Follow Up, Follow Through, and Finish what you start


As an endurance athlete, there are many things I learn that have direct application to being successful in business and sales.  One thing that stands out is the need to finish what I start.  I can not tell you how many times as a sales person, I began many activities and pursued many prospects, only to find that in the ensuing weeks and months, I dropped the ball by not following up with them consistently and in a timely manner.  Thus, someone else earned their business and all the work I put in to find them went wasted.  Too often in sales, like in endurance sports, I would start the activity at such a fast pace and take on more and more people, projects and opportunities, that I found myself not able to hold that pace and be responsible enough to finish what I had started.  In hind site, I would have been better off to take on fewer goals and prospects and be able to devote the proper time to follow up with them until the business was earned.  In the world of endurance sports, it is like starting a marathon and running the first few miles at a very fast pace and burning my fuel at such a high rate that I could not finish.  Remember the story of the hare and tortes?  Everyone knows the moral of the story as the much slower tortes passes the exhausted rabbit just as they are near the finish and the much slower turtle wins the race.

What is the key to actually finishing the race?  What does it take to make sure that there is enough fuel in the tank to get you to the finish line?  What I have found as an endurance athlete is the need to get into what I call my “optimal rhythmic zone.” What this is specifically is a particular pace that for me was fast enough to generate and keep momentum but slow enough that I could burn my fuel very efficiently so that I could finish.  It is a particular pace that I can hold indefinitely because I am in a rhythm and I am using my energy very efficiently.  Consistency of pace is critical to ensure that an ultra marathoner can actually finish the race.  This is exactly how I ran the Antarctic 100k, as the pace for my first mile, tenth mile, twenty ninth mile, and all the way to the sixty second and final mile, were almost identical.

So too in the world of selling is it necessary to find an optimal rhythmic pace of activity that is critical.  As a business person, you have to generate enough activity to move the business forward and generate opportunities to sell every day; at the same time, it is necessary to not engage in a level of activity that is too fast or too much too soon, as you will find yourself burning out.  The most successful sales people, like endurance athletes, are the ones who engage in activity at a level that is their optimal rhythmic pace, not too slow and not too fast.

When improvement is desired, make sure that as you increase your level of activity or your “speed”, make sure you do CAREFULLY in small and realistic increments.  Just like saving money, losing weight and building quality relationships, significant progress and success does not come overnight.  It comes to those who are patient and who build the house one brick at a time.  When you do this consistently over a long period of time, you will find success.  And, you will be able to stay successful!