This blog post is specifically talking to those drivers who have shown that they have the pace to survive in this sport but they lack the financial backing that will get them to their dream drive.
If you are more than capable on track but know deep down that you are underperforming off track (the way you are pulling money in) then I am talking directly to you.
This post is designed to wake you up because far too many of you have the belief that "If I am winning then eventually someone will see my potential and will sign me up" or "If I believe in myself and train as hard as I can then my time will come".
These are some of the most popular myths that drivers believe in, they know they need money to race but still hope that it is just going to magically turn up if they win races, train hard and want it bad enough.
It is all too common that drivers who win championships are not given the golden ticket to be promoted to the next level, unlike Football you are not automatically promoted to the next tier if you win the title.
Instead by winning the title you have just earned the right to spend even more money in order to carry on your chosen path.
This is why we see so many drivers' careers fumble after they win a championship, take a look at GP2, for the past three years the champion has not secured an F1 race seat yet.
You know something is missing when the main F1 feeder series champion is finding it too hard to make the step up.
Even F3 has shown us this trait over the years, at a quick glance in 1999, 2006, 2010 and in 2014 the champions of these years had to rethink and readjust their former career paths, they found that winning wasn't enough without the backing alongside it.
Just as interesting is that in these very same years, all the drivers that finished 3rd in the championship did in fact carry on to F1:
1999 - Jenson Button
2006 - Bruno Senna
2010 - Valtteri Bottas
2014 - Max Verstappen
We know that not always the quickest driver wins but there is more to it than that, these drivers who finished 3rd may have been beaten on the track in that year but off the track they we winning hands down.
Somewhere someone was selling these 3rd place drivers to the people that mattered, to F1 teams, to sponsors, to investors and they were making partnerships that helped them.
This is what too many of you are missing out on, you are being fooled into thinking that you are just a sportsmen but there is no champion in the world, in any sport, who is not a good salesmen or businessman (saleswoman or businesswomen).
This is business
What we see on TV and what we fall in love with is sport, but when you are in it you quickly realise that it is very political, you have to know the right people in order to get anywhere, you have to impress the right people and you have to pay......the right people.
Money or political advantages always have to exchange hands at some point to get a race driver or an athlete to the top. It is the dirty side of the sport but this dealing with the devil is how everything is run when humans are involved.
In motorsport however this is more apparent than most sports due to its expensive nature, you are already aware of this but there are still very few drivers who are approaching their sport in this way. They are overlooking the obvious and falling victim to the ‘Kid chasing a dream’ storyline.
It's the way it is
I don't know if you have had your eyes and ears shut over the past five years or so but the world of motorsport is getting hit hard, the financial crisis in the western world is kind of repairing itself but our prestigious sport is having its recession right now, we are in it.
It's always been tough but now the heat has really on and it all happens to be taking place when you are trying to live your dream.
You have a decision to make, you either have a Boohoo moment and complain about how unfair this all is or you get over your ego and learn how to play this new game.
It is not harder or easier, it's just that the rules have changed, you now have to be good in different areas to what the old school driver was. You have to schmooze, sell, learn business skills, network and get in with the right people.
If you are struggling now then you would have been struggling back in the 80's so let's stop kidding ourselves and instead focus on what you must do to get around this and answer the problems that other drivers will not.
You need to be the best salesman in this sport
People do not realise the power of sales in business let alone the power of sales as a race driver but by overlooking it you are heading towards being yet another driver who is going to have to sacrifice their dream because of their ignorance to this skill.
If you want to continue as a race driver then you must sell this career path to someone new every step of the way.
Simply showing up saying that you want to be a race driver because it is the only thing you love in life is just not going to cut it. It may hit the heart strings of your parents but at some point you are going to have to sell outsiders on your dream and that sentence you keep saying in your head is not going to work.
You are going to have to sell yourself to a team, a PR company, a sponsor, an investor, a junior program, a good manager, a board of directors, even the media.
There is always someone who will have to be sold on why you should get the seat or why you are worth the investment and that is going to take more than just a quick lap time and a good attitude.
At some point someone is going to risk their own money and reputation for you so it's your job to make sure that you have the selling skills in place to convince others to back you.
For a driver to succeed in racing they need:
To stand out for the right reasons
To be able to win over influential people
To negotiate a deal
To close deals when prospective sponsors are hesitating
To add value to your product (your sponsorship or investment proposal)
To bang on doors and cold call
To lead a boardroom meeting
To ‘shout’ louder than the other drivers
To market themselves correctly through social media and gain genuine following
To create a professional image
These are only ten of the many requirements needed but you will notice that all of these fall underneath the umbrella of selling.
