How to make sales look easy: Sell & Win Like Mikaela Shiffrin

Maura Schreier-Fleming's Profile
I’ve written about the amazing Michaela Shiffrin before.  She’s the exciting alpine skier who has achieved spectacular results. She’s won the World Cup overall title three times.  She has 56 World Cup individual victories and three Olympic medals. Two of those are gold.  She’s the best in the world. How does she make it look easy?  It’s just like those sales greats who make selling look easy.

Is it really that easy?

Here’s how Shiffrin responds when others look at her stats and think she makes it look easy.  She says, “What I see is an enormous mixture of work, training, joy, heartache, motivation, laughs, stress, sleepless nights, triumph, pain, doubt, certainty, more doubt, more work, more training, surprises, delayed flights, canceled flights, lost luggage, long drives through the night, expense, more work, adventure, and some races mixed in there.”  

How can you use both her success and observation for selling?  She’s giving you a roadmap for sales success.  

She understands how emotions work for her success. 

Did you notice how she describes the order of what she does: triumph, pain, doubt, certainty, more doubt, more work?  This champion manages her emotions, especially the doubt, very well. She recognizes that skiing on a world class level is an emotional roller coaster. 

So is selling. You can walk into your largest account only to learn that it’s getting sold and your competitor owns the purchaser. I saw that happen to a #1 salesman who within the span of 3 months went from the top salesman in volume to the bottom.  His is an extreme example, but your emotions are likely to go up and down on a regular basis when you sell.  

One way to manage your emotions is to expect the roller coaster ride. Learn to think more optimistically.  Give yourself credit for your successes.  Don’t be so hard on yourself when you fail. 

Learn to anticipate. 

Shiffrin doesn’t mention how all the work she does contributes to how well she skis. One of the things she does well is anticipate. Great skiers work to anticipate acceleration of their skis to achieve better balance. Anticipation in sales is just as critical, but it’s not about balance. Your selling becomes a lot easier when you anticipate opponents, problems, and opportunities. Only when you anticipate them can you develop the most effective strategies to neutralize opponents, solve problems, and take advantage of opportunities.  

Documenting the cost savings you deliver to customers makes it difficult for a competitor to take your business from you.  Learning what situations can cause problems allows you to avoid them.  Opportunities present themselves when you modify your sales process and always ask for referrals.  

Learn how to win and lose. 

Some athletes trash talk their opponents and are not gracious winners.  Shiffrin doesn’t lose much, but she is also respectful when she wins. When she wins she doesn’t gloat or minimize her competitors. 

How does winning and losing apply to sales?  You’re going to win some difficult deals and you’re going to lose some as well. Each time will offer you an opportunity to enhance or detract from your reputation. When you have a good reputation you often have people supporting you and cheering you on.  Those who cheer you just might provide the support you need to gain the confidence to win your next big deal.  I often say that sales are won or lost on small differences. Do you really want to give your competition a slight edge when you compete in the future?  I don’t think so. Learn how to win and lose graciously. Don’t ever gloat or talk ill of your competition.  

Modeling Shiffrin might not get you world recognition in skiing. It just might make you a sensation in your selling world.