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Sales, Just Like Riding A Bike!

by David Brock on December 1st, 2009

Those of you who know me know that I am a fanatic road bike rider.  Naturally, I rode bikes a lot as a kid, and rode at college because it was the easiest way of getting around.  But then I stopped.  About 4 years ago, I started riding again–mainly to try to get into some semblance of shape.  Part of what they say about riding bikes is true–you don’t forget. 

I live in Southern California–on any given weekend, you’ll see 100’s of people out on bicycles.  When I started riding again, I noticed, that even though I could ride a bike, I was really pretty bad.  I struggled up the smallest hills, everyone else seemed to pass me as though I was standing still, riding 10 miles seemed to be a major accomplishment.  My competitive nature got the best of me  (also, a friend had coerced me into riding a 100 mile race), I wanted to get much better.  I didn’t want to let any hill defeat me, I wanted to ride fast–at least keep up with the majority of riders (secretly I wanted to beat most), and I didn’t want to be intimidated by distance.

I started learning about being a good bike rider.  The first thing I learned was getting my base miles in.  When I started, my conditioning level was very low, so I had to just start riding a lot–this meant getting out every day that I could.  It also meant getting a sound foundation of skills–there is more to really good riding than just pedaling fast.   It took time, but I soon started becoming better both in endurance and in being more skillful as a rider.

Most of the people were still passing me and I struggled with all but the smallest grades.  I was driven to get better–I got someone to coach me.  Without leveraging someone who understood how to become a better rider and who could watch what I did, it would have limited my development.  We went riding together, he was an inhuman task master.  I would have screamed and sworn at him, but he was always so far ahead of me, he wouldn’t hear, but my abilities skyrocketed.  He taught me how to condition myself and improve.  He taught me  techniques that improved my abilities and corrected some mistakes I was making.  He instilled a discipline to help me continually improve my performance.

I continued to develop.  I learned I had to start doing something called intervals, which means riding all out for a period of time, relaxing for a bit, then doing the cycle again and again.  I hated them.  But now I was starting to keep up with many of the Saturday morning groups.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself, on the level, I could cruise along at a good speed.  For a while, I rested on my laurels, but then I realized I wasn’t getting better.

Amir and I headed out for 120 miles.

Amir and I headed for a 120 mile ride.

Then came the hills.  I always hated hills.  I’d arrange my routes to try to minimize hills.  But I realized that I had plateaued in my development and wasn’t getting much better.  I started riding hills, I found a route, close to my house, with a long very big hill.  I started riding to the top, over and over–hating every moment.  But I noticed that I was getting better—I really noticed it on the flats, my average speed increased by 30%.  I was even faster on the hills.

Through this process, I learned some other things.  Having the right tools is very helpful.  I have a good bike, not the best, but it is adequate, though the bike is the least important part of it.  The most valuable tool was my bike computer.  Now I could measure myself.  I could track my heart-rate, speed, distance, cadence, climbing, power, and all sorts of cool stuff.  Having the data to track my performance–in real time and to analyze every week.  Having personal metrics enabled me to set goals and manage my progress.

Anyway, it’s been about 4 years.  I’m doing pretty well.  My fitness levels are much higher, I manage to pass more people than pass me, distance doesn’t bother me, and hills don’t intimidate me—well almost—I’m training to do one of the toughest climbs in the country next year.  I still have a long way to improve.

I’ve learned some things.  Having clear goals, working every day to achieve those goals, training, practicing, executing constantly are critical.  Rather than avoiding the tough climbs–attacking them and conquering them is the best way to improve performance.  Getting great coaching and having the right tools helps improve my efficiency.  Having good data and metrics about my performance and using them to figure out how to improve is important.  Setting tough and agressive goals for improvement, not avoiding the difficult challenges have done a tremendous amount to improve my performance.

Sales is a lot like riding a bike.  Once you’ve sold, you never forget.  But to perform at the top level of sales, it seems like you have to do a lot more.

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