What can Sales Leaders learn from Olympic Trials?

Last week, the U.S. Olympic trials took place for our athletes to compete and qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Watching the athletes, and their coaches and teammates, I realized that there are many parallels between sports and sales. Here are a few things that we can learn from the Olympic trials:

1. The competitive landscape is always changing.
There are big differences between the Olympic competitors in 2012 and 2016. Even the world-class athletes face new competitors and must constantly improve their game. They must evolve and learn while taking advantage of new training and technology.

To be the best, sales leaders must constantly re-evaluate their individual players and their competitors. The one constant in their world is that there is ongoing change. Whether it be new competitors or changing buyer needs, sales leaders must be one step ahead of their competition.

2. Practice makes perfect.
The rigorous, consistent training of these athletes is what makes them great. There is not an athlete among them who got to where they are, strictly on their talent and abilities. Their mindsets, discipline, and hard work earned them the right to be Olympic contenders.

Your top performing sellers will not necessarily be the most talented individuals. Rather, they will be the professionals who have the mindset, drive, and hard work to be the best. They will embrace learning and new knowledge that will positively impact their results. They will constantly practice and hone their skills to perfection.

3. World-class coaching is linked to high performance.
Every Olympian credits their coach (or coaches) for helping them to achieve their dream. Many of the athletes have worked with the same coach for decades, while others improved by being selected by highly acclaimed coaches to join their winning teams. The common thread is that they worked together with their coaches to maximize their results.

In sales, the best performing sales teams are led by sales leaders who are excellent managers and coaches. The most effective sales leaders will have a defined sales and management coaching process, and cadence for developing their team members. The best leaders will have the ability to motivate their sellers while continuing to build their skills.

4. It isn’t always winning that’s important.
These athletes are human beings. They have good seasons and bad seasons, good meets and bad meets. What makes them great isn’t their victories but their willingness to learn from their shortcomings. The best athletes will come back stronger and healthier. They will train harder and be better than ever before.

Sales leaders must bounce back from key losses and quarterly attainment shortfalls. They must be resilient while realigning their sales team to achieve greater results. This requires the ability to look inward and outward, in order to determine and prioritize the changes that are required to improve performance.

5. Together, everyone achieves more = TEAM.
It is no coincidence that the US is building a team to represent our country. The US Olympic team’s success in Rio will be a combination of individual training and dedication with perseverance and team work. The athletes and coaches will rely on each other to be enthusiastic, focused, and confident.

The best performing sales teams work collaboratively. They tap into subject matter experts and leverage best practices to align with their customers. They are encouraged to work together to solve their customers business issues and be innovative in developing new solutions. As a team, they will be more successful than they would as individual performers.

Yes, sales leaders are like Olympic athletes and coaches. We are all on a journey. To be our best, we need to constantly evolve and learn from our managers, competitors, and colleagues.

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