Over the last two weeks, we have seen a plethora of great races on land and water, in all distances, completed by athletes across the globe. Some of those athletes surprised everyone, like South Africa’s Wayne Van Niekerk, who not only finished first by a significant margin but also broke Michael Johnson’s World Record. Athletes like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Alyson Felix and Katie Ledecky came into the Olympics facing a tremendous amount of pressure, and proved to the world that they are all still the best.
That said, the race that was the most inspiring and impressive for me was the men’s 10,000 meter run. Not only did Great Britain’s Mo Farah win gold, but he overcame a fall mid-race after being tripped up by his good friend and training partner, Galen Rupp. In the sport of running at the elite level, it is almost impossible to recover from a fall and win – his victory was nothing short of epic.
After witnessing this act of sheer determination, drive, self-motivation and desire, I realized that Farah’s approach to racing is similar to a great salesperson’s approach to business. Here are three commonalities that jumped out at me:
• The talented still train. Farah did not walk onto the track and run fast only because he is athletically gifted. Most weeks while training for the Olympics, he ran 126-135 miles over 2-3 workouts per day. This is what it takes to be the best in the sport of distance running… and sales. No, we don’t have to run massive distances, but a great sales person should undergo a comparable amount of focused training, even if s/he has natural talent, to be the best.
• Run at your own pace – run your race. Farah typically likes to start at the back of the pack and work his way up to the front as the race progresses. He does this most likely because it allows him to maintain control of the field and win his way. In sales, you have to sell the way that you feel most comfortable. You should keep an eye on your competition and make moves based on where you are positioned, but you should not ever let someone else dictate your selling behavior or pace.
• Just keep going. During his race, Farah faced every distance runner’s nightmare: a fall. After having his leg clipped and tumbling to the ground, though, he did not hesitate – he got right back up and re-joined the field, seemingly even more determined and focused. As we all know, this happens in most sales presentations too – no matter how well you prepare, you often face the unexpected. How do you react? Rather than getting derailed, a great sales person should shake it off and stay focused on the end game.
Sales professionals are well aware that in our industry, competition is fierce. Preparation, training, self-motivation, pace control, and overcoming objections are vital components to winning new business. How bad do you want to win gold?