Several years ago I enjoyed the singular experience of listening to astronaut Don Lind, an early pioneer in the race for space, talk about his experience and some of the many lessons he learned during two decades of service in the space program with NASA.

 I found myself mesmerized while hanging on every word he spoke.  It seemed surreal to be in the presence of someone who had traveled in outer space.  

He spoke of the hard work, both physical and mental, to prepare himself for a mission in space.  He had worked extremely hard to gain entrance into the space program by logging more than 4,500 flight hours as a jet pilot and by completing a PhD in High Energy Nuclear Physics.  Don spoke of the training he and the other astronauts engaged in on a daily basis.  Their training had several points of focus, all integral to the success of the program, as well as their personal safety.  First of all, they needed to be up to the task at hand, both physically and mentally.  Second, they needed to be able to visualize and anticipate every single aspect of their many tasks, even down to the smallest detail.  Third, everything they did, whether a planned activity or an emergency reaction, had to be implemented as an automatic response within a matter of a few seconds, or it could result in the loss of life or aborting their space mission.  

Don spoke of the hour upon hour, day after day, he spent in a simulator giving him as close to a real experience as possible with the events he might incur while piloting his spacecraft.  He expressed the trauma of experiencing a simulated error, but also suggested he would much rather fail in practice than in space.  Day after day he was exposed to literally thousands of different situations that might occur in flight while only having seconds to respond correctly and intuitively.  As I sat glued to my seat, listening to every word Don spoke, I thought of similarities between participation in the space program of NASA and my seemingly less glorified career in sales.

As salespeople, are we as prepared for our careers in sales as Don Lind was to become an astronaut?  Do we work as hard as he did visualizing and practicing every aspect of our sales process and interaction with our prospects and customers?  I had a client who would sit in his car before meeting with a prospect, and visualize what he hoped to take place during the meeting.  He told me it was amazing to realize how closely the meetings would model his visualization.  He said it gave deja vu a whole new meaning.  This salesperson would visualize and then rehearse the events he planned to achieve.  Visualization and simulation (a form of rehearsing) are two of the most powerful tools we can use as salespeople to improve our performance and sales success.  

I will ever be grateful for the principles Don Lind shared with me early in my sales career and for the impact they have had on my performance.