Hope Is Not a Strategy for Runners

A few years back, I worked as sales representative. While the job was very demanding, it was also very rewarding. Closing a big account or having a good month as a team didn’t happen by accident. Due to a clear sales plan, succeeding wasn’t an aberration or an accident. In many ways, training to run a race is the same way. You’re probably not going to PR in a race without a proper plan – or good training schedule to follow.

“Hope Is Not a Strategy”

Rick Page’s sales book, which is a sales bible for many, was almost a mantra to our sales manager. We we weren’t allowed to simply hope a sale would come through. Before each sales call, we were expected to have a  clear plan in place where we knew the prospect inside and out and determine their hot button selling points. Most importantly, we had to give ourselves the best chance to succeed by removing all known barriers to a sale before the meeting ever took place. While our planning and strategy sessions were a culmination of personal experiences and other sales books, it was Page’s book that our sales manager would constantly point to.  If you’re in sales and are interested in developing your own sales strategies, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy – if you haven’t already.

What does this all have to do with fitting in runs? A lot, as I found out. When I started running, I didn’t really have a plan. While just stepping out the door to run can be fun, if your goal is to run any long distance races you’ll need to have a plan. Without a plan, you’re not going to accomplish your goals anymore than a salesperson will close a sale by simply showing up. You had to do your homework in sales and you have to do your homework with running.

How A Sales Guru Can Help You Run

Page outlines “6 Keys to Closing a Complex Sale”. In many ways, committing to running and training for a race can be looked at as a complex sale. The only difference is that you’re selling to yourself and to those around you. For reference, here are Page’s 6 Keys:

  • Sell to a prospect’s strategic business “pain” for greater value
  • Qualify the prospect for forecasting accuracy
  • Differentiate your solution to build competitive preference
  • Link your strategy to the prospect’s decision-making process
  • Sell to power by finding the key to buyer politics
  • Communicate your strategy throughout your team


For better or worse, here is how you can use those 6 keys to meet your running goals and make yourself find the time for it.

Sell to a prospect’s strategic business “pain” for greater value

If you’ve decided that you’re a runner, what led to that decision? Did you want to get in shape? Was it to be a part of a running community? Do you see yourself finishing races? Whatever the reason you decided to run, make sure you make that a focal point of everything you do. If you get to a point where you don’t want to go on a scheduled run, remind yourself of the reason you do it in the first place. For me, it was to get in shape and stay healthier. The idea of losing momentum usually snaps me out of any running funk I might be in.

Qualify the prospect for selling accuracy

For all intents and purposes, this key probably should be the first one for runners. Before you take your first step on an initial run, you should “qualify” yourself and your overall desire and interest in running. Is this really for you? Do you really have the desire to run longer distances? Is there another outlet where you could meet your goals? My wife is into yoga, while some of my friends are into futsal, and others like to golf. Running isn’t for everyone, so it’s important to determine early on if you have the internal drive to do it.

Differentiate your solution to build competitive preference

If you know you’re a runner, why? If you work 40+ hours a week, have a family, a social life and/or other commitments, why would you make the commitment to squeezing 4-5 runs in a week? Because you know running is the best darned outlet for you to achieve a sense of achievement, stay in shape and be apart of a community, that’s why. If you’ve “qualified” running as your fitness drug of choice, then you have your own unique to this answer so you know why running is a better solution than any other you might have considered.

Link Your Strategy to Your Prospect’s Decision Making process

There are a lot reasons why running won out for me. While there is definitely a great feeling I get after a run that I couldn’t get from playing a basketball game or hitting the links, I think the purity and simplicity of running is ultimately helped me decide I was a runner.  For the most part, all you need to run is a pair of shoes and socks, shorts and a t-shirt and you’re good to go. You can walk out your front door and after some stretching, you’re running. Most times, there is no driving to get to a run. You’re not on a gym or fitness center’s schedule. You don’t have to wait for anyone else to show up. As long as you get out the front door, you’re a runner.

Sell to Power By finding the key buyer politics

You’ve decided you’re a runner. What does your spouse/significant other think of that decision? How does your running schedule fall into place with your work/life balance? How about any travel plans you might have? Ultimately these external factors will have to have a certain amount of buy in – or fit – with your running goals, so you’ll have to “sell” them on it. When I think of my running schedule, I’m always aware of how these factors will play into my weekly work/life schedule. Ultimately, you’ll have to determine how running fits in with your work/life/travel schedule and sell yourself not only on how running fits into the equation, but why it’s worth it.


Communicate your strategy throughout your team

This is where accountability comes in.

We’ve all been in the position of justifying why we didn’t run on a given day. Maybe you overslept by a few minutes and can convince yourself to run later that day – which may or may not happen. Maybe that race you signed up for is coming up quicker than you thought and you don’t mind eating the entry fee (whatever moneybags). Those kind of justifications are harder to swallow if you’ve shared your running goals with people you know. If you’ve made it public knowledge that you’re  training for a race or if you’ve told your spouse that you’re going to get 4 runs in this week, all of the sudden it’s harder to talk yourself out of it. Letting people know what you’re going to do creates a sense of accountability that will serve as sort of a fail safe if your personal motivation tank is running low.

Putting It All Together

Really good sales people and really good runners will tell you that the actual act of selling or running isn’t all that difficult if you have a strong plan in place. Closing a large sale or getting a PR in a marathon is definitely a major challenge, but it’s one where success can be virtually guaranteed with a solid and strong plan. Hope might be the spark that puts you on the path to success. Adding strategy will ensure you get there.


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