How to Dominate in Sales: Lessons from the Rio 2016 Olympians


As you have come to expect by now, we like to look “outside the box” for motivation, inspiration, and ideas to improve our sales performance. If you are looking for a clear example of how mental preparation, mental toughness, practice, and execution can make or break your performance, look no further than the Olympic athletes of Rio 2016.

Sure, natural talent plays a big role in every Olympian’s performance. If you are a naturally gifted athlete, you know that if you don’t develop that talent every single day, you will be nothing more than a mediocre athlete.

Make no mistake: in the world of sales, there are those who possess natural talent who are just going to be good salespeople no matter what. However, those who are great have the mental toughness and can prepare themselves emotionally for anything. They practice, practice, and practice again. They won’t stop for anything. They develop those talents to near perfection – and those are the elite salespeople who are always on top.


Set Attainable Goals and Focus on What’s in Front of You

Goal setting is extremely important. It allows for you to formulate a clear mental picture of what you need to achieve. Since success is relative, goal setting and goal achieving is a way to mentally think “I was successful today”.

All athletes are an awesome example here.  Back when they were competing in their first ever event as a child, do you think their goal was to become an Olympian and be the best in the world? Yes, I am sure it was in the back of their minds, but more realistically, that goal alone would have been totally unrealistic at the time and would have weighed them down. Rather, taking goals in small and attainable doses is a much easier way, such as breaking their old time, or winning the event for that day or mastering a new method.

Consider our profession. If your goal is to be top salesperson of the year, that is a small and attainable goal. If your goal is to sell over $1,000,000 of product this year, that is attainable. Do that enough, and you will break records too. If you start a sales job with the goal “I’m going to be the best salesperson in the history of this industry”, well, good luck. Not achieving periodic goals will wreak havoc on your mental state.

Stay Strong when you Fail – Even the Best Fall

Failure is just part of life. It’s going to happen to you, whether you are prepared for it or not. Olympians know this all to well. Only by failing does one learn and grow. At one time, each and every Olympian has dramatically failed, whether it was during their pre-Olympic career, or at the actual Olympics themselves. This year, we have Columbia scoring a last second goal on team USA’s star player Hope Solo. Even the best fail. That’s just a fact of life.

Stay positive and learn from your failures. It sucks when you totally ruin a great sales opportunity because of a mistake on your part. It hurts and it knocks you down a few rungs. This happens to everyone, only the top performers are the ones who come back swinging. Being mentally tough is more important than you might realize. I bet that come the next Olympics, Hope Solo will be a far better athlete than she is today and will come more mentally prepared than ever before.

Don’t get Distracted. Have a Laser-Like Focus

If you have somehow missed the Michael Phelps face meme that has been circulating around, here it is in all it’s glory. Here, we have Chad le Clos, who gave Michael Phelps his first international defeat in a decade back in 2012, trying to distract Phelps from his mental preparation before the 200m butterfly.

As you can see, Phelps doesn’t even acknowledge him. He is so focused on his game that he sees right through him. He won’t let anything ruin his laser-like focus. And, as we have come to find out, here is the result of that race. Phelps tearing ahead, while Chad le Clos looks on in horror.

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Don’t let anything distract you from making that sale or closing that customer. You will have elements on all fronts attempting to distract you – personal issues, unruly customer objections, better coworkers, higher quotas, and stiff competition. Keep your laser focus and keep your eye on the prize.

Practice makes Perfect

Nobody can be born with a natural athletic ability and go on to compete & win in an Olympic event. It’s just not going to happen. Olympians devote their entire worldly existence to practicing and developing that talent. While others are out partying all night, Olympians are practicing. While others are sitting at home playing video games, Olympians are practicing.

Same principle applies to sales. You can be the most likable people-person out there, but unless you practice your craft and practice your selling techniques to discover weaknesses and address them you won’t be an elite salesperson. A lot of Olympic athletes watch their own tapes to see how they can improve – you should be doing the same with your sales calls.

Be Open to Coaching and Advice

These Olympic athletes are the best in the world at their sport. They have trained for hours upon hours and know the ins-and-outs of every facet of their event. Yet, as you will notice, every single one of them has a coach. Nobody can do it solo, even if they are the best in the world. A coaches job is to guide and offer support and advice. Their job is to push and develop talent to it’s full potential. Olympic athletes are open to coaching because they want to improve and are always looking at ways to get better.

In sales, don’t be a lone wolf. You will find that not being open to coaching and constructive criticism will quickly leave you in the dust. The second that you decide that you are a subject expert and nobody can help you, you will start to fight an uphill battle. No matter how awesome you are or how many record-breaking years you have, set your pride aside and be open to coaching and advice. It could unlock new potential that you never thought you had.

Give Every Sales Opportunity your Best

One thing that every Olympian will tell you is that winning is hard. People like Michael Phelps make it look easy, but in reality, he has to put 110% effort in to every single race. Slacking off a little bit, for every single athlete out there, will translate to a loss. It doesn’t matter what’s in front of them or what issues they may have, they have to give their absolute best all the time.

In sales, you won;t be successful if you start to get comfortable and start to slack off. Only by giving every opportunity your absolute very best will you achieve greatness.

We have a lot to learn from the Olympians this year. They have worked their entire lives for this moment in history. While we aren’t competing against world-champion athletes, we can learn a lot from these games about sales and business.

Next time you are getting ready to go on a sales call, think about the Olympians of Rio 2016 and ask yourself if you are going to work like an Olympian, or work like an armature.



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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

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