The Olympic Games are underway in Rio, with athletes from across the globe showing off their skills and talent, and demonstrating a steely determination to land themselves a medal.
And for sales teams, there’s a lot that can be learnt from these super humans, especially when it comes to adopting a winning mindset.
Whether you’re a sales rep, or you’re out there competing on the world stage, you’ll be working hard to achieve your goals. However, there’s one big difference. If you’re an Olympic athlete you only have one chance to go for gold, whereas in sales you get the chance to do so every single day and month of your career.
What catapults these amazing Olympians into a class of their own is not just their talent and physical abilities – as these attributes alone don’t make a winner – but putting in the hard work and having the focus and determination that is needed to take them all the way.
Olympians train their body very hard but also their minds. When you see all the runners poised on their starting blocks, they will all have worked very hard to get there, but their physical training will only take them so far. From the moment the gun goes off and the competition gets underway it will be their minds that need to take over and that will ultimately determine whether they cross the finish line a winner.
For years athletes across all sports have recognized the need to not only develop the body but also to work on the mind, and in sales, it’s no different. Just think of that little voice that can sometimes pop into your head and tell you that ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘it’s too hard’, ‘you’ll never achieve your goal’ and ‘you’re going to fail’.
When most people say they’re no good at sales it’s because they aren’t very good at keeping this internal voice in check. Great sales people have this ability and will have learnt to set it aside and not let it interfere with their progress. They’ll constantly be looking at ways to up their game and won’t let setbacks get in their way.
Here we look at some of the ways top athletes train their minds and how these techniques could also help you.
The mind is like a muscle, it needs to be constantly trained and worked on to perform well. A lot has been written about ‘mindfulness’ – a technique that can be used to aid concentration, helping you perform in the moment. For USA water polo player Merrill is has been highlighted as the secret to his Olympic success.
Many successful entrepreneurs and sales people take this approach to stay on top of their game. A Google employee has developed a whole program around it ‘Search inside yourself’ and many others have too.
Motivational talks and events are also popular in sales organizations for the very simple reason that the mind needs constant exercise and food to stay focused and on target. It’s a bit like taking a shower every day, the effect will wear off after a while so it needs to be done regularly.
2) Learning to focus
In today’s world it’s becoming increasingly difficult to focus on one thing at a time, but if you’re to be successful then developing this skill is a must. The idea that multi-tasking is an aid to success is a myth when it comes to high performance. It’s just not possible. The key is to know what your priorities are and to focus on them. Have them in front of you at all times and be strict on what is truly important and what’s not.
Also, make the most of the technologies that can help you. When you’re busy researching or reading up on things consider which tools you could be using that could help you focus, such as brain.fm and focustatwill.com.
3) Turn off the inner doubt
That niggling little voice inside has a lot to answer for! One reason Olympic athletes are so good at what they do is because they are also pros when it comes to shutting off that little voice.
It’s all about finding your way into ‘the zone’ – you know, that place where you don’t even think, you are just performing at the top of your game and everything flows.
One mental hack here that can help you get passed the chatter is to confront the voice and ask ‘is that really true?’. So when it comes out with ‘you’re not good enough for this’, ask yourself if that’s really true and stubbornly answer ‘yes I am!’. Because in reality, that little voice is going to be wrong 99% of the time. And when it comes to the other 1%, where you may be faced with an impossible situation, you’ll already know that’s the case. For the rest of the time, the more you affirm that what the voice is saying is wrong, the more easily you’ll shake if off.
Watch out for generalizations too, which are simply not going to be true, such as ‘you always do it wrong’ and ‘everyone thinks you’re rubbish’. And if the fear is really bad then think what the worst case scenario really is and work back from that. What’s the worst that could happen and what could you do about it? You will always come up with something and the more you ask yourself these questions, the quieter the voice will get.
4) Forget about winning & losing
No, we’ve not gone mad. In the world of sales, where goals and results are everything, you may think this advice is counterproductive. However, if you have a mindset that is either you win or you lose, then you are setting yourself up to struggle. Every time you ‘lose’ you’ll be putting yourself down and be wasting time and energy getting over it.
In order to achieve your long-term goals, you need to realize that there will be ups and downs along the way. No athlete gets that gold medal without hitting a few hurdles – in some cases literally! – along the way. The path to gold will be littered with highs and lows, and there’ll be lots of smaller wins and losses before you get there. The important thing is to look at the bigger picture and the overall trend. Every successful athlete, entrepreneur and business boss will know that moving in the right direction is what counts most. Yes, there’ll be setbacks, no matter how hard you push for it or train, but as long as the trend is upwards then happy days.
Instead of thinking of it as losing, see any setbacks as purely being a stepping stone on the way to the big win. Learn from them – for example, were you too pushy? do you need to be more attentive to what the client is saying? do you need to adjust your style? – and turn them into a positive that boosts your performance.
One way to trick your mind into not worrying too much about winning and losing is to celebrate everything – the good and the bad. Every loss is a learning and a step forwards, so use it to your advantage to ensure you are even more effective next time. Celebrate that you’ve pinpointed an area you could improve, helping to make you even stronger. This approach can help train your mind to accept a loss as just a stepping stone on your path towards success.
5) You’re not alone
No athlete can compete and win at an Olympic event (or in any other competition) without a great team behind them. Regardless of the discipline – whether it’s a team sport or individual pursuit – they will need coaches, trainers, dietitians, physicians, physiologists…the list goes on. And it’s the same for any good sales rep. Remember you are part of a team and can get a lot from that team that will help you achieve great things. Different team members will offer you different things and you’ll get back from it what you put in. So engage, support and boost each other on to the win.
6) Practice makes perfect
One thing is for sure, without practice you will never win at the Olympics and you won’t close sales, so have your own personal routine in place. Ongoing training and practice is vital if you’re to stay focused and on target.
The sales game is an ongoing challenge. If you’re going to go for gold, set your goals high, focus on what’s important and work towards them with unwavering determination. Check your trend line is on the up and always strive for excellence, ticking off your goals along the way.
You will have ups and downs but if you continue practicing and improving, focus on what’s really important, and use your learnings to enhance your performance, then your results are only going to go one way and you could soon find the sky really is the limit.