Gold Medal Sales Advice From Olympian Bonnie Blair
by Shawn Karol Sandy, on Oct 4, 2020 3:19:00 PM
Who’s the winningest woman in US Winter Olympics History?
That would be Longtrack Speed Skater Bonnie Blair with 5 Gold medals and 1 Bronze.
This past week, Bonnie Blair joined our annual Women Sales Pros conference as a guest speaker and shared some fantastic life lessons about training, competing, and reaching your goals. Her stories and advice, of course, transcends sales to great “life” advice and inspiration.
Our group was so inspired by what Bonnie had to share. I definitely had a few lightbulb takeaways that stuck with me and thought I’d share her “Gold Medal Advice” with you!
Olympian Bonnie Blair’s Gold Medal Advice
“More is just more but better is better.”
Bonnie shared about her tough decision to switch coaches between Olympic years when she was not getting the results she wanted on the track. Her coach took the approach of “more practices, more laps, more training …” and Bonnie’s gut told her this wasn’t the way to improve. She had been to several Olympic games already and was not as young as her competitors. She chose to change coaches and take the path of focusing on specific strengths, small performance improvements, and incremental changes. That paid off in her performance and additional medals. Smart skills focus trumps pounding repetition.
In sales, narrower target lists trump “pray and spray” activity. Sharper prequalifying beats trying to jam prospects through your funnel. Improved communication skills advance opportunities compared to manipulative closing tactics. More is just more but better is better!
“Skate through the finish.”
In skating, it’s not uncommon for there to be the smallest increments of time that determine who is on or off the podium. Bonnie won her Bronze medal by a hundredth of a second! One of her pet peeves is watching skaters finish a race but not push through and skate all the way through the finish line. Max effort from the start THROUGH the finish is how you skate/run a race.
This brought back a memory of a time I knew I was competing for a project with another vendor and thought I had the deal locked up. I didn’t, by any means, “phone it in” thinking I was going to win the business, but I did get a big surprise when the prospect told me they chose my competitor. In a bit of a post-mortem conversation, the prospect gave me insights that my competitor had kept asking questions and working to revise their solution and offers and ultimately, crafted a better solution for the customer. Damn. They kept selling through the finish line! I’ll add another quote of Bonnie’s to the end of this that reiterates her point, “Not every day was the Olympics, but I skated every race as it was the Olympics!”
“Look up to your mentors and competitors, but then look past them.”
This was one of the best nuggets. You can only imagine the pressure of competition at Olympic levels and how much you compare yourself to your peers or one day, find yourself racing next to your heroes! When asked how she dealt with the competitive pressure, confidence, and imposter syndrome, Bonnie shared this philosophy. At one point, you’re competing to show you’re good enough to be on the rink or in the game or have a seat at the table. The “ah-ha” … focusing on besting your competitors – ties you to their goals and achievements – not yours. Bonnie’s advice – look past them to compete against yourself!
KPIs and activity goals are helpful. Quotas and goals are what you strive for. However, what could you accomplish if your goals were bigger than what others imagined? What can we accomplish if our goals are to be better than we were yesterday? I took her advice to heart because I’ve been working on this for the past 7 years or so since I started Sauce Agency. Looking past my peers and competitors frees me from worrying about their business, their customers, and keeping up with their strategies and personas. My clients choose me because of what I bring to their teams and businesses and I keep challenging myself personally and professionally to learn and grow and bring those insights back to the work we do together.
How Many Gold Medals Do You Own?
None? Me too. I guess we’d better listen to the warm, gracious, and wise, Bonnie Blair, and take her advice to the [sales] track!