You may wonder what athletes and salespeople have in common – it’s more than you think. Whether you’re trying to win on the field or in the field, sales people and athletes have many common characteristics. Think of the superstar athletes you idolized when you were growing up. Maybe you dreamed of making slam dunks like Michael Jordan, winning Wimbledon like Serena Williams, or hitting home runs like Ken Griffey, Jr. You recognized in them what so many others have too – not only do they have the talent to succeed, they have the drive to make it happen.
Athletes thrive on competition, using it as a motivator to heighten their own games. This is what athletes and salespeople have in common. You may never play in the Super Bowl or the World Cup, but you can take a page out of these superstars’ win-at-all-costs playbook when it comes to sales motivation.
To be successful in a competitive atmosphere, similar qualities, disciplines, and tactics to top athletes are required. Here are the top common traits amongst sales people and athletes.
When Michael Jordan was in high school in North Carolina, he was already a talented basketball player, but his coaches didn’t recognize just how talented he was. When he tried out for his varsity team, he didn’t make the cut, and he was placed on the B-Team instead. Rather than let that get him down, he kept at it and eventually went on to be regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time. This kind of persistence is key in sales motivation. In sales, you may hear “no” a lot. When you’re just starting out, you’re likely going to hear it a lot more than often than you hear “yes”. You can’t let it discourage you, and you can’t give up.
Tiger Woods was a golf prodigy who began playing when he was two years old and could outplay many professionals before he was in his teens. Despite these innate gifts and all the accolades he’s received, Woods still practiced endlessly growing up and continues to this day. In order to be the very best in sales, you need to have the discipline to work hard every day, to put in the hours it takes to be successful.
3. Competitive Spirit
“I am the greatest,” Muhammad Ali once said. “I said that even before I knew I was.” There’s a reason why Ali is the most legendary boxer of all time. Sure, he’s immensely skilled and talented, but that’s true of a lot of other boxers too. But Ali is as famous for his confidence and competitive spirit as for his boxing acumen. It’s that kind of fighting spirit that’s going to serve as prime sales motivation and take you far in this industry. There’s a lot of other people out there trying to make a sale – you have to want it more.
Perhaps no athlete best exemplifies the drive you need to succeed in sports than Serena Williams. Growing up in Compton, Williams did not have the advantages that a lot of successful young tennis champions do. But today she earns tens of millions of dollars in endorsements every year and she holds the all-time record in countless tennis achievements, from Grand Slams to U.S. Open wins to singles matches. Today, many consider Williams not just the greatest female athlete or the greatest tennis player, but the greatest athlete of all time. The drive to succeed like Serena Williams is part of what athletes and salespeople have in common. No matter what advantages you start off with, you take what you’re given and make it work.
5. Focus on Winning
There’s probably no professional sports team that most exemplifies winning more than the New York Yankees. They’ve appeared in 40 World Series (twice the amount of the next best team) and they’ve won 27 of them (far more than twice the amount of the next best team). Whether it’s the era of Ruth and Gehrig or DiMaggio and Mantle or Jeter and A-Rod, there’s no period in baseball in which the New York Yankees weren’t considered the top dog. That unrivaled degree of success should serve as prime sales motivation for any salesperson. No matter what team you root for, you want to win like the Yankees.
You can take lessons from teams that aren’t quite as successful as the Yankees too. For 108 years, the Chicago Cubs were renowned as the “lovable losers” of American sports. No professional sports team in America has ever gone that long without winning a championship. Some claimed they were cursed, others just accepted they didn’t have the money to compete with big market teams like the Yankees and the Dodgers, and many accepted the Cubs were always destined to lose… and then came 2016 and one of the most memorable World Series of all time. This resilience is part of what athletes and salespeople have in common. Setbacks happen, and sometimes they’re unavoidable. The key is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back out there. Eventually, you’ll succeed.
7. Constant Improvement
At the 1936 Olympics, when Jesse Owens set the world record of running a 100 meter dash in 10.2 seconds, it was an astounding world record achievement that made Owens one of the most celebrated athletes of all time. It’s a record that has since been broken over 50 times. Athletes are never satisfied that the best has already been achieved: they’re always ready to run faster, be stronger, and accomplish more. That’s what athletes and salespeople have in common. No matter what level of success you feel you’ve reached in this industry, there are always opportunities to do better, to work harder. This constant drive to do your best can work as powerful sales motivation.
We’re not all blessed with the amazing physical gifts of these superstar athletes. But hard work and determination are not things you’re born with, they’re things you work toward. Using these amazing athletes as your sales motivation can be the first steps to an amazing sales career.