Is there really a connection between sales and sports?
The answer is clear: YES, there are connections and they can teach you many valuable lessons.
And.... Why connect sports and sales?
For me the connection between these two worlds creates a high level of identification in the individual, which helps them to apply the magical life experiences that sport gives us in day-to-day sales.
While I will focus on cycling, we can think of any sport in order to create this bridge.
Returning from Hondarribia, the final stage of the Transpyr, I had time to reflect on the experiences of those 7 days of hard mountain stages and to see the connections between that sporting challenge and the tough commercial challenges that I go through in my daily life.
These are the 5 initial connections between sport and sales:
From the famous “I have a dream” to “I did it”.
I am convinced that any adventure, whether sales or sports, must be born in a dream, that magical moment when the mind is freed from prejudices, and begins to fly by itself with the only limit being the imagination.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
A dream is the inexhaustible source of gasoline that lasts until you finish an adventure like the Transpyr or you get a meeting with a future client. The challenge is often to start and take the first step, since a journey around the world always begins with a first step. So here is the question you can ask yourself: What is my first step today to start the journey to my dream whether sporting or commercial?
One day, those people we look at with envy on TV going around the world took a very mundane and simple first step, and one that anyone can take: let go of the TV remote and get out of the chair.
It is on this journey from the vision, the dream, to the action where many personal initiatives resulting from irrational thoughts or the social pressure of a predominant model are lost: What will they say if I do this? Will I ever make it? It is impossible for me?
There is only one way to resolve the doubt and answer these questions: by doing it.
“Do or don’t, there is no try” Master Yoda
Along with the previous item, I believe that these are the most important pillars and the “mother” of all the others.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right” H. Ford.
Every day in sports or sales reminds me of the importance of this saying. Positive self-conditioning helps us focus on the “half-full glass”, to overcome the daily challenges of every great adventure, whether at work or in sport. It gives meaning to the preparation, fuels self-motivation, accelerates the management of change at difficult times, and helps you to get the best out of yourself at the right time. It doesn’t matter if I am talking about sales or sport, it’s pretty much all the same.
How come a sportsman, even though he might be slightly less fit, can achieve things that another, stronger sportsman might not? How many people have “mentally” abandoned the journey before they even began? How many salespeople or KAMs have thrown in the towel before even starting?
Both in sporting and sales challenges, a positive inner attitude will make all the difference in those moments of truth, where you feel like throwing the bike down the ravine... or the customer... Hahaha!
What happens to a boxer when he loses “the eye of the tiger”? And what about a business man?
With a positive personal attitude, the visualisation of any challenge (a complex negotiation, a difficult sales meeting or going up the Tourmalet) gives us that advance flavour of the challenge to be met. It is a mental journey to the near future that prepares us and where we subconsciously develop the skills necessary to successfully manage that difficult moment.
“Only he who sees the invisible can do the impossible” J.F. Kennedy.
When I visualise a new adventure, my blood simmers with emotion and impatience. I want it to be “D-Day” and I want to put myself to the test with this new challenge. It is a volcano where you have to do a good job of managing and administering all that energy in order to use it in a process that can be long, and sometimes not so exciting.
Again, do I mean sales or cycling? It is the same thing.
I will never forget when they offered Jorge Lorenzo to do the Assen circuit in a simulator and with his eyes closed. It was impressive, he completed it without leaving the track and within a few seconds of his actual official time on a real motorbike.
How many times had Jorge visualised this circuit? How many times had he walked the track or done it on a scooter, bike, etc.? We will turn to preparation in the next point.
What do skiers do minutes before they leave for a race? They close their eyes and visualise the route, anticipating the bumps and gates and awakening the talent necessary to go downhill faster.
On some occasions, what makes the difference between Rafael Nadal and the 5th best player on the ATP ranking? His personal attitude and visualisation play a very important role.
What about you? What is your next business challenge?
When are you going to visualise the necessary steps to anticipate “the bumps” in a sale, open the doors of your client and get a first meeting?
A classic and nonetheless important maxim.
I cannot conceive of approaching the Transpyr, or a meeting with a client, without prior preparation adequate for the circumstances. A fundamental key to achieving any sporting or commercial challenge is prior preparation. We all know it, yet... How many practise it?
4 minimum levels of preparation:
One thing I’ve learned from sports and commercial adventures is to enjoy the whole process as part of the challenge: the dream, the visualisation, the preparation ... and in the end, the arrival at the goal or the signature of the client.
We spend our lives looking at the future and we forget to live in the present; every step of the adventure is a part of the process and has its charm. We have so much desire to sign the contract, to reach our goal or to reach the top, that we forget to live and enjoy the road that, paradoxically, often gives us many more experiences and joys, and gives meaning to the torrent of emotions on arrival at the goal or the signature.
Preparation is the calm, mature and balanced ally who tames the insatiable child I carry inside.
And... what is the typical excuse for not preparing well? “It takes time”. While that is true, is even more true that “preparing well takes time, not preparing well also takes time. Which of the two do you want to pay for?”.
At the top of Huascarán, in the middle of the Pyrenees, or in a meeting with a customer, not preparing will cost you dearly... So it’s up to you.
“If you are going to see a client without preparing a target, you will always reach only one goal... the client’s goal.”
Here we open Pandora’s box, which has cost me lost sales or a Sunday outing on the bike with friends on more than one occasion.
Having a dream, positive attitude, visualising and preparing are vital, and they are of no use if in the end you do not define and specify concrete goals consistent with your dream, your abilities and your performance.
You must be able to answer the following questions: What do I have to prepare? How do I prepare it? When is it for? To do so, you must first address the challenge of setting objectives, at least from two perspectives:
Not everyone wants to do the Transpyr or finish an Iron Man, and that is just fine with me. Many times, the problem arises when the goals or expectations of commercial or sports team members have nothing in common. This is generally a source of stress and frustration on both sides: those who want to do a fast 8-hour cycle route, and those who want a 3-hour route, stopping to take photos; those who want a strategic sale with a lot of added value, and those who want to sell commodities; those who want to be farmers and those who want to be hunters.
I will discuss this further in the next article, until then... ALL THE BEST WITH YOUR ADVENTURE!
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