Do All Winners Finish First in a Road Race?

Do All Winners Finish First in a Road Race?

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at


No. But they finish.

On a hot, sticky Saturday morning in Charlotte, NC, four hundred men and women are about to run the “Dilworth Jubilee” 8k road race. I’m among them. Paid my fee, got my number pinned to my gear, got my free T-shirt. I’m ready. It’s 30 minutes to race time, so I did what any red blooded salesperson would do: began networking. I talk to a few friends, three customers, met one hot prospect and was making my way to the starting line still wagging my tongue.

Gun goes off and everyone lurches into the race at once. Crowded. People passing me faster than cars at rush hour. The first rule of the road hit me: Set your own pace. Run your own race. Don’t worry about the competition. Hey, wait a minute, I thought, that could apply to sales. Where’s my pen and paper? Why didn’t I bring my phone? Rule two: Be prepared with the little things.

I pass the one mile marker in 8:07. An eight minute mile is faster than I’ve run since college. Great, one mile into a five mile race and I’m wasted.

About a half mile later, someone in front of me started to walk. Did that give me permission to walk? Or was it an opportunity to pass him? You tell me. I passed his butt. Rule three: Don’t be influenced by others – they may be setting a losing example.

Now it’s mile 2.5 and I’m thirsty and hungry. I saw an orange peel on the road, and for that brief moment wondered if it was all eaten. Nah. But I made a mental note to pack nourishment next time. Rule four: If you run out of gas, whose fault is that? Have a plan “B”.

I’m beat. Out of gas. Then the ultimate insult: I get passed by guy pushing a stroller. Sick. What could be worse than that? I got my answer in about 300 yards. I was passed by a guy pushing twins crap. Rule five: Don’t get discouraged if someone passes you.

I want to walk, I’m beat. Mile 3.5 I start to walk. A few more people pass me. Then a guy runs up behind me and says, “If I can do it, you can do it.” I begin to run with him. We talk for a while, he pulls ahead but not out of sight. Mentally he becomes “I can do it” to me. I’m still running. Rule six:  Others will encourage you when you falter.

Then at mile 4.1 or 2, as I’m about to give in and walk again, out of nowhere, an angel comes up behind me and says, “Let’s run it in together.” Cool and I begin to pick up the pace. (Major clue: When you’re exhausted and about to quit, minor encouragement can actually get you to run faster.) Rule six point five: There are angels, no matter what anyone says.

Here are a few more running rules (and selling similarities).

Set your watch. Pick a time you want to finish the race and set your watch in descending time. (Pick a day you want to close the sale.)

Set your mind. Decide you’ll finish before you start. Know where the finish line is and think past it. Imagine you have finished and you will. (Assume the sale, tell yourself it’s made before you start.)

Don’t look back. It does no good. It doesn’t matter who’s behind you concentrate on who you need to pass.

No prep no prize. The amount of preparation and training you did shows up about halfway through the race. (In sales, lack of preparation shows up much sooner.)

Physical and mental stamina are equal. To finish the race, both must be utilized to their full capacity. (You must have a balance of both to be a sales winner.)

Tell your mind what it needs to hear. Invent games, phrases, self praises and goals to get yourself to the next milepost. (Self-talk equals self-performance.)

Finishing is exhilarating. Great to get that “I did it” feeling. (Making a sale or achieving a goal or sale – the same exhilaration.)

I finished the race running in about 53 minutes. I was woozy but I did the traditional post race ten pushups. Where does tradition come from anyway? I think from a bunch of masochists.

Where did I finish? Ahead of about 50 people who ran and all the quitters. You don’t have to beat everyone, every time, but if you hang in there, you can make a successful career out of just beating people who quit. Same in sales.

Did I win anything? No. A road race is not just about winning, it’s about competing. It’s about being and doing your best. It’s about personal best not world best. It’s about victory and pride. Ask any runner. Same in sales.

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