You may have noticed some new research recently published by Siemens, which compares the psychological attributes of both sports winners and business winners. As a slight change to the usual finance theme of my column I thought I would examine some of the themes from the research, as it offers some valuable advice for resellers in terms of broader best business practice. There is definitely a sporting competitive element to any sales process, but to be a true 'winner' in the reseller business, what more does it take?
The research interviewed a representative sample of UK CEOs, Managing Directors and Financial Directors, as well as members of the GB Olympic rowing squad and Siemens' own high-flying graduates in November and December 2006. It looked at various attributes spanning from self-belief and attitude to preparation to superstition and attitude to sleep. Having some real handle on the nature of the 'winning type' gives us an idea of what it takes to be both a sporting and business success, and the ever more competitive channel can take some useful lessons from this!
Let's start with what the survey shows to be the second most highly regarded key to success - self-belief. 54% of CEOs regard preparation as a key element to achieving success at work, yet 72% say they are giving top class performances without thorough preparation, indicating that many are sailing rather close to the wind. Conversely, 84% of rowers regard preparation as a key priority, but just over half (51%) believe they deliver top class performances without preparation. However both sets of results indicate that both business and sports people are not performing as well as they could and that over confidence is often confused for self-belief.
Another area the report focuses on is teamwork. The results show that business winners recognise the importance of motivating and having the support of a great team; they see themselves leading from the front and are also fiercely independent. Top rowers in the GB team, on the other hand, value true interdependence, where the winning factor is the team and not any one player in it.
Even in business, most winners don't recognise the value of learning from failures. The 15-22% of business people and sports people who do recognise the value of lessons learnt from failure are super-robust in their confidence. The contrast between these super-robust in sport (22%) compared with business (15%) could be attributable to the fact that even unavoidable failures in business have become more and more unacceptable in the eyes of shareholders and investors.
Let's end with one of the most crucial components of a winner, preparation. Britain has a national culture of relying on natural talent, 'rising to the occasion,' 'England Expects!', which I'm sure rings true for some sales people on the eve of a pitch! Sports people however recognise the need to prioritise preparation (49%) far more than business people (28%). Being a winner is not simply about producing one great performance, but is the art of producing great performances time after time. Business evidently shows a major gap in detailed 'what-if' planning, which is a much more ingrained process in sporting preparation. Top sports people stand out as massive risk takers (72%), but crucially this is linked to their culture of preparation which means they are aware of the risks they face in any game or competition and know that some risk-taking will be necessary to gain the slim advantage needed to win. For resellers, we are all aware of the importance of preparation. Knowing your specific market place and customers is of the utmost importance and the best way to ensure this is to prepare fully.
So what can resellers and their sales teams take away from this research? It has been proven that winners in both business and in sport need to have robust self-belief, recognise the value of teamwork, enthusiastically learn from mistakes and - most importantly - do proper preparation for consistent winning performances. These are attributes that will no doubt serve the channel very well.
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