Somewhere between high school and college, we exchange our cleats and sports uniforms for loafers, heels, suits, and slacks as we prepare for our grown-up world of a professional life earning a living. Our athletic pursuits are put on the back burner, sometimes saved for weekend moments, but for most of us our new professions consume us and our once all-consuming athletic lives come to rest with our trophies collecting dust on bookshelves and dressers.
Time to switch the paradigm.
In much the same way Tiger Woods changed the sport of Golf by – well – doing just that, approaching the game as an athletic sport; or how Jeff Gordon did the same with NASCAR – both raised the bar by treating their professions as an athletic endeavor. They created weight training routines and cardiovascular regimes – they hired trainers to functionally assess their weakest points and then helped strengthen them.
Paging those all those who sell – Time to look at sales as a sport and start training for it!
You might say, “hey wait a minute! I don’t know about you, but my sales meetings don’t include pushups and pull-ups, let alone jogging!” Good point and yes those exercises can help you during a sales presentation, but what if I told you, your heart doesn’t know the difference between the stress of a fitness workout or a sales presentation. Here, take a look at one of my recent workouts using my Polar Bluetooth chest strap and iPhone 6s:
This picture is a screen grab of the summary page of my Polar BEAT app. It outlines that I worked out for about 90 mins (see the chart at the bottom for timestamps), had an average heart rate of 111 beats per min (BPM) with a high of 148 BPM, and I burned 801 calories during the workout. Now, look closer at the graph: practically 60 minutes of my workout was spent in what’s called my fat burning zone of 60-65% of my max theoretical heart rate; during the middle of my workout, my heart rate spikes to 148 BPM – that’s about 86% of my max heart rate. (Note: I’m 48 years old, so my theoretical max heart rate is found by taking 220 – 48 (my current age) = 172. I use the term theoretical because this is a simple way to determine my optimal heart rate range, but it’s close enough for most us “athletes”.)
If I showed this to a trainer, he or she would say (and I used to be one so at least I would say) “nice workout graph – you had a warm-up, solid steady state with a push in the middle and good 15 min cool down.” Then I would ask my imaginary client one more question, so what exercise were you performing – running, spinning, elliptical or perhaps some kind of cardio-kickboxing class?” None of the above, I was giving a presentation…
Okay, actually I was giving a speech to 100 people I didn’t know, but I knew the material cold and really didn’t have much at stake other than making sure I delivered my message. I never wore my heart rate monitor during a high-stakes sales call, like going into Walmart headquarters seeking a sale that could make or break my company. I didn’t really need one back then because I could feel my heartbeat and often wondered if the buyer could see it making my shirt move. The point is, it’s natural to be nervous on a sales call; dealing with sales stress is normal – it comes with the territory. But here’s the thing, the better you prepare physically the better you can be prepared mentally and emotionally.
Yep, that’s right, it’s all linked together. Just like they taught us in SEAL training: we have very few things we can control – being our mental, emotional and physical capabilities – but the more we learn to control them the more we can and will find the success we seek. In the case of selling, our body doesn’t know the difference between physical stress or emotional stress – both get our hearts racing and our blood pumping. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your sport of sales:
1. Create a fitness routine that you can do anywhere/anytime
a. Here’s one I use in my hotel room:
i. 30 sec plank
ii. 5 slow pushups
iii. 45 sec plank
iv. 7 slow pushups
v. 60sec plank
vi. 10 slow pushups
vii. 25 squats followed by 15 pushups x 4
viii. 20 bridges followed by 20 “dead bugs” x 3
2. Create a nutritional plan for your sales call
a. Think of this as an endurance workout – I’ve had sales calls go for 4 hours or more when conducting line reviews – if that were a fitness endeavor you’d be eating every hour – same goes for the sales call
i. I use a similar nutritional plan for hiking a mountain on summit day – we have solid protein/carb-packed breakfast then have 100 cal snacks every hour – my favorite snack in a Kind nut bar – choose a simple snack that isn’t messy that you look forward to eating (another one is HALF of a regular Snicker’s bar)
ii. Don’t bring lots of water, it’ll just force to you to bathroom, but the water you do drink can be diluted with Gatorade
3. SLEEP – I saved the most important for last. Sleep is the biggest difference maker and I structure my sales calls around getting enough quality sleep. The factors I focus on are:
a. No electronics one hour before lights out (that includes TV or surfing the web)
b. Book that’s relatively easy reading and doesn’t activate my imagination (no self-help before bed)
c. Request a hotel room away from an elevator – too much noise
d. Make it dark – if you can see your hand in front of your face your room has too much ambient light – bring an eye-mask; don’t have one? I’ve tied clean socks together and made a makeshift eye mask
e. Make it quiet – you cannot always get the room you want – bring earplugs
f. Make it cold – at night I keep my room at 65 degrees – sweating at night only drains you for the next day
These are few of the techniques I use, but if you just picked a couple they can make a huge difference on your sales performance. In general, think of your physical sales training in three buckets: Sleep, Nutrition, and Fitness. It doesn’t matter how well prepared you are for the sales call if you’re not physically prepared. Remember, our bodies, minds, and emotions are linked together. Start treating sales the way our bodies treat it, as an athletic event – I promise you, you won’t be disappointed with the results!
Onward and upward,