Endurance sports seem to be all the rage these days – marathons, triathlons, cycling. The sport of triathlon has doubled over the past 10 years, cycling has grown 66%, and the half-marathon is the fastest growing road race (since 2003!). As an endurance triathlete, I’ve seen the sport grow substantially just within the past few years. More importantly, the lessons I’ve learned have revealed that endurance races and the sales process are not all that different. Believe it or not, whether you’re a seasoned athlete or simply refuse to run unless someone is chasing you, you share some undeniable characteristics with this growing community. Understanding these similarities can help your next “sales race” be a success.
Here are 8 key takeaways:
1. It’s all about prep work
Being unprepared is the number one way to ensure you crash and burn before reaching the finish line (or that dotted line.) Unlike a 5k, you typically can’t go out and run a marathon without training (or preparation). The same goes for the sales process.
Successful salespeople find that when you take the time to map out your training approach, race day doesn’t seem so daunting (for either party!). The How Selling process has served as a great “training plan” for many top sellers. In fact, when the time comes to complete the sale, their prospect is prepared (and even excited, dare we say) to sign that dotted line. Do you have a training plan for your sales process?
2. Each race is different (so you must treat them that way)
Any Ironman triathlete will tell you that just because you completed a race in Florida, it does not mean you will complete the same distance race in Colorado with the same outcome. (I’m speaking from personal experience, unfortunately.) Florida is extremely flat and warm compared to Boulder (and many places for that matter.) The same rule applies with clients. Just because you were successful in selling an idea to one client, does not mean you can simply duplicate it for the next. Or, if you were successful with one Automotive client, it doesn’t guarantee the same success with all automotive prospects.
Successful sales people know what kind of course and conditions they’re up against and adjust their plan accordingly. Sometimes you have to change your entire approach and the tools you use along the way. Can you adapt?
3. External factors can pop up at any time
Piggy backing off of the previous point — don’t expect the same outcome, even if it IS the same race. Let’s say you run your local marathon two years in a row. The first year, you commit to your plan, find a great running group. The weather is perfect on race day and you finish at the top of your age group. The next year, there’s a heat wave during the day of the race. You haven’t prepared enough with the heat and end up having to pull out of the race (or worse – push too hard and end up injuring yourself.)
The same can happen with a recurring client. Decision makers can change, budgets change, gatekeepers change. Business could have been going great for them one year and not so much the next. Successful salespeople don’t take anything for granted. Never push too hard that you end up severing all future business possibilities.
4. Multiple possible outcomes
What does success look like to you? Is your goal to finish (simply close the deal?) Unless this is your first race, probably not. Endurance athletes, like successful salespeople, aren’t satisfied by “just” crossing the finish line (without regard to time, place, etc.).
Think about your overall goal with each prospect: Is it to finish first place? (close the deal for more than anyone else? Or maybe get the biggest share?). Or, how about achieving a Personal Record? (Referred to as “PR” in the endurance world) In other words –close a deal for more than you have in the past?
Determine your goal so you know how to train for it. Remember, the more difficult the goal, the more time you have to commit to train… (but, the better the outcome!).
5. You can ALWAYS improve
No matter how “on fire” you are right now, there is always room for improvement. Learning from past races can be one of the easiest ways to improve.
In addition, great athletes don’t just spend more time working out to improve, they’re constantly researching, reading articles and learning how to make tweaks to perform better.
Sales is no different – which is why we put so much effort into our own blog!
6. Seek out sponsorships
When endurance athletes perform well in races, they are often offered sponsorships (some may have to seek them out).
As a salesperson, think of testimonials as your sponsorships. There’s nothing better than a client speaking publicly on your behalf. When you have success, make sure you ask for them! Written testimonials, video testimonials, recommendations on LinkedIn all work great. What clients can you get to speak on your behalf?
7. Taking care of you is a must
No matter how many miles they log, stress can make or break an endurance athlete. It’s part of the job and takes a toll on the body, leading to injury, burnout and/or illness.
How do you keep your stress in check? Yoga, stretching, massage, meditation are just some of the techniques endurance athletes use and they’re just as effective in the world of sales. (Imagine that.)
8. Race Day is supposed to be easy
Many people don’t realize this, but, race day is supposed to be easy! This does NOT mean that you don’t give 110% — it simply means that if you’ve completed your training, you should be well prepared to perform your best. All the work is done. This includes speed work, endurance training, practicing with nutrition, fueling your body properly and receiving enough recovery so that you’re set up for success on race day.
Do you feel this way when it comes time to ask your prospect for their signature? You should.
So… are you now feeling a little closer to your local running community? Hopefully you do. It’s easy to see why successful salespeople apply these same endurance principles to their own sales process. Happy racing!
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