On the 8th September 2018 I sat on the start line for a totally awesome, yet challenging, adventure. Riding the length of the UK from Lands End in Cornwall to John O’Groats in Scotland. I was with another 700 people, ready to cover 980 miles, a lot of hills (like cycling up Everest twice), and camping every night for 9 days.

I was confident that I was ready. I had been preparing for this moment since the start of 2018 and I was in the zone. Mentally ready to go and eager for the starter to send us on our way.

I learnt a lot about myself in the 9 days that followed as we covered over 110 miles a day. On reflection there are some similarities too with B2B sales professionals.

In this article I want to bring you five of the key selling lessons that I have taken from the saddle. Let’s get into this.

1.) Focus on your goal

In January I started to visualise finishing the event and thinking about what it will take to reach this goal. I am sure the 700 starters each had their own personal goal and for me it was only to complete the 980 miles.

The key lesson for sales is this – have a clear objective for an account (to advance) or opportunity (to win, or lose early). Defining your sales objective will help you to focus on delivering this objective successfully and to do what is needed to deliver this successfully.

2.) Sharpen the saw

I’ll be honest here, I didn’t do enough of the right training to make this challenge easier. My bike skills were good, but the strength in my legs was not where it should have been for such a challenging ride.

I could try to make excuses but the reality is that I have to take responsibility for this, more training would have helped. Had I been better prepared I would have performed better.

In sales there is debate about the value of training and coaching. My lesson from the saddle is this, always try to improve your selling capability. Take responsibility for your development and be aware that mastery takes effort. Whether you do formal training, coaching sessions, or self learning. Invest in being better.

3.) Use the right tools in the right way.

I completed the last 40 miles of my ride into John O’Groats in a single gear as the battery powering my gear shifters ran out. Doh! This made things harder and added a lot of time to my ride on that day. My performance was affected by my inability to use the tools at my disposal in the right way. For example our account planning tools will provide a simple way to build an account strategy in Salesforce, but to build a great account strategy requires creative brain power too.

Sales tools are sometimes touted as a silver bullet – ‘buy this software and you will improve,’ some suppliers will say. The reality is that tools can be part of an answer but if they are not used correctly then performance is impacted. The selling lesson is to buy the right tools to address your performance gaps, and prepare people with the right behaviours and capability to use the tools in the right way.

4.) Mental strength gets you through

There is no doubt about it, this was an endurance event. There are some really tough moments throughout the ride that are sent to try you.

At the top of some of the major climbs a Union Jack flag could be seen fluttering in the wind. It said “SHUT UP LEGS” and this highlights the mental approach necessary to keep your legs going when physically it would be easy to give up and walk.

Sales is tough too. There are some hard times in any sales campaign, when decisions go the wrong way or when an opportunity is lost. Having the mental toughness required to stick with things through tough times is what defines great sales people.

5.) Individual AND team

Cycling the length of the UK is an individual challenge and there were times over nearly 90 hours in the saddle when I was not not having a good moment. The friends I rode with encouraged me, supported me and helped me through those tough times. I would have found it much harder without their help. At the same time there were moments when I would be there for them.

Sales equally is [mostly] an individual activity where the salesperson carries the quota for a set of accounts or territory. The best sales people I have seen are able to corral resources to help them win. A good individual can become great by identifying the resources that can help and working with them to deliver better results for all.

I took some key selling lessons from my time in the saddle. Sales is a long term endurance activity in the same way as my 980 mile ride was. It requires focus, commitment, flexibility, and a belief in yourself.

I hope this helps you in your sales career. Good selling.

This week’s post is by guest author Garry Mansfield, Founder of Outside In Sales & Marketing, a specialist B2B consultancy that blends sales performance consulting with easy to use technology applications like AccountPlan, CallPlan, DealSheet, Motivate, and more. They are called outside in because that is how they think.