Two weeks ago, I received a lead that a Fortune 500 company with an operation in Denver was using a lot of the type of business services that my company offers. I went on LinkedIn and found the names of a few of their executives that I thought might be interested in our services. One of the leaders that I reached out to has a robust LinkedIn profile and has written articles on a variety of topics. Before I sent the email introducing myself, I read a couple of his articles. Then, in my initial reach-out, I lightly referenced it with something humorous. The result was nothing short of amazing: his assistant didn’t respond to my email, she just put a meeting on my calendar to talk to the leader. Success!
Since I had carefully researched and prepared for my initial reach-out, I wanted to follow up with an equally well-planned call. I did further research on the leader’s LinkedIn profile and re-read a couple of his articles. I also did more research to get a broader understanding of his company, then I envisioned a couple of scenarios of how I thought the call might go. When the call came around, I was ready with a warm intro. During our conversation, I got an understanding of his business challenges and proposed a solution based on a case study from another project my firm had worked on.
The call went perfectly to plan, and we are now in the process of completing the required paperwork to do business with them! My favorite part of the entire call was that the leader said that he didn’t like sales people and never responded to reach-outs like this. The only reason that he responded to mine was because he said that he could see that I had done some research.
In my running life, I follow the same model. Six weeks prior to a race, my coach and I develop a new training block to get me ready for the exact type of race that I will run. Each week consists of running and workouts to mimic different parts of the race. Prior to my last race, which had lots of short but steep ups and downs, I ran a significant amount of time on terrain that was similar. I practiced pushing hard on the climbs and running fast on the downhill portions. I was also able to check out my competition and see who had signed up for the race. I knew that I couldn’t beat two of the runners based on what I knew about them. But I thought that if I had an amazing day, I could beat a couple of the other top runners and coming in between 3rd and 6th place seemed like a realistic goal.
The night before my race, it was snowing outside. I knew the course would be muddy and slick. I envisioned running through the bad weather, what I would wear, how I would feel passing people on the uphills and downhills. On race day, everything played out how I envisioned. I stayed behind 6th place for the first few miles and slowly started to work my way forward. By the time I passed the 3rd place runner, I had noticed that on flatter, smoother terrain he pulled away from me. However, on rocky, technical terrain, he slowed way down. As I led, I leveraged my strength and hammered on the technical terrain and recovered on the smooth terrain. It allowed me to put a big enough lead on him so that even though the last mile was smooth terrain, he couldn’t close the gap.
Each step in preparation, envision and execution is critical to success. Preparation is building the offense by creating talking points around important pieces of pertinent information for the client and training your body to handle terrain similar to the race. Envisioning many scenarios helps you prepare the defense for objections in business or less-than-ideal conditions in running. Executing well requires sticking with the plan but remaining flexible should the situation change quickly.
At the end of my race, something happened that I didn’t envision. About a third of a mile from the finish, I heard footsteps behind me. The guy who had been in sixth had caught a second wind and was running much faster than me. But what he didn’t know was that part of my race preparation includes running at just under sprint pace for short periods of time. I dropped the hammer and ran the last third of a mile at a 5-minute flat pace. I won by 10 seconds. Execution for a 3rd place finish. Success!
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Graham Shalvoy is a leader for Edgelink, a technology focused recruiting and staffing firm. He is also a competitive trail runner, logging 60-70 miles per week. His wife, Corinne, is also a competitive trail runner and is a Director of Talent for Cologix, a data center company. Together they have two rowdy boys and Corinne and Graham hold on for dear life PREPARING, ENVISIONING and EXECUTING it all.