I recently read an article about the upcoming 2024 Olympics, and it seems like the 2022 Winter Olympics was just yesterday. As ridiculous as this will sound, one of my favorite parts of the events is the opening ceremony. Now, it’s certainly lost its luster during the COVID pandemic, but it’s still a sight to behold. It’s a showcase of culture and a display of oneness among the athletes.
It’s a unique sense of joy that we rarely see on TV. Some hero gets to light the torch. And, from Albania to Zimbabwe, there is always someone who stands above the rest, even if they’re less than five feet tall. There’s always one person who gets the privilege of carrying their country’s flag.
In the case of the Olympics, the person who carries the flag always has a legendary story. Some of those heroes overcome great adversity or seemingly insurmountable barriers. Others are decorated medalists with world records or national titles to their name. Still, others come back from heart-breaking injuries or life-altering circumstances to stand tall for their teams.
Who is your team’s champion?
Whether it’s from a country that sends a handful or hundreds, each team has an athlete that best exemplifies the fighting spirit and whose presence stands to motivate the very best who are around them. That person is the champion.
It doesn’t take a ring or a trophy to be a champion (anti-trigger warning: put your snowflake finger away). Nearly all professional sports teams have a team captain. In some sports, it might be an inconspicuous symbol or armband, or more overt, like in hockey, where the captain wears a C right above their heart.
In any case, they’re the athlete that holds the team together. He’s the guy that lets his play do the talking. She’s the gal that pushes everyone in practice and is first to the gym and last to leave. They’re not a manager, coach, boss, or someone who builds the system. They are the single-minded human machine that makes the system work, much like your sales champion.
Not all sales champions are captains.
And not each sales champion is a sales manager, either. Plenty of teams have the glue players that hold the team together. They are there to build others up if they have rings or trophies. Sometimes they’re past their physical peak yet still take part only to share their wisdom with the rookies.
Some are grizzled and quiet, but players can hear a pin drop in the locker room when they speak. Often these players get overlooked but are found to be integral when it matters most.
Theatre isn’t something usually associated with raw physical grit and determination. Most champions aren’t even athletes. In so many professions, some do more. But, some actors stand out, even among the all-time greats. Their commitment to the role can be so extraordinary that it can carry the whole cast higher and make a lousy production or awful script something truly special to behold.
When you see a champion in action, you know it.
Champions use adversity as motivation. They know when to give and receive. Leadership is not the only motivation they seek, and those around naturally follow. They make those around them better.
Champions are at all levels, with some leading from the top and some lifting from the bottom. And the same holds true when a team, troupe, or organization doesn’t have a champion.
Failure is waiting in the shadows when a group or organization doesn’t have a champion. Teammates are pitted against one another. Skepticism buries optimism. New thoughts and ideas are endlessly challenged. Bold visions are cloaked by protectionism.
Like the Olympics, athletes must pass the torch representing continuity, wisdom, and peace from one champion to the next. If that torch doesn’t get passed, that flame, stolen by the gods, will eventually be extinguished.
How do you develop a sales champion?
In a work environment with so many changes, we need more champions. We need people to carry the new campaign on their shoulders to get everyone excited. We need a sales champion to adopt the new sales process as if it was their own, teach others to use it, and celebrate the shared successes.
We need people to stand up to outdated workplace environments while at the same time offering fresh and feasible ways to make improvements. We need people with the courage to accept the different perspectives and offer their full support to make them succeed and become a sales champion.
If you are one of those people contemplating a significant change, you need to ask yourself who your champion is. Who is going to be that champion if that champion starts with you? Who is going to execute that new mission statement? Who will implement that new CRM system and continuously train people to use it? Who will convince the champion sales rep on the showroom floor that the new sales strategy will work better than the old?