Olympic Athletes Vs Sales Teams

On the 27th July 2012, the world will watch each of the 10,500 Olympic athletes represent their country in  London’s East End. Each athlete will stand at their peak, ready to perform against whatever comes between them and their gold medal.

In the run up to possibly the biggest sporting event in the world (even the US takes this one seriously!) athletes focus on their mental strength as well as their eating and sleeping patterns. Irrespective of their talent and determination, each athlete will have spent 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, numerous months a year (for many years previous!) training their bodies and minds to be in peak condition, even if their surname is ‘Bolt’.

They train consistently to develop and perfect their skills, work on their weaknesses, and maintain their phenomenal level of physical shape in order to accomplish the performance of their lives, whilst the world watches. Furthermore, each athlete will work day and night with their own coach, who will work alongside them developing their skills, pushing them harder, faster, further… in order for them to progress. They do this because they want to be the best. They do this because that’s what it takes to compete with the best.

In the battleground of today’s business world, sales people are having to give the best performances of their lives to win business in such challenging and highly competitive marketplaces.

Yet, even in the current economic climate, it seems to be acceptable for sales teams NOT to have any investment in their development. One has to wonder why it is so expected for a sports person to spend the majority of their ‘working life’ partaking in on-going training, but it is not a favorable method when it comes to businesses needing to sell their products….

Take a professional golfer who spends hours and hours every day practicing his swing, and a car sales man who gets sales training once every year (or less!).

The expectation of their results is the same: To Win. Yet the car sales man is expected to do this without the support, without the training, and without developing his knowledge, his skills, or his mindset. Furthermore, the car sales man will probably be expected to sell new products within that same year, yet the playing field will (99% of time) stay the same for the athlete.

Is it really that different? Aren’t both of these professions presented with unpredictable or uncontrollable factors in their everyday working lives? They say that every sports game or challenge is different. But isn’t this the case with every sales call? Sure, they are completely different factors, but why does there seem to be a divided opinion when it comes to sales training (or any form of training and development in the work place) and whether or not it’s a good investment?

Some Sales Directors will tell you that training is an absolute essential ingredient to their Organisation… Others don’t think it’s effective. Some only believe in training and developing the ‘newbies’… Yet this ideology is heavily contradicted in the sporting world. One has to ask themselves, ‘can someone really ever reach their peak?’ Is there ever a time where the individual knows it all and cannot possibly improve in any way, shape or form? The 10,500 athletes and their coaches don’t seem to think so.