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The Brutal Truth About Olympic Class Sales Professionals [Podcast]

On Saturday when it was all over and Michael Phelps closed out his storied competitive swimming career with another gold medal – cementing his place on the podium as the greatest Olympian of all time – we stood in our living room and cheered for him – a standing ovation. It was an inspirational performance that left us in tears.

At my house we are into the Olympics. For two weeks my family watches as many events as possible. It is human drama on a grand scale: Victory, defeat, heartache, and inspiration. It’s what we love most about the Olympics along with the many lessons learned from these amazing athletes.

In interview after interview Olympic athletes talk about how all of the hard work has paid off. We nod our heads in agreement and applaud their effort, yet it is impossible to really understand what it is like to train thousands of hours, seven days a week, for a single event or in some cases just one race, one throw, or a single jump.

Talent, Skills, and Desire

Athletes at the Olympic level make it look easy and, because they do, we forget about the hard work that comes before their amazing feats. Of course it wouldn’t be fair to discount their God given talent without which they would never have made it that far. But talent alone is not enough. Talent needs to be molded with training, enhanced with skills, anchored in repetition, and unleashed with desire. It requires a personal commitment to achieve a goal at all costs. For Olympic athletes, success is paid for in advance with grueling training. Thousands upon thousands of lonely hours sweating it out for one moment of glory.

To be successful at anything in life requires a unique combination of talent, skill, and desire. Sadly, many very talented people ignore this fact and try to succeed on talent alone. They win some and lose some but ultimately fail to live up to their potential. Instead, because of ego, entitlement, laziness, or ignorance they live and work in mediocrity. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in sales.

Success is Paid for In Advance

Success in sales leads to a high income, flexible lifestyle, and the attainment of goals that most people only dream of accomplishing. Like Olympic class athletes, top earners make it all look easy. I’ve even overheard average salespeople describe the consistent high performance of top earners as “magical.” They exclaim in awe, “Everything she touches just turns to gold.” Like so many other people, they’re blind to the hard work, discipline, and personal sacrifice it takes to perform at that level.

You see, average performers can’t fathom the effort top performers put into training. They don’t get that success is always paid for in advance with hard work. They want to stand on top of the podium but don’t want to make the climb.

Olympic class sales professionals train constantly. They subscribe to newsletters, read articles, blogs and trade magazines, buy and read books, and listen to audio programs, and consume online courses. They practice their craft, work harder, longer, and make great sacrifices. They do whatever it takes to stay at the top of their game.

Poor performers don’t have time to learn or listen. They think that reading is a waste of time and complain when they are sent to training. Instead of hard work, they seek short-cuts and the easy way out. While top performers train, the mediocre whine from a place of entitlement about not getting their “fair share.” This is why they never live up to their potential, and many struggle to make ends meet.

Average salespeople only train and seek out help when they are in trouble (sort of like waiting until right before the Olympics to start training for an event). Just this week one of my newsletter subscribers wrote to say he wanted to unsubscribe. When I asked him why, he said that he was doing well now and that he didn’t need to be “bothered with reading more sales stuff.” Sadly, his path towards mediocrity is entirely predictable.

Training is a Way of Life

For top athletes and top sales professionals training is a way of life. When the whistle blows or a big opportunity is on the line they are always prepared to win. To be on top of the podium in sales you must invest in yourself – mind, body, and spirit. You must train like an athlete. You must stay on top of your game. You must re-learn and practice the basics again and again. You must work harder than everyone else, add to your knowledge base, hone your skills, and manage your winning attitude daily. You must be systematic and disciplined.

If God gave you the talent to sell, build a business, write, teach, coach, lead, or even swim, live up to your potential by investing in yourself and turning your talent into gold.


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