Sales is a Marathon (and Marathons are Hard)

Sanj Sanampudi


August 7, 2019

In the summer of 2013, I nearly killed myself running the Brooklyn half marathon. I ran a 5K once, and it wasn’t that bad. I thought a half wouldn’t be that much worse. As it turns out, it was 4.195 times worse. But, I finished and after a few days of avoiding stairs and struggling to get my pants on, I was back to normal.

I was not prepared for how sore I would be

Except, I had just run a half marathon! I was emboldened. I registered to run a marathon.

I’d like to show you a great training montage, but in reality, I didn’t train. I just showed up in Staten Island a few months later and ran the New York City Marathon.

Not me.

I finished in 5:28.

There’s nothing great about that finish. The time was slower than most people twice my age (and Oprah.) Worse yet, the pictures looked disgusting. And the shirt didn’t spark joy, so I tossed it.

Is there anything she can’t do???

That run set me on this trajectory to realize that sales comp is fundamentally misused. It turns out, all of my reading on motivation, productivity and performance was experienced in under five and a half hours.

People are pre-wired to perform.

The most common marathon finish time is 3:59. Not 4:00, not 4:01, and it happens at every milestone, a peak right before and a drop off right after. People are driven to hit targets.

From Adam Alter’s Irresistable

Pace setting makes a huge difference.

I worked my ass off to beat the 5:30 pacer. She passed me at mile 20, but I kept her in my sights until mile 25, when I realized I had to move. In truth, I might have taken 6 hours if not for some nice lady running with a 5:30 sign. Having a real, objective pacesetter right in front of you is motivating. It’s why we built our Slack app.

Your team can see where they are and how they are pacing, without tracking it in side spreadsheets. Best of all, it’s in a tool that they already use all day! No separate portals, no distractions. We’re the 5:30 lady.

Achieving one target moves you to the next one.

My brief racing career existed because the goal of running a marathon was broken down to pieces that felt challenging, but not too far out of my ability. Each race built my confidence to do something harder. Comp plan design rarely considers how we motivate by building confidence.

Now you’re ready to learn the crane kick!

Comp plans are more effective when there are intermediate targets that build up to quota, so if you don’t have one already, put in an accelerator table like this:

Let’s start improving your team’s performance. Book a demo today.

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