Succeed Like an Olympian: Train More Than You Play

The 2020/2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo may go down in history as one like no other.  Yet despite the many setbacks and upheavals, and even without roaring crowds of tens of thousands of family members, friends and fans to cheer them on, the athletes have responded to the challenge and achieved some astounding victories.  Virtual unknowns have powered their way through to win gold.  Others strived in less than optimal conditions to set world records or exceed their personal best.  In these difficult times, they are a great reminder of what vision, dedication, commitment, hard work, and grit can accomplish.

Our colleague, business consultant Simon Bowen, recently posted a piece in which he reflected on the performance of the Olympic athletes and how they compare with those of us who compete in business.  One key difference that he noted, which I thought was worth sharing with you, is that athletes train more than they play.  Some may spend months preparing for an event in which they have only a few minutes to demonstrate their ability.

“In business we train very little,” said Simon, “and we often enter the heat of competition under-prepared. . . . Because we’re often under-prepared we slip into playing it safe and that will always reduce the results we get.”

How much time do you spend preparing for a client presentation?  Do you have a script that you’ve written down and rehearsed over and over?  Do you have a set of talking points to guide you through your presentation while you’re with the client?  Have you practiced your delivery with a co-worker or colleague?  Are you prepared if the client disrupts your presentation or tries to take control of the meeting?  Have you thought through any objections the client may have and how you will respond to them?  What is your strategy to bring the discussion to a close and get the client to move to “yes”?

Like a gymnastics routine, your sales presentation needs to have an engaging opening, a clear and compelling flow, and a few surprises.  Most importantly, you have to stick the landing.  If you fumble at the close, everything that came before won’t matter.

Don’t be afraid to be bold and go big.  Forget the competition and focus on your strengths.  Consider every angle.  Think through every obstacle.  Prepare, rehearse and review.  Just like an Olympic athlete, when your moment comes, you may surprise yourself with how well you succeed.

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  1. […] time and effort in learning through curiosity.  As with learning or developing any new skillset, repetition and practice is key. Those “below the line” attitudes are a natural survival instinct, so expect to drift below the […]

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