Monday, 22 August 2016
Champions Made in Kenya
Lessons for Sales People from World Conquering Athletes
Are Kenyan runners born or made? This is a question that intrigues those who follow Kenya’s dominance in long distance running. Kenya has produced more world champions and Olympic medalists in mid to long distance running than any other nation on face of earth. Most of these athletes come from the Rift Valley Province of the country. There has been a raging debate where the people of Rift Valley are genetically designed to be world beaters or it is the environment that has made them world beaters or maybe something to do with their diet.
But regardless of where you come from in Rift Valley to beat the world at the biggest stage you need to practice at a place called Iten. It is a place that athletes spend weeks and months preparing to compete with Kenyans. Why are they coming here? Altitude? Diet ? What is the secret magic of Iten ?
One of the most important aspects of Iten is its concentration of world beaters. It is a place where even the Kenya greats who don’t come from Rift Valley Camp in their pursuit of a dream to beat the world. Some of the non Kenyan World Stars who have trained here are Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe from United Kingdom, Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich among others.
Iten is the Silicon Valley for mid to long distance runners.
Why would I write about this region in a sales article? Because there is a lot we can learn about sales from long distance running. The main reason is that to become a super star in whichever field you need to spend time with super stars. If you want to fly high then you need to spend time with eagles not chicken.
1. The first step of winning is spending time with those seeking to be winners
The reason many foreign athletes come to Iten is to practice with the Kenyan super stars. They want to do what they see Kenyans do. But most importantly they want to be consumed by that passion for winning that burns in the Kenyan runners. When this passion consumes you, you will want to pursue the goals that champions want to pursue. You will want to do whatever they do to win.
When you spend time with people aiming to exceed their quotas, break records and win trophies you are likely to start desiring the same.
If you want to become a sales super star you need to have the passion and drive of those who consistently win. You need to care about things they care about; you need to start feeling how enjoyable winning is. For ordinary runners they won’t be bothered to reduce their time by a second. For champions a fraction of a second becomes an obsession. They know records are set and broken not by minutes by fractions of a second.
2. Practicing with Champions Stretches you out of the Comfort Zone
If you ran with those who have consistently beaten the world, even if you don’t become a world beater, you are likely to perform beyond what you thought your physical abilities and skills could allow. You will be pushed to endure more than what ordinary people would care about.
You will be forced to run longer distances. Your muscles will be stretched to points they are sore. You will wake up earlier. You will not be allowed to enjoy pizzas and fries. This ultimately sets you at a higher level than you were before you started practicing with the champions.
As a sales person you need the same. You need to spend time with those who put you in a position where you can stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable.
3. Spending time with world beaters shapes our beliefs
Those who have grown seeing champions practicing and bringing troves of medals year in year out have had beliefs about what is possible. Those who go to Iten believe that if you can beat Iten you can beat the world.
In Iten you meet many people who believe they can set new records, beat the world finest and achieve greatness in the world athletics. You meet young men and women practicing without shoes with a belief that they will shine at the world’s biggest stage and pull themselves out of poverty. They have seen hundreds of others do that and therefore it is not hard for them to believe the same.
Ordinary people have ordinary beliefs, champions have beliefs of champions. Sales Super stars have beliefs of super stars while ordinary sales people have beliefs of ordinary mortals. When you spend time with super stars your ordinary beliefs are altered sometimes forever.
Being there seeing champions practicing, feeling pain, being human demystify the champion as a super being. When you discover that the champions are beings like you then you start believing you can become like them. If you keep pace with them in the practice then you believe you can do the same in the real race. That is how many pace setters from Kenya upstage the stars they were supposed to set pace for.
4. Spending time with champions allows you to model their behaviors
Sometimes you don’t need to read books on what the successful people do and the philosophy behind their success, you just need to watch them go about their journey of success. Watch what they do and do it exactly as they do it and you are likely to achieve the same results they achieve.
As a sales person you need to watch and model the behaviors of the super stars and you are more likely to get the same results they get. Wake up the same time they wake up, prepare for a call the same way they do, plan your route the same way, build rapport as they do, show care for customer as they do, follow the same steps in making the presentation, eat the same meal etc and you will get the same results.
Iten is a great place for long distance runners to spend time and prepare to become champions, but not necessarily a place where sales super stars are made but form its story we can learn a lot on how to become sale superstars. But you don’t need to travel to Iten to be at Iten. Iten can be a place in your organization or city where you can meet the sales champions. It can be a biography that you read, or a grouping of super achievers you spend time with.