How Sales is Like Triathlon
July 31, 2017 by Bill Rosenthal

Triathletes running into the water

Recently, I was thinking about sales skills, and that made me think about a friend of mine who has been a triathlete for a number of years. What does triathlon have to do with sales skills? Both sales and triathlon are endurance sports, for one thing. But there is a subtler association you might not expect. 

My friend told me he has recently arranged to go to a physical therapy clinic in order to have his running gait analyzed. He gets a pain in his hip after running a mile, he says, and this has been going on for months. He’s tried a lot of things on his own to overcome the pain and none of them has worked, so he’s decided to call in an expert to monitor his performance and tell him if there is something about his running gait that is contributing to what is obviously an injury of some sort.

When I told him that triathlon sounds complicated, he admitted to me that he already employs two coaches (one for training plans, one for swimming technique), a massage therapist, a bike mechanic, and a Pilates instructor (to help with core strength). 

My friend is kind of an extreme case, but he’s not all that different from most of us. I would say many, if not a majority, of physically active sales professionals employ personal trainers. A personal trainer helps with motivation. Much of what they do is catch you doing something right and then tell you, which is tremendously motivating. A personal trainer also helps you monitor your technique during workouts and helps you stay with the plan that will stress your body and then allow you to recover, which is the essence of physical training. The personal training industry is booming precisely because it’s very difficult to stay on plan without someone else monitoring your work. 

But there’s also another important reason to use a personal trainer. You’re looking for another set of eyes to help you see what you can’t. Just like my friend hopes to discover his problem from a scientific gait analysis, you want someone to watch you and point out where you might be undermining your own efforts.

What about your sales practice? How do you know there isn’t some element that has crept into your planning process or some habit that has worked its way into your interactions that is reducing your effectiveness? No matter how many books or articles you read, it’s almost impossible to know. You sometimes need an independent collaborator to monitor your performance, see where the problems are, and give you feedback. 

If you have a colleague you can trust in this, consider engaging that person for “personal training.” You can trade services. Attend each other’s sales calls, listen to each other on the phone. Try to catch each other doing something well (and then reinforce it), and note each other’s shortcomings. If you don’t have a trusted colleague, get into a training program — like Socratic Selling Skills® or Sales Presentation Skills™ — that emphasizes practice. 

In Communispond sales training programs, we use video to record your selling behaviors, and then we analyze the video with you. It’s a lot like personal training, and we find that’s the best possible way to improve a sales professional’s sales “fitness.”