If you do not know how to do all these, if you are not doing all of these on a weekly basis and if you are not better than all other drivers then you are more than likely going to settle for a racing category that is beneath your dream or worse still you will end up with nothing.
Sales is a must, it is the one power that no matter what we do as individuals we need to master. You always need to win people over, for them to back you, for them to hear your story and to join you in your quest. This is the same for your racing as it is in your personal relationships, for a team owner as it is for a company owner.
The person who sells the best in this life will prosper.
What to do
Step 1 - You need a product
If you could make your racing and your dream into a viable product for others to invest in then what would it be?
How would it look and what would it provide for them?
What are they buying?
You are going into the market (racing) with a product, you are part of that product but you need so much more, you need something tangible to offer.
If the only thing you have to sell is a quick lap time then you'd better go home because there are plenty of drivers (in the eyes of the teams and sponsors) that can offer that.
Please note, I have to add this in, if you are great at sales but are not a very quick driver then none of this information will serve you because speed will be part of your product (but not all). If you cannot win then your sales will eventually dry up and you will not have a constant flow of backing.
So your product needs to be part you and part what you can bring to a company or a team or whoever you are wanting to have a business relationship with.
What business connections can you offer? What B2B, mutual benefits, investment opportunities, sports hospitality, corporate events, athlete investment, networking, branding, introductions, product placement and potential customer information can you provide?
These are just some of the benefits you are adding to build the product that you are selling.
The more things you add the more value your product has. You need to build this up so the potential investor or sponsor would be stupid to turn it down. You also need to believe in it so it needs to be good.
If you are finding this all too overwhelming then part of me says “Welcome to the real world” but the other part of me wants to ask you “Is there someone business minded who can help you with this side of your career?”
Your career has to be turned into a viable campaign, something that people would see and want to be a part of.
This is where the product comes in again, what can you offer a person in order for them to help you sell this?
You see everyone has to be sold, even the people who are helping you need to be sold to.
For example if you are looking for a PR company to help you in some way then you need to offer them something, what product or benefit are they going to get from you for their help?
This is where sales comes in again, if you need someone to help you in this area then you'd better learn how to win them over, how to talk their language and how to offer them something that you have that they want. That's what this is all about, then you lead into the next step.
Step 2 - You need a pitch
If you have a product to offer then you need to know how to pitch it.
What's your pitch?
How do you word it and how are you approaching people?
Again if you are finding this all hard to take in then welcome to the reason why so many drivers are struggling to get to the top. They just don't take the time to study this side of their sport and as a result they end up on their arse with nothing really to show apart from old racing photos.
Anyway once you have your product you next need to know who you are going to target and how you are going to sell it.
You can have the best product or sponsorship/investment proposition in the world but if you fail to communicate confidence in your product then no one will buy or invest with you.
Your pitch needs to be water tight, to answer all their objections and be delivered with absolute conviction. Prove to them that they are buying into something special here, something that their competitors are not doing.
You are there to make them money so damn well show them how this will definitely happen.
This will take some trial and error.
Step 3 - Hit Everyone
Once you have your product, products or investment proposals that you have upmost confidence in, and you know how to present it then you have to start knocking on the doors.
You have to make it your mission to ask every single company, race team, investor, manager, or whoever else you can think of. You make sure that everyone has heard of you, to have heard your presentation for your product that was applicable to them and to have given you an answer.
You should spend every day opening up opportunities to make this happen.
Oh and welcome to the other reason why so many drivers fail in this area, they cannot be bothered to do all this hard work.
If you want to survive in this sport then you need something to sell (you and your investment / sponsorship package), then you need to know how to pitch it, then you get out there and beat every door down until it happens.
There are so many people who can help you get what you want and they would love to take on the challenge built again you need to be able to sell them on the idea, to win them over.
Understand that each person you need help from has to be sold on your dream, they have to fall in love with your mission and to receive some kind of benefit.
If you can create this in every single person on the way then you will get help and you will stand much more of a chance of making it.
Plus you will be doing something that 100% of the failing drivers are not doing, you will be opening doors and turning laps, that’s what your life should be all about from this day forwards, opening doors and turning quick lap times.
This is a big subject
I am currently putting together a product that will help you become successful in this area, like the Race Driver Boot Camp but only on this subject so this will help you out much more than this blog.
In saying that I hope this post has inspired some thoughts and realisation. I hope it has sparked some ideas and helped you realise just how behind the game most drivers are.
If so then perfect, because you can act on this and be ahead of the game.
Contact me if you have any questions of this huge issue.
NB. Original photo by Morio via wikipedia