Sport media is awash this week with remembrance of Ayrton Senna. It’s the twenty year anniversary of his death at the wheel. He crashed head-on into a wall when leading the 1994 Grand Prix at Imola in Italy.
The Brazilian Formula One motor racing three-time champion is widely considered by fellow racers to be the best.
The 2010 film ‘Senna’ is an awesome piece of documentary making. So I was already aware of some of his amazing focus and skills.
What struck me about these tribute shows was his undoubted fixation on winning.
Nothing surprising there perhaps, you’d say.
Yet this mindset wasn’t just about mere ‘winning’. It was more about always trying to get better. His continual striving to get in that winning position.
My favourite example of this which relates to a Sales career – especially one which aims to be chief exec – is when he joined the team with which he first won the title.
He’d been at Lotus. He was the sought after paddock star. He chose to move to McLaren. The reason given by the engineers at Lotus for his selection was fascinating. The resident top driver at McLaren, Alain Prost, was both the only other driver he respected and that he thought he could learn from. That year he pipped his new team-mate to be crowned champion.
Even though he was destined to become number one, he remained anxious to learn. He still yearned to get better. He wasn’t happy settling for where he’d got. Whilst also pitting himself against the best.
Alas, this is in stark contrast to far too many a solution seller I meet.
They’ll all tell you they want to learn.
Yet their actions defy their words.
I made the mistake in one workshop session I ran a while back of asking each attendee in turn to share with the group the last Sales learning they’d taken on board and used with continued success.
Certain players made it excruciating. Deliberate deflection. Damaging disengagement. All sorts was going on. Whether to hide the fact that they weren’t interested in learning, didn’t want to be exposed as not caring about getting better or unwilling to show what they perceived to be a ‘weakness’ in front of their ‘classmates’. It was a disgrace.
It showed much about the rotting overall culture and the general politics of “training”.
(There is a further point here about how a salesteam should frame and manage its ‘training’ for best affect…but that’s a whole different post on its own!)
Education must be a constant part of any salesperson’s thinking.
I’d go as far to say that if someone does exhibit Senna’s trait here, then eject them from the company. And here’s the rub…. Even if they are top of the numbers.
I was pleased to see this essential characteristic on one sales floor I worked to improve recently in America.
The soaraway salesperformer sat in a corner. The desk next to her suddenly became vacant. One chap immediately snared it for himself. He moved to learn. There was so much to soak in, but he stuck at it. And two years on he’s still there. And performing admirably himself.