It's Not Just About Sales Goals

By Michelle Nichols about Olympian Ruben Gonzalez - BusinessWeek

Feeling stuck? Batteries low? Need a motivational shot in the arm? Try setting a Big Hairy Goal for yourself.

 You probably have plenty of sales goals, but do you have a Big Hairy Goal? Every salesperson should. A BHG is a goal that is so far from where you are in your career now that you will have to push yourself incredibly hard to achieve it. You’ll know you’ve created a real BHG because it will inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. The downside is that you can’t reach it quickly. It will take months or years of struggling before you can declare to the world, “I did it!”

 It is easy to get discouraged while you are working toward a BHG. If this happens, evaluate if your goal or your approach to reaching it needs modification. If your goal is to sell $1 million worth of leisure suits a year or your closing ratio is inexplicably decreasing, you may need to rethink your plan. However, if your goal and approach are still valid, then hang in there! Perseverance is the magic ingredient that separates those who set big goals from those who accomplish them.

 “Every success you’ve ever had or will ever have is the product of your courage to act and the courage to endure.”

-    Ruben Gonzalez

Salesman-turned-Olympian-turned-professional speaker Ruben Gonzalez embodies perseverance. During his career selling copiers, he personally cold-called every office on every floor of every building in downtown Houston—twice, he says. That’s perseverance.

 He’d start at the highest floor of each building each time because he wanted to “start selling at the top.” For two years, his daily recipe for success was cold-calling for three hours every morning and following up on the phone for the rest of the day. As a result, he was consistently a top salesperson in his office.

 NO QUITTING. When I first heard Gonzalez’ cold-calling story, I wondered what kind of a nutball would put himself through that much pain. But once I heard the rest of his story, I gave him my full respect as a salesperson and a competitor.

 In his book, “The Courage to Succeed: Success Secrets of an Unlikely Three-Time Olympian,” Gonzalez describes how he applied his maniacal perseverance to sports when he decided he wanted to compete in the Olympics. At 21, the age when most people are leaving this level of competition, Gonzalez began looking for a sport in which he could qualify. He was only an average athlete, so he needed to choose an event that required another quality he already possessed. He chose the luge, even though he had never seen it performed.

 His logic was that luging was known for the many injuries it caused and therefore had a high quitting rate. He figured that gave him the best chance to move up the ranks to qualify for the Olympics.

 Four years later, he competed in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. He went on to luge in the Olympics in Albertville in 1992, Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010 - at the age of 47.

 Here are six lessons I’ve learned from Gonzalez on how to develop and achieve your own Big Hairy Goals:

1. Ask yourself honestly: Is this a wish, a dream, or a BHG?

A wish is hoping that the phone will ring and someone wants to buy a lot of whatever you sell at top price with speedy payment. A dream is something you are ready to make happen. A dream becomes a BHG after you’ve done your research, gotten some experience, and produced a step-by-step plan that will make it come true.

2. Tell yourself that quitting is not an option.

If you quit, you’ve guaranteed that you’ve lost. Mentally close the door to quitting. Put yourself in a position where you have no choice but to move forward toward your BHG. I have a sign over my desk that says, “There is a way. Find it.” It helps me be unstoppable because it keeps my focus on my actions and wards off any thoughts of self-pity.

3. Hang in there and keep fighting.

Gonzalez told me that if you don’t quit, success is just a matter of time. He proved this with his success selling copiers and in luging.

 “You have to develop the attitude that you are willing to outwork, outhustle and outdo the competition.”

-    Ruben Gonzalez

 4. Surround yourself with successful people.

If you hang around with people who have a more positive attitude than you, you will naturally pick up their habits in behavior and thinking. You can also benefit from reading biographies of winners. The opposite is also true, so don’t spend too much time with folks who are constantly negative.

5. Gonzalez says the path to reaching a BHG boils down to this: First, you dream. Then you struggle. Finally, you emerge victorious.

When things aren’t going your way, tell yourself that you’re in the “struggle” phase of the process. This is a natural step in reaching big goals. It helps separate the quitters from those who persevere no matter what.

6. Stay focused.

 When Plan A doesn’t seem to be working, it’s easy to want to start a second, parallel plan. Resist that urge. Instead, either modify your original plan or sell yourself on why it’s still the best way to reach your goal and double your efforts.

Gonzalez proved that if you are willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, success is just a matter of time. So when you feel stuck in your progress toward a BHG, persevere. Happy selling!


Ruben Gonzalez is a four-time Olympian, a bestselling business author and an award-winning keynote speaker. For information on how to bring him to your next event, visit

Ruben Gonzalez: Incredible Olympic Story - Business Author - Award Winning Speaker

Bring Ruben Gonzalez to your next event.

Find out more information, including fees and availability.