3 Sales Lessons from the London Olympics
A few weeks ago, I was in London for several meetings with Optify’s strategic customers with an international presence. They use Optify’s Inbound Marketing Software to help them manage and measure their efforts across the globe.
The timing of the trip hurled Marko Wollschlaeger and I right in the thick of Olympic fever. Was I disappointed that the trip overlapped with a largest sporting event on earth? Not quite. It happened to be a nice coincidence, and gave me a chance to watch the complex event unfold after years of planning and preparation.
The London 2012 games have been widely scrutinized in the past few months. How could a cramped city with an already strained transportation grid possibly handle 1 million tourists per day for 2.5 weeks straight? While I watched the last minute preparation and execution of London 2012, I couldn’t help but draw some parallels back to the world of software sales.
Here are a few sales preparation lessons from the London Olympics:
Olympic Observation: Manage crowds efficiently
Sales Lesson: Establish and stick to an agenda
Managing the hoards of people funneling into Olympic Park for events is no small task. Crowds and delays are inevitable, but each checkpoint executed a task and also set you up for the next one. On the tube, recordings would give instructions and updates for what to do once you arrived. At the park the layer of security checked bags and credentials in different layers, eventually landing you into the park.
Managing a crowd is a lot like keeping a meeting on track. There are many topics in a sales call that can lead down a rat hole. It is imperative to set an agenda at the beginning (ideally before you arrive) and get the group’s buy in. If the conversation takes a turn down a path that will prevent you from reaching your desired outcome, find a way to table the discussion and get the meeting back on track. Sales calls are a delicate balance of control between the buyer and seller. They better you can walk that line, the more successful your meetings will be.
Olympic Observation: Crack down on “black market” tickets
Sales Lesson: Eliminate Variables
Tickets to London 2012 were tough to get. After the sponsors take their cut, and the Olympic committee sells (oops) the ones they can get their hands on, the remaining tickets are divided up by country. This leaves many empty hands, and a perfect black market environment for tickets. London attacked these markets, and I noticed first hand that tickets were much harder to find on the street than they were in Vancouver in 2010.
Black market ticket sales introduce uncontrollable variables like counterfeiting, security risks & violence. Officials in London did their best to eliminate the problem. Sales presentations also have a number of similar variables. An executive could show up late and need to leave early for the 1 hour meeting. The wifi could go down in a demo. Eliminate the risky variables by having a contingency plan you can transition to on a moment’s notice.
Olympic Observation: Miles of “Olympic lanes” go unused
Sales Lesson: Plan to counter objections
To get athletes, officials, media and VIPs around London on time, the city designated over 60 miles of special lanes for the Olympics reserved for official travel. This caused widespread criticism by London locals, although the length was far smaller than the 177 miles in Beijing in 2008. A few days in, officials reopened many of these lanes to the public, as they were not all needed.
The sales prep lesson here is to plan for the worst, hope for the best. Confidence is key to any sales role, but more important is knowing your move if they balk on price, pin you against a competitor or point to a procurement manager with a daunting master services agreement. Go into the meeting knowing your limits and work to pad them as much as possible.
As you gear up for your next sales meeting, follow the advice of this quote: “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Outcomes are difficult to predict, but the right preparation will increase your odds of success.