We can learn a lot about goal-setting from athletes. Elite athletes like Serena Williams know a thing or two about setting a goal and doing all you can to meet it. Does that sound familiar?

Indeed, sales professionals are familiar with sales quotas and goals and working hard to meet their goals. So, what can we learn from Serena Williams about goal setting?

Setting the Mark

Greatness has been taken to new heights in the sport of tennis and greatness now goes by the name of Serena Williams. Her career has been nothing short of remarkable and now that she is in her mid thirties, there are no signs of slowing down.


The results speak for themselves. Williams is on track to win her fourth Grand Slam title this year, something that has only been done a handful of times in the history of the sport. She won the previous three Grand Slam events this year, most recently ushering in her sixth Wimbledon title after taking the Australian and French Open. Next up is the chance to claim yet another Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open, which will take place in early September in New York.

A victory at the U.S. Open would enable Williams to tie Steffi Graf with 22 career Grand Slam titles, while leaving her two shy of tying the record, which stands at 24 held by Margaret Court. When all is said and done, it looks as though Williams will likely be heralded as the greatest women's tennis player of all time. 

In the world of sales, the best reps are not signified by Grand Slam titles or championship wins. They are defined by certain characteristics. The best sales reps continue to prospect for new business regardless of their track record. The best sales reps also plan out their strategy before meeting or speaking with a client. A champion sales rep will also sell value and not simply a product or service. Lastly, the best sales reps are always creative, passionate and persistent. Sales reps who continually follow that formula for success will usually find it, no matter what product or service they are selling.  

Winning when it counts

Not every Williams victory has been dominated from start to finish. There have been plenty of times when Williams has fallen behind in her championship run. Williams has been able to rely on a special tactic when facing a deficit. She has been able to come up with Aces as one powerful serve has gotten her out of a hole on more than one occasion.

During the 2015 season, Williams has a whopping 352 Aces in 38 matches. That means 352 of her serves were never even returned. With percentages like that, it is tough to be beaten.

Percentages also play an important role in sales as sales reps should remember to follow the 80/20 rule. That rule states that 80% of your sales are produced by 20% of your customers. Following that theory, it is important to devote a certain amount of attention to certain clients. The bottom line is that not every customer is equal.

That doesn't mean sales reps should ignore those customers who make minimal purchases. But there are only so many hours in a week and reps need to distribute their time in ways that are most advantageous. From a sales perspective, it makes perfect sense to devote the majority of your time to creating more opportunities for that all-important 20%.

Getting better with age

Williams became the oldest woman to win Wimbledon this past year at 33 years and 10 months of age. However, it was not too long ago when Williams may have seemed as though she was on the decline. During parts of 2007 and 2008, she was not ranked among the top 100 women's tennis players in the world. 

Maintaining elite-level status takes just as much physical ability as it does mental ability. Williams enjoyed a lot of success at an early age, so staying motivated could have been seen just as difficult as staying in shape. She has managed to overcome quite a few obstacles and now, at close to 34 years of age, she is arguably the world's most dominant athlete in her respective sport.

Being successful in sales does not always rely on experience since things change so quickly in the modern era. The technology age has changed the way sales are done and it is important for every sales rep to stay on top of those changes. 

With so much information available to buyers, they can conduct a through evaluation on their own using the Internet as their tool. That means sales reps should be wary of trying to close too early as too much early contact could scare prospects off. 

In the digital age, sales reps can also read the online body language of prospects and clients. Following them on Twitter or Facebook is a way of gauging their online body language. See what your clients and prospects are saying on social media. Let it sink in and adjust your sales tactics accordingly. 

Dealing with the Pressure

Before Williams can complete her historic run at the upcoming U.S. Open, she will face her share of pressure. Being as though the final Grand Slam will be played on American soil will only add to the hype and media frenzy that is expected to descend upon New York this September. Williams admitted that she nearly choked under the pressure that threatened to consume her at Wimbledon. But with champions, almost doesn't count.

Sales reps also face exceedingly high amounts of pressure. However, better time management on a daily basis helps to eliminate a good deal of that pressure. Sales reps who ask effective questions and listen to client/prospect answers also tend to experience lower stress levels. There can even be a sequential order to their questioning and asking effective questions will develop trust while simultaneously minimizing pressure on sales reps.

Pressure is a part of every game, but how one deals with that pressure often determines the level of success or failure. And many times, the amount of pressure placed on an individual is never completely out of their control.

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Image Credit: ESPN and Changeovertennis.com

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