Going for Gold: 6 Sales Lessons from Olympians
Home 9 Message from the Mentor 9 Going for Gold: 6 Sales Lessons from Olympians

The Tokyo Olympic Games are finally here. There is so much to admire about the athletes who are competing, from the power of their physical abilities to their mental toughness. The strict restrictions we’re seeing due to the coronavirus pandemic are making the competition different than years past, adding new layers of stress for the athletes. But the reason so many fans love watching the Olympics has remained the same – the Games have a spirit unlike anything else and the athletes’ passion is remarkable. There is also a great deal that sales professionals can learn from the practices that drive their success.

Consider the potential benefit of these six practices in the business world and in our day-to-day sales efforts:

  1. Visualize the end: “Busy fools” can be found readily in the business world, but they are non-existent among Olympians. Athletes at this level always begin with the (successful) end in mind. When you define and articulate a goal for an initiative (sales call, presentation, lead nurturing program), it provides focus and clarity, and makes it easier to map a plan for success.
  2. Seek critical feedback: A primary role of an elite athlete’s coach is to diagnose and address weaknesses in their performance. This function is critical to improvement. Seek and embrace critical feedback on your performance from customers, supervisors, and peers. It’s the first step in eliminating your weaknesses.
  3. Learn from the best: Spend time with people who can do what you can’t. Every athlete in the Olympics has engaged role models and observed competitors to improve their own performance. In the business world, this type of modeling most often comes in the form of professional coaches or mentors. Their input teaches new skills and provides afresh perspective and candid evaluation.
  4. Always improve: Olympic-level athletes bring new meaning to “continuous improvement,” evaluating their success not only by their place on the podium but in terms of whether they beat their personal best(performance). This drive for continuous improvement is how the top athletes stay at the top, and it is how top sales professionals do the same. Take Simone Biles for example – she consistently performs the most difficult moves in her sport but never gets complacent. When she’s not at her peak performance, she feels it. Winning the business is terrific, but continually improving your “game” and your value to customers will keep the business.
  5. Warm-up before every event: Be honest, how many times has your performance been compromised by a lack of preparation? This may be the single most common mistake in the sales profession – “flying by the seat of your pants” rather than delivering from a place of complete preparedness and confidence. Whether planning for a meeting, presentation, or sales call, be sure to define and allocate an appropriate amount of time for a proper warm up, running through your materials, contemplating questions or objections, and rehearsing for both content and delivery. This kind of preparation builds confidence, improves your focus, and alleviates stress, all of which will help you perform your best.
  6. Never give up: Perhaps the most admirable trait of Olympic athletes is their state of mind. That extraordinary tenacity and determination is unparalleled. Their focus remains on the successful outcome – most of the time, that means coming out on top, but for Simone Biles, that means taking care of her mental health. Olympians are prepared to put forth whatever effort is necessary to succeed. Who among us would not benefit from that attitude?

Assessing our day-to-day and learning from our behaviors is not always easy to do. Take a moment right now to pause and reflect on the power of Olympians and what you can learn from their discipline. Let their greatness ignite something in you, too, as you go forth and conquer whatever is in front of you.

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