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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Football vs Sales – Key Elements in Coaching a Winning Team!


Football. It is one of America’s favorite past times. Growing up in the South, football has been a part of my life since I was a small child. College football is literally in my blood, as my grandfather, father and brother all played football where they attended college. 

As an alumnus of Auburn University and a passionate supporter of the Auburn Tigers football team, I clearly remember the amazing turnaround from 2014 to 2015. In 2014, Auburn finished the season with a dismal record of 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC, but those of us who love Auburn stood by our team and believed things would eventually get better. 

Who knew what a difference a year would make?  In one short year, head coach Gus Malzahn led the Auburn Tigers to a 12-1 overall winning record, clinching the SEC Championship title, and earning a trip to Pasadena to play in the BCS National Championship title game against undefeated Florida State University.  

A successful head coach of a winning football team can be likened to a successful manager of a winning sales team. A sales manager after all is “coaching” his or her team to success, wins, and GROWTH. There are three important areas that both a head coach and a sales manager should keep in mind when coaching their teams to success:

1. Strengths

When you are coaching your team, it is easy to get caught up on the weaknesses—the areas that need improvement. Instead of focusing on areas that need to get better or improve, focus on the talents and strengths that your team naturally embodies—those things that they automatically excel at doing. A head football coach wouldn’t take a quarterback who is born with the gift of throwing beautiful passes and try to make him more “well rounded” by getting him to practice kicking field goals. That would be a waste of time. He would focus on enhancing his quarterback’s natural ability to throw the ball with precision. A sales manager should know his team’s strengths and should build upon those natural talents that allow his team to succeed. When you focus on enhancing a person’s natural talent or strength, it gets better and stronger, and the person utilizing their natural talent is happier, more productive and ultimately more successful in their role.

2. Motivation

In order to motivate someone, you have to know his or her hot buttons. You have to have an understanding of what is important to that person and what motivates them individually. A head coach knows that his football team is motivated by winning, by beating the competition, by reaching higher goals every year. Motivation varies from person to person—one salesperson may be motivated by competition, by being number one, and by being the best; another salesperson may be motivated by helping his clients, by building relationships and bringing growth and success to their clients’ businesses. A sales manager should know exactly what motivates each of his or her team members, and should use the coaching strategies and motivators that will encourage their team and drive them to success.

3. Maintain Focus

Everyone loves to win, and celebrating that win is important. But it is also important to keep the focus on the next big win, the next success. When Auburn experienced a huge win against Georgia, of course they celebrated and reveled in that success, but it was important for them to quickly re-set their sights and focus on the goal of beating their next opponent, to keep that forward momentum going. When a salesperson experiences a win, it is important for the manager to celebrate that win, recognize what they did right, and talk about how they can use their tactics the next time to garner more success. Then, reset the focus on the next big goal, and maintain that focus until the goal is achieved.

Winning teams all have a common thread—a head coach who knows how to enhance their team’s strengths, motivate their team in the right ways, and maintain focus on the end goal of winning. As a manager of a winning sales team, keep these thoughts in mind when you’re coaching your people to success, and the results will speak for themselves.

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