Sales Professionals: Athletes or Entertainers?

Watching a commentary about a sports movie, the director mentioned his preference for working with athletes over entertainers. To achieve authenticity, he had to work with both types of professionals. And like any major production, the director had to manage multiple personalities, personal agendas, plus a profit motive. So why did the director prefer athletes over entertainers? And, how does that distinction relate to better business performance?

First, realize that performers clearly have business responsibilities to fulfill the production’s profit motive. Upon mapping the performers’ responsibilities to the role of business contributor, the reality of executing the leader’s vision and achieving performance metrics becomes evident. So what is it about athletes that connect them more to business professionals, resulting in the director seeing them more favorably?

Consistency. Results. Rewards.
For starters, athletes are oriented to have different work habits. When athletes practice before a season, they spend weeks training before fans see them. Skills are polished through daily practice featuring the same plays over and over. Even when performed perfectly, they understand that they will continue to practice it repeatedly. The consistency in practice leads to the consistency in the performance. The consistency in performance results in rewards, i.e. they win games. Athletes are conditioned to practice specifically for consistency and accuracy. Then, they repeatedly execute until the leader says stop. That consistency is identical to what is needed for commercial success.

Success Aligns With Leadership
Similar to a coach in an athletic performance, the director sets the strategy. They organize the performers to understand their contribution as it relates to their specific skills. In turn, success is a team result. This dynamic is analogous to a sales professional requiring contributions from marketing, finance, production and customer service to achieve sales success. The sales professional may be what the public sees and may even be a star. But, he knows that role players are integral to success. Such coordination works best under strong leadership that has all parties contributing individual skills for overall success. Athletes get the importance of alignment with their coach for success. Actors tend to see success as a byproduct of their individual talents. Other stakeholders may have a role, but it is subordinate to the star’s performance. Regardless of who all actors thank at the award show, they are wired to secure credit and take a bow individually. As soon as possible, success becomes singular.

Keep Score
Athletes also mirror business professionals because success results from keeping score. Winning athletes score more points than losing athletes in any given game. Sales professionals are equally quantitatively oriented. More revenue than the competition is good. An actor may believe that their skill trumps the public perception. They may even believe that their skill elevates them above their colleagues in the production. Additionally, their self-absorbed view of their talents may even be beyond the opinions presented by the paying public. While successful athletes may have egos that elevate their self-perception, nothing replaces the priority of winning. Likewise, major productions benefit when performers are aligned toward a singular goal.

Considering that the score will dictate success, athletes mirror sales professionals in their mindset, priorities and values. The successful leader achieves emotional alignment toward accomplishing the goal. Perfect practice has a direct line to better results. So, think about your organization. Is your growth a result of athletes or entertainers contributing? Look at your sales numbers to see the first clue. Success is a team game that requires consistent practice and superior habits. Give preference to organizational athletes.

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter & Beyond

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About Hunter & Beyond

Glenn W Hunter presents his proven perspectives on business growth. He shares skills and tactics resulting in increasing sales for organizations ranging from start-ups to large corporations. His expertise focuses on storytelling, branding and networking to cultivate relationships that lead to more revenue.
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