Sales Olympics

How would we fare if we had a Sales Olympics?

Fitter, faster, higher, stronger… (and most certainly drug free!)

How does the talent and commitment required for success in the Olympics equate to the sales environment?  If we take a look at what it takes to win Olympic gold (or to even compete there) it can be quite revealing:

  • Up to 4 years commitment to training, probably on a daily basis.
  • Constantly seeking to improve, beat the competition and do personal bests. Ultimately looking to break country, Olympic or even world records.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Whatever the Olympic discipline, constantly seeking the perfect performance. Practice makes perfect!
  • Always keeping an eye on the competition. How well are they doing?
  • Seeking new ways of doing things. Improved techniques, different training methods, use of technology.
  • Getting feedback and coaching from experts. Taking this feedback seriously and acting on it.

So how does this relate to sales?

We’d say it absolutely should apply, but in practice it rarely does.

Salespeople are a bit of a strange breed. If we asked any salesperson whether those Olympic ideals apply to them they’d probably say yes, absolutely. Yet if we asked the same salesperson how he / she planned to adopt them, they’d probably think us mad!

Here’s the rub. In sales we generally practice on our customers in live situations. Our skills are not world or country best, goodness they’re often not even up to the bare minimum required for moderate success. We think we know it all, we think we sell to meet needs, yet 80% of our customers say we don’t.

Yet as salespeople we resist opportunities to improve.  We don’t ‘do’ role plays based on sales scenarios because it’s different with real customers; we don’t like being observed or listened to in customer interactions and we certainly don’t like receiving feedback on our sales skills.

We believe this attitude to be completely self-defeating. Remember when David Beckham scored that free kick for England against Greece in the world cup qualifier about 10 years ago? Brilliant! How many times had he practiced that in training? 1,000? 5,000? Who knows? The one thing that is certain is that if he hadn’t practiced it he wouldn’t have scored with it in the match.

So here’s the real rub. If you want your salespeople to be high performers they need to do the things that Olympians do. They need to practice, train and continually seek feedback and look to improve. Practicing on their (your) customers is simply not good enough.


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Brendan Walsh