I have always been a sports fan and that’s probably an understatement. I’ve also always been a fan of the business world. Looking back as long as I can remember, I would check out the sports section in the paper and then I’d look at the business section. I liked to check out what the stock prices were on certain stocks, although I didn’t own any of them. When I look back on it I see there are similarities between sports and business. For me, like many other people I’m sure, it’s some of the similarities of sports and business that has kept me involved in both.

When I speak with associates or prospects I often use analogies involving sports as the similarities transfer to the way we go about our daily routines. I’ll use football as an example. Football games are played on Sunday. It’s the day fans look forward to. It’s also the day the players look forward to. They finally get to play the game after practicing, watching film, working out in the gym and eating properly all week.

Some would say though that regardless of how well they play on game day that the biggest reason they win a particular game is because of the things they did BEFORE game day. The preparation in those days, weeks and months leading up to it is what propelled them to victory on any given Sunday. If you talk to some of the greatest athletes ever to play or if you watch interviews about the greats, you always hear the same thing. He or she is “always the first one in and the last to leave” whether talking about the gym or on the court or in team facilities.

Business and sales are similar

If you want to be the best salesperson it’s the work you do leading up to that presentation that gives you the best chance at success. Things such as becoming good at prospecting, negotiating, doing presentations and handling objections, to name a few. Doing these things well will be the reason you’re successful in this sales GAME. Becoming good at these things will not come without practice though. Sure there are some people who have a good gift of gab and will be able to use that as an advantage. Just as some athletes are more athletic than others and can use that to get by at times. Regardless, it’s the training and preparation that brings the consistency needed to be successful enough to have longevity or to make a career out of it.

The nice thing about sales is that it’s a business in which you can separate practice time from game time, giving you lots of time to learn AND you can also get better while being out there succeeding or failing with prospects. In sports you often hear the more time a player gets on the field the better they get or the more comfortable they become. Sales is the same. The more time you are out there talking to people and making presentations the better you get at it. Preparation is so important though. It gives you the ability to get good at your craft. It gives you the confidence to go out and do business with your target audience. Mistakes are inevitable. That’s no big deal. In sports and sales mistakes happen in one form or another every day. In sports it could be a dropped pass or a missed shot and in sales it could be an objection you weren’t prepared for or a question couldn’t answer. Again, this is the reason preparation is so important.

Most of the people having success, the people that you may think are overnight successes, put their time in one way or another. Usually they didn’t do well for a while and then finally, after lots of practice, became good at their craft. You don’t see all the hard work that these people do behind the scenes. Similarly, you don’t see these pro athletes practicing. You only watch the games.

That should make most sales people happy. You should feel good knowing that if you put in the time you can also have success. Your level of success depends upon multiple things, including talent of course but nobody who truly puts in time should have zero success. I personally haven’t seen it happen. Usually the people who put forth effort AND spend time practicing succeed in sales. It can be a grind but it’s very often a numbers game and the more people you connect with, the more opportunity you’ll have to succeed. The training and practice I talk about is what takes those numbers and makes the success happen more often.

This leads me to my last thought, support. It is very hard to succeed, whether in sports or sales without support. An athlete needs the support of the coaches and trainers and the whole team. Same with salespeople. Sales people need support from their manager, co-workers and of course the company they represent. That support comes in different ways. It can come in the form of tools and technology necessary for success and it can come in the form of weekly training, coaching or mentoring you might need to succeed. Either way these are all forms of support. A good company though will be able to support you with all manners of support. I have said this more times than I can remember, if you are provided the tools, training, technology and support necessary for you to succeed, you are probably at the right place and having the best business model in the industry doesn’t hurt either.

The more I think about it, a lot of the things I have learned from sports have trained me well for the business world. Teamwork, dedication, commitment and practice are just a few.

Whether you like sports or not is not the point. Being part of the right team, having the right support, along with the training you do, that’s going have you on top of your game.

So, continue to practice, both on your own and with the support of your company (team), and on game day you too are going to win!