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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 09, 2014 • Issue 14:06:01

Think like a marathon runner

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

Marathons have always intrigued me. No, I don't want to run one. My interest is more about the marathon runner's mindset. The first marathon I watched was the women's marathon in the 1984 Olympics. The camera would flash to the leader throughout the race. Her pace never changed, nor did her facial expression - not even as she crossed the finish line. I wondered how she got "into the zone." What drove her to keep going?

One former marathon runner described the race as "ticking off miles." He said his own mindset when running was that he had to make it to the next mile, and then the next mile after that. He added that great marathon runners never considered the total distance – some 26 plus miles – as they ran. This is because if they got tired or suffered a cramp, finishing the race would be overwhelming. By viewing the race one mile at a time, it was easier to work through these challenges.

The term "marathon" has come to mean anything of length that requires a commitment. A baseball manager will call the 162-game season "a marathon," especially after a loss. A long business meeting may be described as a marathon. And many successful merchant level salespeople view selling as a marathon. Their mindset, like that of a marathon runner, is what drives them to their success. It can also provide direction for those just getting started in the business, as well as those who are struggling today.

Four winning strategies

Regardless of where you are in your career, here are four guidelines that will help you finish the race ahead of the pack.

  1. Slow and steady wins the race. When you begin a new year, remember that you can't come out of the gate in a sprint. You must keep the same pace throughout the year. You will reach your goals with consistent effort. This is not to say that you shouldn't have a sense of urgency, because you should. Just recognize that if you expend too much energy or effort early on, you won't have the same commitment or energy at the end of the year.
  2. Measure success by the mile. Don't obsess about your annual sales goal until the end of the year. Instead, concentrate on smaller, more achievable milestones. Set segmented goals that will take only a week or month to achieve.

    By striving to finish each milestone, you will be able to persevere during periods when you are not as successful as you had planned. This practice will help you make it through times in which signings seem few and far between, diminishing the likelihood that negativity will impact your overall performance. Remember, you will win by finishing each individual milestone, no matter how long it takes to reach each one.
  3. Never pass up a water station. Marathon runners always hydrate. They know the importance of water stations; they must replenish their bodies with necessary fluids. In the payments world, we tend to work whatever hours it takes to be successful. That often means we find ourselves working into the evenings, early mornings and every time in between. Unless we take time to replenish, our effectiveness will gradually fade. You must have downtime every day. Otherwise, finishing the race – and success – will be harder to obtain.
  4. Prepare for "hitting the wall." A marathon runner calls the 20th mile "the wall." That is where the body finally says enough, and many runners find they can't go on. This is where the expression "hitting the wall" comes from. Before a race, many runners strategize about what will happen as the wall approaches. Others think about what they will do when or if they hit the wall. Some choose to ignore the impact, setting aside what their body is telling them and continuing as if nothing has happened.

Most successful MLSs hit a similar wall at some point in their careers. They could fear they aren't reaching their overall goals, or they could feel they took too long to reach a recent milestone. They plan for the situation by outlining strategies to take to overcome this wall.

Strategies include periodic reviews of their sales practices so they can make modifications that will return them to the road to succeed. They also examine their efforts during slower periods so they can take remedial measures if the dry period is affecting them emotionally. They remind themselves they have been successful before and will be again, and that they simply need to push through the wall and on to the next mile.

I have always been impressed by anyone who has finished a marathon, no matter how long it took. I marvel at their perseverance and strong will. The same goes for successful MLSs. Those who follow the marathon runner's mindset will find they have demonstrated that same perseverance – and will reap the same reward and sense of accomplishment when they finally cross the finish line. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

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