The Successful Salesperson Chronicles: Motivation and Focus | Salestrong


The Successful Salesperson Chronicles: Motivation and Focus

Originating from our infographic ‘The Anatomy of a Salesperson’, we continue our exploration of what it takes to be an effective salesperson by looking more closely at motivation and focus.

Salespeople, ultimately, have one very clear goal; to generate sales.  However, research reveals that salespeople spend less than a third of their time actually selling.  Staying on track is a big challenge for salespeople.

Using the parallels between selling performance and sports performance, Team Salestrong have pulled together three key techniques to help salespeople stay focused on the business of selling, using examples from the world of sport.

Set clear goals – Mo Farah

“When you have a vision and you have a dream, you dig in more. It makes you focus. That’s the thing about having a goal and wanting to achieve something great.”  – Mo Farah.

Mo Farah has achieved incredible things.  Over and over again.  Even when we think he’s won everything and achieved all it’s possible to achieve in his field, he amazes us by coming back bigger, better and faster than before.   The way he does this is to keep setting new goals for himself, setting the bar that bit higher each time.  Those goals provide him with the focus and motivation required to be an elite athlete.

In business, (SMART) goal setting is now such a part of the personal development landscape that, for many, it’s become merely a ‘tick box’ activity; a chore to be completed.  But for the salesperson who fully embraces goal setting, the rewards are significant.

As in sport, a goal provides you with the starting point from which you can develop a detailed action plan of what’s required to achieve that goal.  One of the biggest challenges faced by salespeople is getting de-railed; pulled away from selling and into other areas of the business.  Having a clear goal and action plan to focus on ensures time spent on non-revenue generating activities is limited and that the salesperson is able to simply pick up at the step they left off at.

Goals are essential to sales success, they give purpose to our actions and action to our purpose.

Ensure your goals are aligned – Team Sky

For those less familiar with cycling, Team Sky is a British cycling team, whose members have included Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, who compete in the UCI World Tour (38 elite cycling events, including, most famously; the Tour de France).

Launched in 2010, Team Sky set out with a very clear goal: a British rider winning the Tour de France within five years.  They not only achieved this goal early (in 2012) but have since gone on to win it every year but one, since.

Team Sky’s success lies in its ability to work effectively as a team, specifically in its alignment of individual and team goals.  In road cycling, rather than each rider within the team going ‘all out’ to try and win the race for themselves, each member of the team applies their own individual strengths to enable one particular member of the team to win the race.  Team Sky have done this with phenomenal success.

Why is this important to salespeople?  Surely their goal is simple; to generate more sales?  Because the individual goals of salespeople do not always align with those of the wider team and of the organisation and it can cause real problems for the salesperson.  As an example, let’s say the Sales Director has a goal to capture more profit from the sales the team are winning.  For the salesperson who wins more deals but does so primarily on price and discounting, continuing with their current sales technique will put them in direct conflict with the goals of the team.  Perhaps there is an organisational goal to move into a new sector, but if that sector requires a different selling approach to existing customer sectors, the salesperson will again be at odds with the wider team.

Aligning your goals with the wider teams within which you work is critical to success.  If you don’t know what your teams’ and organisations’ goals are, ask.

Stop procrastinating – Jennifer Saunders

Ok, obviously Jennifer Saunders is not a sportsperson but finding a successful sportsperson who procrastinates is easier said than done.  Quite simply, athletes cannot procrastinate.  Time is tight when you’re an athlete, opportunities for gold medals, world championships and titles are few and far between.  What is more, an athlete can only remain at the peak of physical fitness for a certain number of years.  If you want to achieve the big goals as an athlete, you have to knuckle down and get on with it.

In other walks of life, however, including selling, procrastination is much easier to embrace.  Jennifer Saunders actually resorted to hiring a hypnotherapist to help her, after acknowledging that it was procrastination holding her back from completing the script for the Absolutely Fabulous movie.

Leading researcher into Procrastination, Joseph Ferrari, has identified 3 types of procrastinator: the Thrill-Seeker who gets a buzz from leaving things to the last-minute; the Avoider who fears being judged; and the Indecisive who are often perfectionists using procrastination to shift responsibility from themselves.  Salespeople are, for the most part, Avoiders.  Choosing procrastination over being judged and the risk of failure.  After all, a salesperson who can argue they’ve been “too busy with other things”, cannot possibly be judged as a failure when they don’t hit target, can they?

This fear of failure comes from a Fixed Mindset.  From those who rely on natural ability, avoid challenges, focus on results rather than effort and avoid failure at all costs.  Fixed mindsets are commonplace within salespeople, in part because it is a results-oriented occupation.   After all, the primary goal of a salesperson, as we outlined at the beginning, is to generate sales (results).  The answer for salespeople, lies in the development of a Growth Mindset, in which failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn and hard work and effort are applied in the pursuit of goals, rather than simply relying on natural talent alone.  With a Growth Mindset, procrastination is seen for what it is; merely a blocker to success which must be overcome.

In our next post we continue our dissection of the effective salesperson by looking at Drive and Determination.

In the meantime, if you want to talk to us about how we can you, your organisation and your team focus on building capability with sales training and delivering serious, sales results with Growth Accelerator, just give drop us a line at

Team Salestrong

Tracey Davison

Tracey Davison

Tracey’s background is in sales and customer-service, having lead internal sales teams to deliver targets through cross and up-selling, whilst achieving exceptional customer service levels.

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