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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

If Your Sales Team Was in the NFL, Would You Make the Playoffs?


If you ask me, it’s the best time of the year… the NFL season is here! Tailgating, road trips, barbecue, fantasy football, the joy of victory, the agony of defeat! Every team, or at least the diehard fan, is overflowing with optimism that “this will be the year!” The NFL is home to the best of the best, but only 12 teams will make the playoffs, and one and only one will be left standing in Minneapolis after Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for those that would have to look it up like me).

Would your sales team make the playoffs, or perhaps even make it to the Super Bowl? Fans who are passionate about the “Xs and Os” of football know there are great “game plan coaches” and great “game day coaches.” The best are great at both. They have a great plan (game week), and great execution (game day). To be a great sales leader, you need a great plan AND great execution. You can’t just give the pre-game speech, and you certainly can’t coach in hindsight after all the points are on the board (think month-end revenue). You have to be a great game day coach, ON THE FIELD!  The best sales plan in the world will only get you so far. Here are the keys to being the best game day sales coach you can be.

6 Keys to Effective In-Field Coaching

  1. Make the Game Day Commitment – You are either an in-field coach or you aren’t. Start by making the commitment to yourself and your team to be a great in-field coach. 
  2. Rotate Your Players Equally & Consistently – Spend just as many days in the field with your stars as you do with your strugglers. As a sales manager, you are likely spending a large portion of time and energy on the bottom 20% of your performers, but the star quarterback (who can get you to the Super Bowl) needs coaching too.
  3. Coach a Full Game – NFL head coaches always lead the team onto the field, and follow the team into the locker room. Spend a full day with each team member when their turn is up. At a minimum you should go on two back-to-back calls, but a full day is best.
  4. Plan Well in Advance – If you plan well in advance, on a regular schedule, not much that happens on “game day” will come as a surprise. Each member of your team should know their in-field coaching date at least a month in advance, so they can fill the day with quality prospects and/or customers with growth potential. 
  5. Let the Players Play the Game – When is the last time you saw an NFL coach run the ball or catch a pass? Sure, there will be big, strategic opportunities for your business, and a key part of your job is to play an active role in those pitches. But during a designed in-field day, be the coach and let the player run the ball, catch the pass, celebrate the touchdowns, and learn from the defeats. 
  6. Give Feedback After Every Play & After the Game – After nearly every series in the NFL, good or bad, the head coach “has a word” with the quarterback as he runs off the field. Feedback is the key to growth and success. Give constructive feedback at the curb after every call, before you drive to the next appointment. At the end of the day, send written feedback on both the great moments of the day, and the areas where the salesperson needs to improve.  

Follow these steps, and you’re on your way to the sales team playoffs, maybe even the Super Bowl! To help you get a jump start on in-field coaching, download “Ten Steps for Powerful Feedback” here.

10 Steps to Powerful Feedback