My fellow car nerds may know that May 1st marked the 23rd anniversary of Senna’s untimely death at Imola circuit. Despite his death, his accomplishments still resonate within both motorsport and, perhaps to the surprise of some, the world of business development.
Here’s 4 key nuggets of wisdom that business developers can take from the Brazilian racing legend:
1.) Dancing in the rain:
Obvious fact incoming: it’s really, really hard to drive fast in the rain, and It was positively torrential during Senna’s debut race at Monaco…but, nevertheless, he was faster than anyone else by multiple seconds.
How did he do this? Well, Senna practiced endlessly as a boy on wet racetracks, turning the traditional enemy of a racing driver into his best friend. He got comfortable with being uncomfortable, thus turning a weakness into a strength.
Similarly, as business developers it’s easy to get bogged down in what we don’t do well…for example, I have the organisational skills of Dory from finding Nemo. However, if we embrace that discomfort and refuse to bury our heads in the sand, interesting things can happen. For example, if you’re not good on the phone, practice it relentlessly and find help from anywhere/anyone. Not so good at social media? Focus on it in the same way. Crap at organization? (guilty as charged!) invest time in finding a system that suits you. Much like Senna, business developers can turn weaknesses into strengths, thus letting their other, natural abilities shine even brighter.
At Suzuka Circuit in Japan, Senna’s arch nemesis, and very French man, Alain Prost was so ahead on points that he deliberately crashed into Senna, took them both out of the race, and still managed to seal his victory. A year later Senna claimed his revenge…by doing the exact same thing to Prost, thus sealing his own victory.
Similarly, Business Developers should always have this streak of ruthlessness (within reason of course!). If you have a target prospect, use every advantage you can have to close it. Don’t let opportunities pass you by, because your competitors would be quick to use it if they had the same chance! If a prospect asks you to call them back at a certain time, call them exactly then; if you get an opportunity to network with your prospect, always keep in touch with relevant information. It’s our job as business developers to never take our foot off the gas (and, yes, that pun was fully intended!).
3.) The limit (…and illusions of a limit):
Senna’s philosophical side set him apart from most modern athletes, who, for the most part, have the charisma of a used teabag.
Here’s an example:
“And so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high”
Senna hit the nail on the head…what do we do when we get where we want to be? You’re beating your targets and putting meat on the table; congratulations you’re the office superstar! But…where do you go from here? Well, according to Senna, you may actually be deluding yourself.
As the quote highlights, your “limit” can sometimes be an illusion, for example beliefs such as “I’ve learnt everything already” or “I can’t get any better” are often just tricks your brain plays on you in the search for comfort…but just like Senna learnt to “dance in the rain” at Monaco, as business development professionals, we should get used to being uncomfortable and always be improving our approach along the way. Never be afraid to throw the ego aside and ask for help or guidance, as you never stop learning.
4.) Compassion and empathy:
However, Senna was an animal on the track and a genuinely kind, gentle man outside of it. When French driver Erik Comas had a near fatal crash, Senna was (famously) the only driver to stop, abandon all hope of winning and weave through deadly traffic to finally shut off his rival’s engine. Thus saving Comas’ life. Furthermore, it was only after his death that it was found just how much Senna donated to charitable causes, with a focus of his being children’s welfare in poverty stricken areas.
What can we learn from this? Well it’s a cliché, I know, but it’s there for a reason: people buy from people they like…and people definitely “bought” into Senna’s brand.
In the same way, it’s important for business developers to remember that they are, at heart, forging connections between people and, by extension, their organisations. Truth be told, most people can smell insincerity a mile off and if you aren’t treating the cleaner with the same respect as the CEO, you’re probably going to rub 90% of people the wrong way… and that definitely won’t bode well for your quotas.
To find out how Broadley Speaking can help you with your business development, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org