A Surprising Sales Lesson from A Mountain Climber

BY Jessica Helinski
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Mountain climbing certainly isn’t for everyone. The fear of heights and the sheer difficulty of scaling giant peaks are enough to deter most from even considering the sport. But, even if you’ve never tried it, you can still apply lessons from mountain climbing to your own sales career.

Inc. contributor Ian Altman recently spoke with Alisone Levine, who led the first female expedition team to Mount Everest. Not only that, but she has also reached the highest peak on every continent. During his podcast with Levine, Altman identified a certain point that resonated with him as a sales professional. “Alison says that when climbing Everest, it's never a straight shot to the top,” he writes. “In fact, there are many twists and turns that may feel like detours but are ultimately preparing climbers to summit.” He likens this to the world of sales, and like with climbing, taking a step back really can be an advancement

He goes on to share three important questions to ask yourself whenever you hit a professional roadblock, which will help you course-​correct to get back on track.

The first question is “what’s the goal?” Without knowing your prospect or client’s ultimate goal, there’s no way to know the best action to take. Yes, you both are eager to move ahead, but neither will get far if the goal isn’t clear. You must take a break in action. When faced with inclement weather during an ascent, Levine had to pause and really pinpoint the team’s goal. The same goes for anytime you encounter a twist or turn: Base your next move on what results you ultimately want to achieve.

Altman recommends another vital question: “Is it time to reassess?” He writes, “When you've been working on a deal for a long time it's easy to want to push ahead, especially if it appears delays might sidetrack negotiations. At times like these, it's important to pause and reassess.” Again, you may feel like any step back is a waste of everything you’ve done, but that’s just not the case. Like in climbing, your original plans for ascent may not always work out due to unforeseen variables, so progress sometimes requires a re-​do of the original plan.

Check out Altman’s entire article for the third question, as well as a link to his podcast with Levine. You may be surprised at the lessons reps can learn from a climber! As Altman points out, “Accomplishing your sales goals, big or small, can feel a lot like climbing Mount Everest at times. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back before you can effectively move forward.”