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What do world-class athletes and top performing sales people have in common?

Oct 16, 2015

Written by: Walter Ruckes
(View Author Bio)

The answer might surprise you.

Comparing athletes and sales people BI WORLDWIDE Latin America.


At BI WORLDWIDE, we use the principles of behavioral economics to create the best engagement strategies on the planet. We work with expert academics who advise us on the latest research on human behavior, engagement and decision-making. We use non-cash rewards and recognition to engage and motivate employees and sales teams. Check out our case study library to see how our customized and results-driven solutions have helped clients all over the world.

There are so many sports clichés sprinkled throughout the sales process that after awhile you start to wonder if salespeople are a bunch of Monday-morning quarterbacks and cheerleaders trying to relive their glory days like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite.

“Back in ‘82, I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile.”- Uncle Rico

But today’s top athletes, the ones winning the big bowl games and standing on the
podium with medals around their necks, are changing the game. There are new rules for
what makes an athlete successful.

Smart sales reps are using this new playbook to be more strategic, build lasting relationships and close sales faster than ever before.

Here are the new strategies that top performing players and coaches follow to achieve

1. Don’t let someone else choose your goals.

Goals are highly personal and repeated research shows that top performers set their
own goals. Shaun White, a top snowboarder and extreme sports icon, says, “I stopped
playing soccer because of soccer moms. [They are] pretty intimidating to an eleven
year old.” He switched to snowboarding, where there was less outside pressure and
he could follow his own path. Understanding that your organization needs to set goals
is important but don’t let those goals hold you back or intimidate you. Find the path, the
vision and the goals that fit your strengths - even if they are a little extreme - and you
will strike gold.

2. Take an honest look in the mirror.

How many people do you know who go through life almost completely on auto-pilot?
We use heuristics to make most of our decisions for us. 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. In the book “The Art of Thinking Clearly,” Rolf Dobelli lists 99 biases and errors in thinking that can lead to unproductive behavior and failure. Ask yourself: What shortcuts do I take every day that are leading me away from my goals and not closer to them?

3. Don’t go it alone.

Gone are the days when a lonely athlete, training in silence, bursts onto the scene
to break a world-record and capture the world’s collective emotions. It might work in
Hollywood but not in reality. NASCAR drivers have their pit crew, skiers and figure skaters have multiple coaches and long-distance runners have training partners that help them push even further. The sales process may start with a lonely cold-call but rarely do you get a contract signed without a team effort. Technical, legal, product and marketing support is essential to sales success and building long-term customer relationships. The faster you build a team, the sooner you will build your book of business.

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Walter Ruckes

Walter Ruckes

Vice President of Sales and Channel Engagement

As Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Sales & Channel Engagement Group, Walter Ruckes's primary focus is to develop sales and channel engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of sales people, distributors, dealers and channel sales representatives. An expert in sales incentive strategy, he educates sales professionals around the world on how to best engage their sales force through sales engagement strategies, solutions and best practices.