Why Sales Is Just Like Riding a Bike
There are a lot of synergies between sales and cycling, particularly the will to win and the currency of consistency.
Having recently competed in, and won the veterans category of the Sani2C and the 167 km Race to the Sun adventure mountain bike race, I came to the conclusion that sales, like cycling has a fair amount of science behind it.
Successful sales, like cycling, starts with preparation
The good old days of selling where you just pick up the phone are almost extinct and, in most industries, a non-starter. Today, you need to know your customer - understand their current supplier; their pain points and requirements. It is about asking the right questions and understanding if there is an opportunity to sell, or not.
Cold calling, or shotgun selling has its place in the sales mix but needs to be dovetailed with a rifle approach. This is a cherry-picked vertical or horizontal approach and matches products and services to industries and businesses.
Not dissimilar to picking races – having an A and B race, and having clarity on who is competing and how best to tackle the course.
Consistency is critical
Sales people, like cyclists become creatures of habit – and not in a bad way. Just like you can't stop training or competing, sales teams cannot stop calling, or having meetings or engaging with clients or importantly, not use the tools at their disposal.
If you are consistent, the one out of ten ratio will yield leads; it will become a sale and it will mean a race win.
The currency of successful sales (and winning races) is consistency.
You need the right tools
Any successful cyclist will tell you that success is about using the right tools. For riders, this is the right bike, the right tyres, suspension setup and nutrition (amongst others) and for successful sales teams, this is everything from effective lead generation to CRM; white space planning and incentives, it is about identifying the right commission structures.
I remember when I started racing, it used to be a case of packing five bags before a big race to account for every eventuality – today, it is a single bag, packed with the essentials, and knowing a work around or a make-do situation may be required.
The same applies to sales. Organisations will give you access to a range of tools that are geared towards success – and you might need to think on your feet, to make the most of these.
You need a will to win
From an "in race' perspective, there is the same type of will to win and that is how you push yourself as hard as you can to make it to the finish line. It is the same in sales – ask yourself what it will take to close a sale, to win over a client.
Is it pricing; the proposal; solution or technology? How and when do we push and when do we back off? In racing terms, it is a case of when do we sit up on the bike and say, today is not my day.
Cyclists talk about cadence all the time. In cycling terms, cadence is the rate at which a cyclist pedals (or pedal revolutions per minute) and it can quite easily be applied to sales. It's about repetition, building a rhythm, momentum and speed.
In sales terms, cadence talks to using all the tools at hand, often and consistently. And this cadence effect means deals start closing quicker; the sales pipeline remains optimal and the sales team works in sync with the business and its customers.
When the cadence is off, or the sales team can't find its rhythm, it might mean the business is looking in the wrong places for sales, or not generating the right types of leads for success. We call it wrong gearing. And you if you leave it for too long, it is that much harder to find the cadence again.
Pulling it all together
It is imperative at this point, to do a mental reset. You don't win all the deals (or races); you can't win them all. By taking a step back and evaluating the sales cycle; the leads and the processes, the team can learn critical lessons for future success.
It is always important to have clarity on which parts of the process you can control – and have you done the utmost to maximise those.
Successful sales, like cycling takes endurance, persistence and an ability to reset the parameters of what it takes to succeed.
American cyclist Steve Larsen said it best: "You can't get good by staying home. If you want to get fast, you have to go where the fast guys are!"