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Most of us missed our shot at the pros pretty much the first day we started playing in the town recreation league. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still dream of being out under the bright lights from time to time. And it’s no mistake that at almost every sales conference you’ve been to, someone’s decided to work in a sports analogy. The truth is, a career in sales is as close as you can get to a shot at the big leagues. Sales people are basically the same as pro athletes – here’s the proof:
If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes on the sales floor at any company, you understand that there’s a tangible competitive atmosphere around the sales force. In fact, as HubSpot once pointed out, more than half of all sales people prefer to work in a competitive environment, and one out of three prefer to be in a very competitive one. Similarly, when you watch almost any game on TV, it doesn’t matter how far behind the losing team is: they play their hearts out until the last buzzer. To them, the competition goes far beyond just their viability in the playoffs—every game matters. And yet, there isn’t a player out there (or long-suffering fan, for that matter) who doesn’t want to see their team at the top of the leaderboard. So whether it’s an intraoffice sales competition or a shot at the Super Bowl, a competitor is a competitor—and your sales team came to play.
Now you might be wondering if it’s valid to say that a guy like Rob Gronkowski is thinking about metrics most of his day, but think about it: from basketball to baseball, if you aren’t hitting certain numbers—yards per carry, rebounds and assists per game, runs per at-bat—you’re not going to be expecting that contract renewal at the end of the year.
And while professional sports has leveraged that for Fantasy Sports with its fans, you might be surprised to know that there are plenty of Fantasy-like games for sales people, too. There’s even one business that actually turned their sales force into a fantasy league. Salespeople are constantly aware of their numbers—and derived from that competitive spirit is a desire to hit those numbers, year after year.
With the exception of maybe golf (and even then, we can take a moment to appreciate the caddies of the world), no athlete is an island unto themselves. However great LeBron James is, and no matter what that one guy on your Facebook feed keeps saying, he could not have taken down the Golden State Warriors last year without the rest of the Cavaliers. In sales, it’s the same. Your best performers are elevated by their team: whether it’s sharing best practices, friendly competition, or being inspired by top performers to achieve their own levels of greatness, great teams produce great sales people. So what can you do with all that? Encourage the inner athletes in your sales force. Remind them that competition brings out the best in us, and that there’s honor in a hard-fought battle. Give teams something to work for, and salespeople their shot at glory, and you’ll be amazed how they rise to the occasion.