What Sales Professionals Have in Common With Olympic Athletes

Olympic fever has taken hold of the world. Once again we sit on couches with snacks watching elite athletes do seemingly impossible feats during a variety of events. Don’t ask us what the point of synchronized diving is, but we can tell you that there are parallels that salespeople can draw between our profession and the Olympic Games.

Getting Your Game On
One may be pole vaulting and the other trying to make their numbers, but both elite athletes and sales folks must be at the top of their game in order to win. Yet, getting to peak performance is not easy: You need to practice—a lot—and improve. For salespeople, practice doesn’t involve Gatorade—unless you want the sugar rush. What it does involve is that other energy drink—coffee—along with role playing; having a positive, winning mindset; and embracing the idea of learning new skills.

No athlete would make it to the Olympics without proper coaching. Coaches know their sport and how to help someone be the best gymnast, swimmer, runner they can be. Similarly, a good sales coach has the experience to know where improvement is needed, as well as what to coach you on so that you master tricky areas and improve your sales performance.

Being a Team Player
It always comes back to synchronized diving. Again … huh? Aside from that being an odd event, it is a sport that obviously involves a team effort, as do hockey, doubles tennis, and more. The most fitting team analogy to draw from here is a relay event. Many sales organizations are segmented into teams, for example when SDRs do the prospecting, and then hand the “baton”/qualified leads to account executives. But even if your job scope means you’re involved from the starting gun to the finish line, you should be team-focused for all phases of the customer-acquisition lifecycle: bouncing ideas off your teammates, providing backup during sales presentations, role playing for upcoming calls, etc.

Although they may look like nice folks in their dandy matching warmup suits, Olympians are fierce competitors. They got where they are by never giving up; by always pushing to be the best. Most sales professionals are also very competitive—or they wouldn’t be in this business. Par for the course for us is analyzing customer behavior and trying to make our prospects happy. And as we’re going out of our way to please them, we know that they’ve likely reached out to two or three of our competitors. Like Olympians at the start of the Olympics, we never know who is going to be the victor. It’s the wrong approach, however, to compete on price alone. Your winning edge should be the level of expertise you bring and the stellar customer service you provide.

Lastly, you’ve got to have your strategy dialed in. Strategy is power when it comes to competing in the Olympic Games, and Olympians know when to pull back their awesomeness and when to set it on full tilt. If you’re going for gold in sales, you must think strategically. Strategy is a plan, an approach, even a vision. Whatever strategy you decide on, work it out before you jump off the springboard. It can mean the difference between a belly flop and a swan dive.