So Monday night I settled in for a must-see tennis final. Djokovic pummelled Nadal to win the prestigious end-of-year play-off crown.
With the start held up slightly, telly provided a whole hour of pre-match chat. The always engaging 1976 French Open winner Sue Barker chaired lively discussions with former British Number Ones. Smooth broadcaster Andrew Castle and the bafflingly nicknamed ‘tiger’ Tim Henman.
They shared their thoughts that one of the reasons why the average age of top male tennis players is rising is due to physical conditioning.
The point was made that you can tell the difference between someone atop the rankings and the rest even when training. Their intensity is big wherever.
Then Sue revealed what she witnessed when accompanying him training (probably in the off-season boot camp he endures in Miami).
The list of activities was daunting. Sue described it as ‘like a full-time job’.
A quick surf and you can find all about a typical such day.
Warm-up jogs, weights in the gym, two-hour match with a decent opponent, shuttle runs, more gym (on a murderous ‘versaclimber’), ninja style yoga (Bikram), heavy duty pilates and all manner of wind downs.
The end result is universal plaudits for sculpting himself into a world-class athlete and the ability to beat maybe even the best three people ever to hold a racket, when at the height of their powers, in an era of unparalleled riches for the men’s game.
And so it is in Sales.
I run plenty of skills workshops. You can instantly spot those for whom it is not just a jolly couple of hours of relaxation.
Their intensity doesn’t reveal itself in steely feline eyed style gazes fixed on prey, more in a clear burning desire to get the most out of proceedings. To push themselves. To genuinely take something positive.
It may well not surprise you to hear that I lament to report finding such winners in the minority.
Sales people don’t have an off-season like tennis pros. Yet we do have a significant ‘off’ part of our weekly grind. Surveys abound with breakdowns of how a humble rep spends their time. You’ve probably seen the kind of thing. All those wasted hours on admin, travelling, waiting in client receptions, unnecessary internal meetings. To such an extent that the proportion of time actually spent on pure selling is shockingly small.
So can’t we reclaim some of that deadtime for our own development?
I once had a remarkable conversation with a sales manager who moaned at me that his team recently had too much training. Reporting software, product, internal admin processes, skills. I nearly fell off my chair. A man that patently did not understand coaching nor incremental and continuous improvement.
I’m not solely asking, ‘do you pursue your equivalent of Bikram?’ The analogy is simple. Training intensity sets the tennis elite apart. And so it is in Sales.