Among the many amazing achievements we got to watch in the recently concluded Winter Olympics, two stand out in my mind for the deep lessons they can teach us as salespeople.
The American Chris Mazdzer won a stunning silver medal in luge. And yet, here is what he posted on social media just three weeks earlier: “What kills me and has been driving me wild for over a year now is the fact that no matter what I do, my top speed and ability to be with the top guys in the world has disappeared, and I don’t know why… There comes a point where giving it everything you have and believing in yourself starts to fade away and I am almost to that point.”
Three weeks after openly musing about quitting, he wins the first American medal.
This is often how it goes in sales, too. You can do everything right, and not get the sale. Repeatedly. You can make the calls, set the appointment, have a great meeting, write an excellent quote or proposal, follow up repeatedly, overcome objections correctly, and still get rejected. Over and over. And this can happen for months and even years.
You might feel like the sales will never come. You might say, “I’m doing everything right, and they’re not buying,” and you’d be right. You might feel like giving up. Do not. Keep going. Keep doing the right things. Even if they are not generating the results you are looking for, keep doing the right things. It won’t be easy, but don’t stop.
We must continue doing the things that are in our control. Communicating with customers and prospects, that is in our control. Making the calls. Making the visits. Following up. Telling our customers how else we can help them. We control the mechanics and energy of our work. That’s up to us.
Conversely, whether the customer buys is not up to us. There are all manner of variables out of our control—timing, the customer’s need, the customer’s mood, the customer’s budget, the customer’s interactions with his family that day, whether the customer is dealing with a fire when we call, and dozens of other possibilities.
But what we do is totally within our control. Our approach. Our repeated efforts. Our communications. Our perseverance. Keep doing the right things. Keep trying to help your customers as much as you can, as best you know how. That’s the work. Keep going.
A couple of days after Mazdzer medaled in luge, the ageless Shaun White won the gold in the snowboard half-pipe by ripping off the highest-scoring run in his third and final effort. He had fallen on his previous run.
White is famous, and quite rich, and nearly twice the age of many of his competitors. “He’s an industry by himself,” was how the NBC announcer described him. He already had two gold medals. But he had failed to medal in the previous Olympics, and decided that’s not acceptable.
He doesn’t need to do this. He’s incredibly successful and comfortable without this, and yet, there he was, breaking down in tears while celebrating his win.
That’s because about four months earlier, he wiped out so hard and was injured so badly during a pre-Olympics competition that he had to be airlifted out. He fell directly onto his face, tearing up his money-maker.
After treatment, he left the hospital and went back to work. He landed a perfect 100 point score in the Olympics qualifier. And on the very last run of the competition, he won the Olympic gold medal.
Even after big failures, keep going. Even after long-term failure, try again. If it didn’t work the previous 18 attempts, who cares about the 19th? It’s no worse. In fact, it’s pretty much exactly the same number of failures as 18. But you never know if that next effort will be the one that makes everything happen.
Even when you feel like you have nothing else left to give, like the silver medalist Mazdzer, don’t you quit. Stay in the game. Keep doing the right things. Keep trying to help people. And one day soon, maybe today, you may find yourself enjoying the biggest, most important sale of your life. A sales success of Olympic proportions.