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Similarities Between World-Class Athletes and Top-Performing Sales People

Aug 26, 2014

Written by: BI WORLDWIDE India
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With changing times, there are new rules for what makes an athlete successful for it’s not a game for loner anymore...

With changing times, there are new rules for what makes an athlete successful for it’s not a game for loner anymore.

Smart sales reps understand they can also use these rules to build lasting relationships and close sales faster than ever before. Given below are few of those rules to achieve success.

1. Don’t let someone else choose your goals.
Goals are highly personal and repeated research shows that top performers set their own goals. A top snowboard player Shaun White admitted he moved on from playing soccer because of ‘soccer moms’ as there was less outside pressure in the game and he could follow his own path there. Similarly, finding one’s own path, the vision and the goals that fit your strengths, even if they are a little extreme will help perform you better in sales than if anyone else sets your goals.

2. Take an honest look in the mirror.
How many times do you make your decisions based on Heuristics? Heuristics are defined as mental shortcuts – we couldn’t get through the day without them. But they often keep us heading in the same direction. These shortcuts often lead us on the same way resulting in unproductive behaviour and failure.

3. Don’t go it alone.
It is important to have company while you are up for a challenge. The era of a lonely athlete training in silence is long gone. Today, long-distance runners have training partners that help them push further. Hence, team effort is essential. Similarly, sales process may start with a lonely cold-call but team effort is needed for the contract to get signed, be it technical, legal, product or marketing team’s support. The faster a team gets built, the sooner you will benefit.

4. Be different.
Do you have the courage to go against the crowd and stand up for what is right? For example, at one time, the curveball, forward pass and instant replay were nowhere to be found on the playing field in sporting events. Forward pass was attempted in sporting events around 30 times (against the rules) and required sweeping changes before it became a part of the game as we know today. Thinking differently and having courage to keep going despite the odds will raise the bar for everyone around you.

5. Stop trying to multi-task.
Focusing on one thing at a time is essential to achieve victory both in sales and in sports. The best coaches and players know the difference between a time to practice, time to play the game, time to strategise and time to execute that helps them understand when to take risks and when to let go. Juggling many tasks is more fruitful in impressing co-workers, not in achieving goals.

6. Bring on the competition.
The best way to raise your performance is to take on the toughest competition. Teams like, cricket’s India vs. Australia, soccer’s Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, are notable because there are two winners there, each trying to perform better than their counterpart. Individuals and organisations also follow the same logic as they challenge themselves to perform better than they ever would without the competition.

7. Shut up already.
Saying before and then trying to live up to it is harder than first achieving a goal and then talking. There is a growing Say-Do Gap on playing fields and in meeting rooms everywhere. All of us love to talk and it often leads to more talk than act, resulting in “preference reversals” according to behavioural scientists. Save the talking for the celebration after you achieve your goals and you will get there so much faster.

8. Be picky.
Top performers hardly concentrate on who is the best. Rather, they first concentrate on the game they play. According to the concept of idiosyncratic fit, we will succeed when we perceive we have an advantage over our competitors in a given opportunity. Thus, it would help you take a look at your strengths before going ahead with a task. Once, you have picked your advantage area, go for it!

9. Reward yourself.
Everyone works on some motivation and what better way than rewards? Current research in behavioural economics confirms that individuals will work harder for a non-cash reward like travel and luxuries that people generally don’t go and buy themselves. This works well for both sports and sales. For example, Lisa Jackson, author of “Running Made easy”, has a beginner’s training plan that includes rewards ranging from treating yourself to a movie, splurging on a spa day or simply enjoying your favourite meal when you reach your goals.

To be a game changer, you need to stop talking about change and set new goals – your own and work towards it. Check this presentation to know more about the similarities between world-class athletes and sales people.

BI WORLDWIDE™ applies the science of behavioural economics to design, communicate and reward salespeople for their performance.


BI WORLDWIDE, is a global performance improvement company and has been in operation for over 60 years. Fusing Domain Expertise, Cutting Edge Technology, Rewards Fulfillment, and Campaign Execution Capabilities, BI WORLDWIDE provides end-to-end solutions to implement effective Employee Recognition, Channel Rewards and Customer Loyalty programmes.

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