foot World. You should focus on just one opportunity at a time, one step in the sales process at a time, and close that deal.

Rely on Training

Climbers know the importance of strength training, especially for muscles that are often only developed in climbing, like grip strength. If you stop climbing or stop training, you’ll lose skills quickly and struggle to climb at the same level as before. This is also true for sales reps, who have to practice their selling skills over and over, until they’ve internalized the skills they need.

In the moment on a call with a prospect, reps can’t fumble and stall while trying to think of the right tactic to use in this exact situation. Sales has to become a reflex, much like reaching for the next hold on a climb. This is why reps should be constantly training their sales skills through sales coaching, role playing, film reviews and more. You have to be prepared for whatever your prospect throws you next, and make the right move.

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Overcome the Insurmountable

In climbing, you’re relying on the strength of your limbs and the safety of a rope to reach the top. In sales, you’re relying on the power of your words to convince a buyer that they need your product in order to run their business well. Both climbing and sales require a kind of blind faith that you’re going to reach your goals, no matter how difficult it may seem at the outset.

If you doubt yourself for even a moment, you won’t be able to reach your goal. You have to know deep down that you’re going to scale that wall, and close that deal. There is no possibility of giving up, of saying “I can’t.” You have to stay within that 3-Foot World, focus on the problem in front of you, and know that you can overcome this challenge.

Sales and climbing both require an intense focus and a stubborn determination to reach your goals. By staying within your own 3-Foot World, you can tackle just about anything.

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