I remember when I was young, and was watching American series about college teenagers, there was always this stereotype of the sport guys who were only developed in their body and nothing in their minds; and on the other side, the “nerds”, with only their brains developed and not their bodies. Nowadays, this trend has evolved, and you can see a more faded situation with people with both nerds and athletics characteristics.
I am Manu, sportsman since 7 years old, and have been working in sales since I was 18 years old. In this article, I am going to share with you my experience and thoughts on why, if you are sportsperson, you will tend to be more successful in sales.
I started with Judo, when I began to compete at the 1st year, I also did swimming pool, and I did national competition, with few records in 50m freestyle and butterfly (regional). I practiced dancing Hip-hop with few representations, and volleyball also in few competitions. My last experience has been Muaythai, or Thai Boxing, that I have been practicing since 2005.
When I was 12, I did a special school program that combines sports and studying. I had to learn how to deal with training, competition, and studying. This has given me the discipline and the basics to get organized if I want to balance both my hobby and my work.
As for my professional experience, I have been officially working in sales when I reached my 18th years. I have worked in many different industries: Perfumes and cosmetics, souvenirs and decoration, food, sports corporate hospitality, electricity and gas contracts, brand protection, software training services, IoT and AR, oil and gas, smart cities, utilities, and now medical devices.
Why are sports and sales a good combination?
What are the common points between my sports and sales experiences?
If you plan to be successful in sales, you need to get hungry, disciplined, and prepared. When I have to prepare for a fight, I do not simply show up and go. I must get prepared months in advance to get ready for what is coming next. This requires discipline, methodology, and organization. Waking up at 5.30am for a run, and then start to work at 8am until 5pm, for then going back to train for 3 more hours, at for least 5 days a week. Without this discipline, it is impossible to respect this agenda.
When you are mixing sport competition and work, you need to be organized and optimal in your everyday life. If you wake up too late, you will not have time to run, or simply you will be late for work.
In your work tasks, if you start doing something, (email, quote, calls, etc.) try not to be distracted by unnecessary things, i.e. social media, TV, etc. and keep the momentum and focus of what you do.
For example, you are planning to run a 5km. If after 2km, you stop and start taking selfies, then at 3.5km, you stop for getting some snacks… how efficient do you think the run will be? You start the 5km, you will stop or do something else once it is done.
2)Failure and success management
In competition, you cannot always win, and you cannot always lose. If after a defeat you think it is the end of the world and you cannot do more, only more failures will come. If after a victory you think you are too good and do not need to keep training, it is not guaranteed another victory will come again.
When I started my first job as a sales rep, I used to do prospections: more than 100 calls a day, for 80 people hanging up to me, between 1 and 2 people a day actually were potentially interested in what I was saying. This is a high ratio of failures vs success. On the other hand, I also had another job where I could have this ratio on the opposite side. And it can be easy to become lost in those successes and start doing nothing assuming it will keep going as they are.
What makes me keep going on, whatever the results are the discipline. If you use the discipline to keep doing what you are doing, failure or success, both will never become a burden for you and will only improve yourself.
Most of the sports I have done in my life are individuals sports. Although, individual sports do not mean there is no team spirits. When you are on the ring with someone, it is only you against someone else, and the best will win. But without a coach, people to train with, as a fighter, you cannot improve and learn to overcome yourself. Without a promoter, you can hardly find a fight. It is easy to highlight only the fighters who perform, but it is also important to notice what has been done before, during and of course after and with whom.
In sales, when a seller is performing his “show”, he did not learn the product all alone, he got trained by his managers and/ or mentors, … how did he get his clients? By having most of the time a team who did the prospection before and transmitted the leads to them. Once the sale is done, the back office then takes care of it and makes sure the clients got delivered. This, without mentioning the financial team that makes sure the payments are done, the legal team to make sure what is done is compliant, etc.
A good salesperson will be aware of those details and knows that in order to be the most efficient in their tasks, they have to consider the team they are working with. You are nice with your environment, the environment will be nice to you.
I remember in one of my experiences, I had to deal with a department of “deal validation”. In order to get my commissions, even if the POs were received, without the validation of this team, I would never get commissioned. And when you start, it can be frustrating, and complicated to understand the process. Few tension and conflict got created. Although, once I have met the person in charge, understood their process, and have become more friendly with them, the process of validation became way faster.
As one of my teachers always used to say: “The team work makes the dream works”.
4)Goal and incentive
Hunger, will, objective, goal, etc. without them, what would be the point of doing so much effort? If you take again the 5km race example. Racing these 5km is your goal, the objective to get. Although, why running this 5km? What is the real interest behind it? Running 5km for running 5km, anyone can do it, the difference will be in how it will be done and in how much time. If the person can only see “5km is the objective to get”, why hurry? If on the other hand, you run 5km in a certain amount of time, you will earn something.
As a sport person, you can see above this goal and why you plan to achieve it. And in sales, what is above the goals are called incentives. If you sell this amount, you will get this reward.
ABC, Always Be Closing, the typical sales motivation speech you can get. If you are playing soccer, you are taking the ball, passing all the opposite team members, you have run the whole field on your own, and you have even passed the goalkeeper. If you do not plan to score, what was the point? You have passed all those obstacles for 1 reason, score, win, close. If you are with a client, the discussion has been very serious, you have managed and overcome all the objections, and there is a lot of interest shown by this prospect. Your score, your win, your close is the signature (for example).
Reward, fame, incentive, etc. those are the visible parts of what it is to be a salesperson, or a sportsperson. What many people tend to forget is the hidden edge of the sword, the pressure, the stress that come with it. If sales or wins were easy to get, everyone would do it.
The risk of failure, the risk of defeat are real, and have consequences. How you deal with them is what will make you successful or not. And that is why, when you are used to competition, you are used to get pressured, you are used to the will of winning, of willing to be the number 1. In sales, you also have pressure, but at the end this pressure is still the same, and the desire to get the W is the same. And of course, the higher the challenge, the higher the pressure, but also the higher the result!
6)Open your mind
When you are in a workplace, most of your colleagues tend to have the same background of yours: Went to a business school, did some internships in sales, purchase, did some business development jobs, sales jobs, etc.
When you have a hobby, the people you will meet there are coming for the same reasons as you, the passion, desire to practice the same sport.
And because we are united for a same passion, people from many different backgrounds are gathered, from any nationalities, any industries, any kind of jobs, any social status, etc. This diversity makes you share your experience and their experience and can give you a different point of view of some issues you can potentially face at work. For example, you can meet some artists that could help you in publicity, web designers for your marketing, DJ’s for a celebration party for your next sales kick off you plan to do for the end of the year, etc. If you are a manager, a director, or a CEO, you can discuss as equal to other people who are low/ middle management and they could share their feelings towards their bosses, and it could give you another perspective on similar situations…
When you work, you accumulate stress, pressure, and can be assimilated to negative energy. This negative energy, still energy, need to be evacuated. If not, you accumulate it, and your quality of mindset can become affected: Burn out, depression, unhappiness, etc.
Generally speaking, when you can work and have a physical activity, this can help you evacuate all this negative energy. As a fighter, after a long day of work, nothing is more pleasant than punching and kicking pad for few hours. This helps me empty my mind, evacuate my stress and frustration, and reset my body and spirit, getting myself ready to start again the next day.
Competition is what has driven me in my personal and professional life. Being better than the others; work with your team to achieve your objective; learn from others to have a different view; accept and embrace the pressure you can have and overcome it; and if you want to be persistent, stay disciplined. Sport and competition have help me do what I have done so far in my life, and I hope this will help you as well.