I was watching the Boston Marathon and following updates on social media and was amazed by all the participating runners. Here I am in my office, drinking my coffee, and staying dry from the rain. Meanwhile, people from all over the world are putting themselves through, what I can only imagine as, a painful and exhilarating experience.
Every runner was taking on a challenge, and an epic challenge at that. They spent weeks, months and even years to train for this event. They were racing competitors, racing against the clock and ultimately racing against themselves.
I am an avid runner myself, but still find myself asking “why do people put themselves through that?” Runners are a crazy and unique group and I know from first-hand experience. I ran in college at a Division I university, and I can tell you runners not only push past physical boundaries, but have to overcome mental obstacles as well (26.2 miles of mental obstacles to be exact).
Then it occurred to me that sales is like running a marathon. It’s not something you can just wake up and do. It’s something you must train for and something that can come with a lot of aches and pains.
You can’t treat sales like a sprint. If you do, you’ll find yourself short-winded and tired before you’re halfway to the finish line. Getting up every day for your sales role is like getting up every day to run and train. You have to have the right mindset. Both require goal setting, patience, long hours, team work, and resiliency.
Just like how a marathon runner trains and sets goals, in your sales role you must also have goals. You can’t only have a goal such as “I want to win.” You need to reduce it to the ridiculous and have a strategy. When you get to work every morning, run down your to-do list and focus on how you are going to hit your goals. For example, if your goal is to set up two appointments, how many phone calls are you going to make?
If you’re in sales, you know not every day is a great day. Sometimes you may find yourself “hitting a wall”, a runner’s worst fear. Meaning that it can feel like you can’t push any harder. Sales professionals experience this feeling when they have deals fall through or when it seems as if all of your leads don’t pan out. Runners and sales reps alike understand that to achieve their goals, they must be patient and expect setbacks.
If you’re goal is to be the top sales rep at your company, don’t expect the 9-5 to cut it. You need to work harder and smarter than anyone else and that may entail some long days and even working weekends. It’s a price to pay for victory. Runners training for the marathon may train hours each day, seven days a week. They may stick to a rigid training and diet plan too which requires focus and discipline. If they don’t take care of themselves and put in the work, they may get injured or be behind their training regimen.
People think sales is an individual career just like people assume running is not a team sport. Contrary to popular belief, both require a strong network. When elite marathon runners are training, they may have a coach or teammates to train with. When they are racing, they are feeding off one another to push forward. Runners rely on the support of family and friends and even the cheers of the crowd to carry them through. Sales professionals need a strong management team to help them achieve their goals. They also need to feed off the competitiveness of their co-workers.
The most essential trait to both running a marathon and building a career in sales is resiliency. You may find yourself hitting a wall, experiencing doubt and disappointment, and encountering a few bumps and bruises along the way. However, you need to be resilient to be the best. You must overcome objections and rejections and silence the voices in your head telling you to just quit. If you can push past the moments of doubt and focus on achieving your goals, you are on a path to success. Train, work hard and measure your efforts, and then do it all over again.
Next time you find yourself questioning your ability, think about marathon runners. Let it remind you that you have worked hard to get to this point. Have a marathon runner’s mindset and tackle each obstacle one mile at a time.