7 Sales Lessons from Mike Tyson


Even if you don’t like boxing and have never seen a single boxing match, you probably know who Mike Tyson is. Not only is he considered one of the most badass boxers on the planet, but his brand image that he created for himself  is so appealing and recognizable that people all over the world know who he is. His career has spanned decades and has even flirted with industries outside of the boxing world. He’s gained fame and fortune time and time again, while failing along the way in dramatic fashion.

That being said, what can Mike Tyson teach us about sales? What lessons can a boxer possibly offer to professional sales?

I think you will come to find out that you can learn a lot from this man.

Be Comfortable with Confrontation 

Mike Tyson made his entire career from fighting other people. Pummeling people to the ground was literally his job, and he was damn good at it.

Should you pummel your customers to the ground? Probably not, but you should at least be comfortable with sitting down with other people and delivering your pitch while sparring with them during the objection handling stage. Customers will throw everything at you – some will even cuss your product out. If you wilt under the pressure, you’ll never make it in sales. You have to thrive in the “ring” and be ok with confrontation.

Don’t Let Anything Prevent you from Reaching your Goals

In 1986 at the age of 20, Mike had a disease of sorts. He was quoted in saying that he was “burning like a Good Humor in July.” from his gonorrhea. Now, in the regular world, that would be enough to prevent me, and probably a host of other people, from going to the gym and seriously considering fighting in a heavyweight championship bout. Not Mike – he fought on and trained on, and he actually won his fight in the second round, which made him the youngest person ever to hold the WBC Heavyweight Championship Belt.

If Mike can fight through gonorrhea and kill it in the ring, you should be able to smash your goals too. Don’t let anything prevent you from hitting your goals and feeding your family.

AFP/AFP Getty Images
AFP/AFP Getty Images

Be Confident

You can say a lot of things about Mike and his career. His quotes and press conferences offer a host of material that would make Donald Trump look like a children’s TV show host. That being said, you cannot deny the man’s confidence in himself, which made him seem invincible. No matter what was thrown at him or what the circumstances were, he was confident that he would rebound and win. Which he usually did.

Before you Open your Mouth, Think

This just piggybacks off of the above lesson, but in sales, your words are your boxing gloves. Everything that you say must be carefully thought through and should be crafted as such to bring you towards your goal.

Mike was never good at this. One of his more…offensive lines was “All praise is to Allah, I’ll fight any man, any animal, if Jesus were here I’d fight him too.”

Please, in sales, think before you talk.

(Photo by Tonya Wise/Invision/AP)
(Photo by Tonya Wise/Invision/AP)

Be Adaptable

One of the most famous Mike Tyson quotes is: “Everyone has a plan, until I punch them in the mouth.”

This is incredibly true for salespeople. We all have our scripts and our visions of how the sales call will go. As we all know, they never turn out as expected. Customers throw in crazy objections, the competition releases a new product that’s actually better than yours, or some environmental tragedy happens (Hurricane Matthew in my neck of the woods). All of these equate to a “punch in the face”.

You have to be adaptable so you can overcome all of these. There has to be a point where you are comfortable with going “off script” to overcome the situation.

When you Fail, Get Back Up

Bad things will happen to you, and one day, you will fail. That’s the life in sales. Mike was no different. One evening, Tyson decided to stay in and hang out with some prostitutes. Unfortunately, he was mixing a dangerous cocktail of morphine, coke, and hard alcohol. He snapped and beat up all seven prostitutes (at once) in a Vegas hotel room. He was sentenced to prison for 3 years.

What did he do? He got clean and sober, trained his butt off, and got back in the boxing ring as soon as he was released.

Did he wallow in self pity? No.

Did he simply give up and decide that the world hated him? No.

He got back up and kept doing what he does best – boxing. This time, he did it sober.

We are definitely not advocating beating up prostitutes in your hotel room and definitely do not condone Mike’s actions. The point is that when he failed, he got back up and made himself a better person.

When you fail, whether it’s a blown sale, a bad month, or even being released from one sales job, you can either give up and decide that you suck, or get back up and keep on fighting.

Save Money

I’d like to imagine boxing is a lot like sales in terms of how frequent you get paid. In the world of boxing, you win, get endorsements, and get paid. In sales, you make a sale, and get paid. In either scenario, there are no “guaranteed salaries”. In sales, you might have a base salary if you are extremely lucky, but that’s not enough to live off of usually. I would say that boxers can make much more money, but remember, Mike went bankrupt in 2003 after earning over $300 million.

A hard lesson learned by many professional athletes, you have to put money away for the times where you are not winning boxing matches. In sales, you HAVE to put money away for the times where you are not selling. It’s called leveraging your risk with a fat savings account, and it will reduce your stress significantly when times are tough.

Or you can buy a pet tiger, whatever works for you.




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Author: Jason Karaman

Hello! I’m a marketing, sales, and customer service author, blogger and doer. I live in the South Carolina Lowcountry with my wife. I enjoy reading, writing, hiking, kayaking, and all things beach. For media inquiries, send an email to JasonKaraman@ExpertCaller.com

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