Training Your Sales Staff is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
6 hours 30 minutes and 19 seconds.
That was the time I took to run the Chicago Marathon this past Sunday. This race was one hour longer than my first marathon in March of 2023, at 5 hours and 25 minutes. Many would see this time difference and think, “Wow, what happened?!” or “She must have had a bad race.” Who adds over an hour to their marathon time?!
Me. And guess what, I am more proud of my second marathon time (6:30:19) than my first marathon time (5:25). Here’s why:
Flashback to February of 2023, I went out for an 18-mile long run while training for my first marathon. At this point, I had been running for a year and had no prior knowledge of how to run or train for a race properly. Every day for that last year, I was getting out there trying to run as fast as I could, because I thought that was what you were supposed to do - until this long run. As I set out for that run, just five weeks from my first marathon, I got to mile 10 and hit a wall I had NEVER felt before. It took every ounce of energy to get through the last 8 miles.
Afterward, I called everyone I could to make sense of what happened, and it wasn’t until my uncle (an Ironman athlete) recommended I look into heart rate zone training. I took his advice, and after my first marathon, I focused on my heart rate. Essentially your heart is a muscle and you have to treat it like one. You would not go into a gym and deadlift 300 pounds with no training, you are going to steadily increase your weight over time. The same is true for training your heart, over time your heart will get used to the distance and time running, and your time will start to shave off. That said, I went from averaging a 10-minute mile to a 15-minute mile. To say I felt less than a runner was an understatement, but I knew the rewards that sticking to heart rate training would bring for future goals in my running journey.
So why am I telling you this?
Well, heart rate zone training is like training your sales staff. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, states, “If you can get 1% better each day for one year, you'll end up 37 times better by the time you're done.” This quote encapsulates both heart rate training AND training your sales staff. You will not see the results overnight, as much as you want to. It will feel monotonous, and you’ll wonder if things ever change. But I promise you, they will. One day, a sales associate will successfully go through a sales process, ask the right questions, recommend the right product, connect with the customer, and so much more.
Here are a few tips:
- Set aside 5 mins a day to train one person. Even when shit hits the fan, because just like training for a marathon there are some days you just don’t want to get up and run, but you have to get the miles in.
- Find a metric to measure (increased UPTs) and celebrate the small victories.
- Make sure you have an agreement on the approach with all of your managers. Like training for a marathon, your community needs to know how they can support, motivate, and hold you accountable.
- Reward yourself and your staff every day for making the effort even when it feels like you failed.
And that is what I am doing now. I am progressively training my heart to endure long distances with less fatigue for longer. Training takes time, and it feels like you never have enough of it, but just like when you want to develop a habit, you actively choose to set aside that time. So why not set aside that 1% and train your staff so the heart of your store can thrive for the long term?
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