After reading an article in Harvard Business Review about how Henrik Bunge, CEO of Björn Borg, runs his company like a CrossFit box, I started thinking how similar factors in both sales and sports (especially CrossFit) help you improve performance and win. I know I am hardly the first one to draw this analogue but here are my two cents regardless. By the way, the mentioned article is quite fascinating (also for anyone who is not in sales) so check it out.
So, having worked in sales for some years now and having done my fair share of sports, there are, in my mind, three main similarities in succeeding both in (B2B) sales and sports.
1. Work systematically
How do you achieve ten pull-ups unbroken? First, you complete nine. Then you do one more. How do you get nine pull-ups? First, you do... you got the idea. If you don’t get any pull-ups, you go to the gym and start practising. The next day you practice some more. And then some more. Eventually, you nail your first pull-up. With disciplined practice, you don’t just end up doing ten pull-ups in a row, but you do many more - and you will be surprised how fast that time comes. So instead of trying to transform overnight from a guy with zero pull-ups to a guy hitting a dozen pull-ups unbroken (happens only in movies when bitten by a radioactive spider), you improve bit by bit each day.
The logic above applies to sales. You don’t go from zero to sales hero overnight. Each day you get to work and move deals in your pipeline forward. To close one deal per week, you first need to close one deal per month. To hit a quarter’s sales target, you need to hit your daily activity targets. Respect the process. An elephant is eaten piece by piece. Ten pull-ups are done one by one. A deal is closed one sales activity at a time. A cornucopia like sales pipeline is built only through systematic work.
“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”
— Jerry Rice
2. Know your numbers
Athletes know their numbers. For example, those who practice weightlifting know what their record weight for one, three, five repetitions in given exercise is. When you know your statistics, you can work to improve them. You come up with a regular program (or consult someone for a plan) to work on weaknesses. Once you have your plan, you execute it as explained above.
Working in sales is no different. If you don’t know your metrics, improving is a hit and miss game. Top performers know their numbers. How many calls, emails, or LinkedIn messages are required to get a sales visit, how many visits to send a proposal, how many proposals to close a deal, etc. They work to improve these metrics. They develop both quality and quantity. Instead of hitting their quota with luck month after month, they systematically go from closing one deal to the next one. There is no such thing as luck.
“I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.”
– Ken Venturi
3. Keep going
You will lose. You will lose more than you will win. That’s the name of the game in sales. Don't take it personally.
Learn from your losses. Ask feedback. Ask why you didn't win. Ask how did that other one win? Find what works, improve upon it, keep going. In the end, it’s that simple.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan
And while you are at it, remember to have fun.
In the end, winning in sales and sport comes down to the same thing. Each and every day you try to do better than the previous day. While at the gym you add a bit more weights to the barbell, in sales you reach out to one more prospect before calling it a day.