The last quarter of the year is already upon us, and if your company has experienced a slowdown, it may feel like the last few months will be a slog. Here’s what you can learn from long-distance runners about finishing strong every time.
There’s no substitute for working hard all year. Long-distance runners train on long runs every week. It’s the only way to keep your body in shape for an upcoming marathon or triathlon. If you’ve typically relied on the last quarter to meet your goals or earn your bonus, you might be disappointed this year. The best way to close strong is to achieve your goals early. After all, there are two ways to win a race: running as hard as possible to the finish line – or coasting because you’re so far ahead of the competition. You get to choose.
Create a plan that smartly uses your energy. Like running, performing well in sales takes energy, stamina, and strategy. You probably know instinctively when your mental energy and focus is at its highest during the day. That’s when you can do your best strategic work. Save your low-energy time for administrative or repetitive work: making notes in your CRM system and scheduling follow-ups in your online calendar. If you start running at full speed every morning, you may be burned out by lunch and wasting valuable time on recovery instead of productivity.
Regularly check in to measure your progress. Distance runners don’t look at the time clock only at the end of the race; they measure their time every mile to know when to pick up the pace. Dividing your quotas into daily and weekly goals helps you understand how well you’re doing along the way. You’ll be measuring both input and results, so even if you’re on target with the number of prospecting calls you make, you may be lagging in conversions. Don’t wait until the end of the month or quarter to check in on your progress; pulling a 12 or 14-hour day to make your numbers is exhausting and seldom produces quality results.
Avoid the “finishing fade” by practicing fast finishes every month. Experienced distance runners set specific speed and time goals for themselves, and they know exactly how much ground they have to cover each mile to meet their goals. They add a few fast-finish runs a month to their repertoire to train their body and mind to close strong. The McMillan Running blog says, “In this type of long run, you start at your normal long run pace but run the last four to 10 miles at your goal marathon pace (and even faster for the last couple of miles). If you want to run 3:30 for the marathon, then run the last few miles at a 3:30 pace. Want to run a 2:30? Then, run the last few miles at 2:30 pace.”
You can practice fast finishes throughout the year. The last week of the month, do your prospecting at the next level (quantity or quality.) Train yourself to end each month stronger than you started. The McMillan Running blog says this practice will help prevent the “finishing fade”; it’s the opposite of how many of your competitors finish their months.
Know the obstacles at the end. Here in Jacksonville, the Gate River Run, held every March, is the largest 15K event in the U.S. Each year, more than 20,000 runners compete. Many of them are elite runners using the Gate as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. The Gate River Run ends with a run up the Hart Bridge in downtown Jacksonville, aka the Green Monster, often compared to Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon.
The steep run is almost 1,100 feet, and it has caused many runners to fade at the end of the race. Knowing what your personal Green Monster is can help you prepare mentally for finishing strong and keeping your head in the game until the end of the run, the month, or the quarter. Acknowledge and reward your progress along the way, and give yourself something to look forward to when you reach the top of the bridge. Strong finishes are great, but every finish is a win. Ask any marathoner.