The Great Ethiopian Run, run in Addis Ababa, is a 10k road race that has taken place at the end of every year since 2001. The race is the biggest in Africa; it drew 38,000 participants this year.
What’s perhaps most interesting about the race, however, is not its size, but how it showcases Ethiopia’s culture of endurance running. Each year, the race’s winners have been Ethiopians who often go on to compete on a global level. The event also caters to up and comers: Within the Run, there’s a race for children under 5.
“The whole country is running,” notes Haile Gebrselassie, two-time Olympic gold winner for distance running, in an interview with The Guardian about the event.
When explaining what makes Ethiopian distance runners so good, he continues, “It’s because of opportunities here. … Plus the lifestyle: the kids walk to school – no, they run! – every day. I ran six miles every day to school and back so my training started when I was three or four.”
Like distance running, consultative selling with insight also requires significant endurance, albeit in a different manner. The timeline for targeting, research and prospecting, to conversations early in the customer’s buying process, to conducting assessments, to solution presentations, to getting final paperwork signed can often be long and arduous. Without a significant amount of endurance, a salesperson may never be able to go the distance to get to the “finish line” to close deals.
It’s not a bad idea, then, for people in sales to take a cue from a culture that does endurance so well. While you can’t go back in time and give your team endurance training at a young age, you can make endurance training an everyday thing within your sales team.
Just as long-distance running athletes prioritize aspects of training, focus on these areas with your sales team to build endurance:
Just as elite runners train every day in some capacity to prepare for races, leaders should cultivate a culture of preparedness with their sales team. Sales professionals are better positioned to win deals when they’ve developed a strategic plan to address each individual in the buying process. You should be coaching your reps on the 3 Whys – Why Change?, Why Now?, and Why You?. Encourage your sales team members to train every day if they want to win big.
Focus on Improving Weaknesses
Perhaps a runner needs to build speed or work on the end-of-race “kick”; without a doubt, he or she will execute specialized drills ahead of race time to get better in those areas that need improvement. Similarly, members of your sales team need to work on getting better in areas where they experience weaknesses. Identify the selling attributes needed to be successful selling your solutions and assess each of your reps capabilities. Any gaps that are identified should be part of their personal develop plan. No matter what your sales team’s pain points are coach to these and practice, practice, practice. It won’t be fun working on areas where your sales team struggles, but it’s the only way to get better.
Take Rest Days
Even the most skilled runners must take time off from training to allow their bodies to recover and, in turn, get stronger. The same goes with maintaining endurance on sales teams. Encourage the members of your team to take breaks from the stresses of work and promote a healthy work-life balance. After all, an overtaxed body won’t perform well in a race, and a burned-out salesperson won’t perform well, either.
Looking for more thoughtful pieces on sales? Be sure to browse Kodiak Group’s blog.