What Sales Professionals and Formula 1 Drivers Have In Common

Formula 1 races are fascinating: Different races, different courses with different challenges, but they’re all based on the same rules that define how to win. The combination of speed, competition, precision, skills, and unwavering desire to improve using state-of-the-art technology is truly inspiring.

In the world of professional selling, every customer and every deal have different challenges. Sales professionals work in a defined playfield such as territories or accounts, the sales process and compensation plans, with rules that define how to sell and how to win.


Professionals show up every day, are always prepared and focused to master the relevant techniques. Professionals hold themselves accountable for their performance, and they accept no excuses. Furthermore, professionals are courageous, switch off distractions, prioritize carefully, share, and collaborate.

Professionalism is a prerequisite for both professions to be successful. Performance accountability is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Formula 1 drivers hold themselves accountable for their own and their team’s success. Sales professionals hold themselves accountable for their sales performance and for the customer’s results and wins. They make sure that the value gets delivered to exceed the customer’s expectations. As Formula 1 drivers never blame the course if they didn’t win the race, sales professionals never blame the sales process or the customer’s buying process if they didn’t win the deal. Instead, both take advantage of a given course or process and make the best out of it – to win.

Unlearning and relearning

The difference between good and great is the ability to unlearn and to relearn quickly. For a Formula 1 driver that’s a different set of rules or new technology that requires to unlearn old and to learn new skills. For a sales professional who was once a successful product seller, it’s the big shift from “I have to sell a product” to “I love to solve my customer’s problems.” That’s the ability to unlearn all kind of product pitches that were all about a vendor, a product or a service. New selling skills have to be mastered that are all about the customers, their specific context, their concepts, their desired results and wins. Product pitches have to be unlearned, providing perspective has to be relearned.

Competition and conscious collaboration

Formula 1 drivers and sales professionals are always in competition. That’s the case in every sport. Only in sales as a function compared to other functions in an organization are there competitors who work as hard as we do, who are dedicated as strong as we are and who want to win what we want to win – the customer’s business.

Both professionals are also aware of the need to collaborate. Formula 1 drivers know that collaboration across the team is the foundation for their success on the course. The sales professional knows that complex deals can only be won by a cross-functional team that collaborates consciously with the customer’s stakeholder network. Sales professionals lead those selling and buying teams to be able to meet the customer expectations at each stage along their entire buying process.

Based on organizational attributes, individual behaviors make the difference between good and great, between world class and all others. The Miller Heiman Sales Best Practices Study 2014 identified those individual behaviors in this short video.


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