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YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ILL TO GET BETTER

I have yet to come across a professional sportsman or woman who does not want to be better at their chosen discipline. They train regularly, have customised diets, receive coaching and are supported by management who are always in search of perfection.

There are many parallels between sport and business; participants in each are under competitive pressure, the stakes are high and of course both want to win. However, that is probably where the similarities end. In sport improvement though learning and innovation is a way of life; in business, improvement is normally initiated when there is a problem to be solved, i.e. the business is ill. Take the British cycling team for example; they work on the principle of the “accumulation of marginal gains”, i.e. get a little bit better every day. In manufacturing many companies follow the lead set by Toyota in continuous improvement, but how many in the services sector do?

Here are some questions based on what sports people do to improve their performance; how do your sales people, or for that matter any of your functions match up to these? All you need do is answer yes or no.

Sports people:

1. Have an in depth knowledge of their competitors strengths and weaknesses; do you?

2. Have respect for their competitors but do not fear them; which competitors do you fear and why? 

3. Fully understand and accept their own strengths and weaknesses; do your people?

4. Together with their coaches have a plan to build on their strengths and neutralise or remove their weaknesses; do your teams have such a plan?

5. Rigorously execute their improvement plans, and continuously monitor progress in practice and in competition; does this happen in your company?

6. Meticulously plan and prepare for every event in which they partake to maximise their chances of winning. Do your people do this?

7. Honestly analyse each performance, win  or lose and learn from each; do your teams have such a learning culture?

8. Have fantastic self belief, they work on the basis that if you believe you can! Do your people have this attitude?

9. Have coaches that really do coach their charges; they are interested in all aspects of performance; Do your sales managers work on the “hows” of selling rather than just the “whats” i.e. the results?

10. Finally, sports teams have an ethos where everyone plays for each other, sometimes sacrificing their own chances for the good of the side; do your sales teams work on this basis?

Before we examine your results let’s just think about a sporting situation. Jessica Ennis, the London 2012 Heptathlon Champion had a number of weaknesses, one of which was in the shot putt event. Do you think her mentor sent her on a one week training course, put her immediately into her next competition and then skimped on training and coaching for the next few years. I don’t think so, yet in business this is not uncommon. 

So how did we do with the questions? If anyone got 10 out of 10, you truly understand that “you don’t have to be ill to get better”, and have a finely tuned and very effective sales engine. For everyone (else) who didn’t get anywhere near that mark and would like to understand how to get better and not get ill please contact Brian Sellers or myself.

Finally, and I am sure it is in the front of your mind, there are just 28 practical selling days until Christmas.