How a Marathon Runner’s Mind-Set Can Improve Your Sales

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

I’Marathonm always interested in what makes a person successful in their area of responsibility. In order to be successful, the key has to be how they think about things.  Success for many people can be summed up in just seven words: “It is what you think it is!”

Success for some is become rich with material things, so they can live a comfortable life. For others, it means reaching goals that they strive for, so they achieve their dreams and feel fulfilled as a human being. And for others, it can mean surviving through illness, so every day above ground is another great day.

One of our clients is Hans Olsen, Commercial Director for ACO’s Nordic Operations in Denmark. Hans has responsibility for sales teams in his local area and has attended a few MTD programmes in the last year. A few minutes in Hans’ company and you come away with an inspired outlook, a feeling of confidence in your own ability and a mindset that sees success in a different light.

When Hans isn’t running the Denmark operations for this successful Commercial Kitchens, Building and Drainage company, he spends much of his time training for and running in marathons. His ideas can give us as salespeople inspiration as he shows there are great similarities in the way his planning and ours can be carried out.

Hans Olsen before a recent marathon

Hans Olsen before a recent marathon

First, Hans, aged 39, show that most of his success is down to the type of mindset he chooses to display. He says that his coach helps him to ‘build the dream’ in his mind before he sets off for a training run or a race. By that, he means he has a vision of what he wants to achieve before he even sets off. Hans knows that the pain he will definitely experience during the run will be easier to deal with if he has a goal and a strategy to deal with it.

“Before a race, I have a strategy in mind that I plan to stick to” says Hans. “ I see the race, not as a 42.2 kilometre endurance event, but as a series of milestones to reach. When I reach a 5 kilometre water-station, for instance, I see it as a success, and it makes it easier for me to pitch forward to the next milestone”

How important is this mindset when your body is screaming out for him to stop? Hans says it is not just down to positive thinking.

“Yes, it’s important to be positive about what you are trying to achieve in such a race. But just having a positive outlook won’t get you to the finish line. Your plan of action has to include what you’re going to do when you hit ‘the wall’. This is the point when you feel you can’t go any further, your legs are like lead and your lungs are bursting. You need to plan how you’re going to feel when you succeed. This feeling drives me on to get through the barrier. I know that when I am through it, it’s downhill all the way, as far as I’m concerned”

The pain is etched on Hans' face as he focuses on the next stage of the race

The pain is etched on Hans’ face as he focuses on the next stage of the race

How does Hans feel when he eventually completes the race?

“It’s strange, because I have already experienced the same feeling at the start of the race. I ‘build the dream’ in my mind and imagine what I will feel when I have finished. Those feelings keep me going all the way, as the emotions drive me through any pain I may have to go through, and help me have a vision of what the goal will give me.”

“Do I sometimes feel like giving up? Of course! Does the effort sometimes seem too much? Yes, it does! But when I consider the rewards for myself when I achieve the goal at the finish line, it drives me on. I can only do this if I thoroughly and completely plan and prepare myself before each event.”

Hans’ efforts are an example of how the right mindset is key to the success of any endeavour. What can we learn as salespeople from this marathon runner?

Here are some of my thoughts:

– Plan and prepare for the day, the week, the campaign and your career. Planning and preparation are the cornerstone to any process that demands endeavour and a journey through obstacles

Hans after the end of the race with the completion medal around his neck

Hans after the end of the race with the completion medal around his neck

– Have a strategy to overcome what obstacles may occur. You may face rejection and negativity on the sales journey. Your mindset will have to be adjusted correctly to cope with such occurrences. A pre-prepared strategy will help you overcome these adversities if and when they show up

– Have milestones in mind. Your target may seem a long way off; your ‘Everest’ may appear unsurmountable. Having milestones on the journey helps you achieve small wins that will keep you going

– Know what to do when you hit ‘the wall’. There will be times when you think you’ll never make another sale, and your attitude becomes one of blame, negativity and hopelessness. If you expect this to happen anyway, it doesn’t come as a surprise; instead, you see it as an opportunity to learn from failure or lack of success. Then this different mindset helps you to think in terms of what actions you need to take to get through the obstacles, rather than seeing them as too much to overcome

– Have the end goal in mind, always seeing the ‘dream’ fulfilled. Hans says that it’s the emotion, the feeling of fulfilment at the end that keeps him going. If we have the same viewpoint, it will help us to see the finish-line as a success we will move anything to achieve

Hans is an example of success that would be inspiring to all salespeople. Does he win every race he enters? No. But does he achieve what he sets out to achieve (a finishing time of between 3 hours and 3 hours 10 minutes)? Yes, he does. And it’s his mindset that helps him achieve that.

Happy Selling!

Mark Williams

Head of Training and Development

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 24 June, 2014

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