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Winning Sales Coaches Don’t Manage

Winning Sales Coaches Don’t Manage

How would you like to coach a team that wins at the sales game like top-ranked teams win in the NBA, NFL, and NHL?

Why wouldn’t you? Who’s better at producing consistent winning efforts than professional sports teams?

You gotta be kidding!

Professional sports teams excel where business, education, government and science fail because professional sports teams invest in developing extraordinary coaches who develop extraordinary players.

And there’s a nugget of truth that ought to excite even the most jaded sales manager . . . don’t you think? If an extraordinary coach in the NFL can develop extraordinary players, why can’t you?
It’s no accident that successful professional teams win off-field before they ever win on-field. No team reaches the NBA playoffs, plays in the Super Bowl, or wins the Stanley Cup simply because it pays big bucks for talented athletes. To make it to the top of its sport, a winning team, like a winning business, has to play well in every facet of its operations or lose.

Don’t you agree that it’s tough in field sales these days? In fact, it may well be tougher today than ever before in recent history. You and your sales force work your hearts out, day in and day out, struggling against determined competitors to sell your products and services to prospects and customers who demand the impossible: low prices, discounted financing and instant, top-notch service.

How can you rise above the fray, how can you set yourself and your sales team apart from your competitors, and how can you achieve the consistent success you so richly deserve?
Simple . . . you need to find new business models, new strategies and new tactics to cope with these challenges.

Where can you find these new business models, strategies and tactics?

Like we said before . . . look no farther than professional sports teams.

When you compare the way business plays the sales game to the way professional sports teams play their games, you discover some interesting dichotomies.

First and foremost, business does not demand the best from its greatest asset: sales professionals. Because business doesn’t hold individual sales professionals accountable for their failures to perform, when you evaluate the win/loss record of the typical sales team in any company, large, medium, or small, you find it consistently loses many more sales than it wins . . . usually at a rate of about ten to one.

If you applied this win/loss record to the National Football League, which plays 18 to 20 regular season games a year, the typical NFL team would win 2 games a season.

Unlike professional sports coaches, sales managers typically stay out of the action on the sales playing field because they’re too busy sitting behind their desks managing the administrative affairs of the sales department. How can the average sales manager get in the sales game when he or she is too busy working on projections, profit and loss statements, personnel problems, factory politics, and company politics?

If professional sports teams played the same way most sales organizations play the sales game, NFL quarterbacks would run failed play after failed play, quarter after quarter after quarter, with no input from coaches. If professional sports teams operated the same way most sales organizations operate, Major League Baseball pitchers would walk player after player, inning after inning, while managers ignored the action and sat behind desks shuffling papers in offices far away from action on the field.

Business seems to be perfectly willing to put up with sales managers who consistently run bad plays. And, as if that isn’t bad enough, business is also willing to retain field sales people who consistently fail to achieve performance goals and sales projections.

Business doesn’t lead . . . business follows economic cycles. As a result, business gets sales people-bloated during good times and goes sales people-lean during tough times. Why?

Because when times are good, business gets greedy and tries to grab every dollar it can by sending too many people after what ultimately turns out to be too few opportunities.
And then, when the next economic slowdown occurs, business panics and cuts back.
And then, when the inevitable recovery comes along, business gets caught flat-footed and winds up throwing too few people at too many opportunities, creating a costly cycle that plays havoc with sales, profits, and people’s lives.

When business loses, it refuses to accept responsibility for its own failures. Instead of looking within to make necessary changes and improvements, business tends to blame outside forces including ad agencies, competitors, the government, even customers, for its problems.
Whenever a professional sports team loses a game or a season, it doesn’t waste time playing the blame-game. Professional sports teams take immediate responsibility for their failures. Nothing, not politics, money, and/or relationships, changes a professional sports team’s motivation to achieve defined performance. Failure to perform (Win) causes the team to make immediate changes in management, coaches, players, training, or whatever else it takes to turn the team around.

Business bounces from loss to win to loss because it is unwilling or unable to invest the resources necessary to train sales professionals to perform at the top of their sales games.
Professional sports teams, on the other hand, are more than willing to invest whatever it takes to prepare coaches and players to compete and win against their toughest competitors.
So, what does this mean to you?

It means this: If you’re serious about winning, you’ll study, adapt, and apply professional sports team performance strategies and tactics to prepare your team to win against your toughest competitors.

Sales managers will become sales coaches.

Sales people will become sales players.

And, sales meetings will become sales practices.

After all, if you can’t coach your sales team to renew and reinvent itself as well as a professional sports team so you can win more sales in changing market conditions, your team loses and so do you.

When all is said and done, your mastery of the skills and techniques we present in this article may be the most important contribution you ever make to your sales team, your business, and your profession.

We sincerely hope you agree.

The old days when the typical sales manager was an authority figure whose primary responsibility was to manage the time and efforts of sales people are as far gone as black & white television, carburetors, and whitewall tires. Also gone are the wasted days when field sales people were forced to scramble around their territories, struggling to make arbitrary quotas just to keep the boss happy.

Those were baseless quotas that required sales people to make so many cold calls, personal calls, and telephone calls each day . . . all of which had to be documented with a wilting stack of call reports to be turned in every Monday morning to the Sales Manager who desperately needed to make sure sales people were working.

And sales people were working alright . . . writing up call reports every Sunday night to be turned in Monday morning!

Ah, the good old days.

The field sales game, like every other aspect of business-to-business business, has undergone incredible technological, cultural, and social changes over the past few years. Companies that insist on hanging on to outmoded, traditional sales methods and marketing approaches do more harm than good to their sales and marketing efforts. Restrictive policies (call minimums, call reports, arbitrary office reporting days and times, etc.) are a complete waste of time because they don’t do anything to generate sales or profits.

The more sales people put themselves in front of customers and prospects, the more they sell and the more they earn. Sales people need to get face-to-face with prospects and customers to develop relationships, to assess product and service applications, and to put a human imprint on the selling process.

What is important to today’s customer buyer is not whether a sales person claims his yellow widget will last longer or is more popular than someone else’s orange widget . . . what is important to today’s buyer is the answer to a critical question: Can I trust this person to sell me the right product or service for the right application for the right price?

Prospects want to trust that the sales person and the company he or she represents will make every effort to ensure the product or service purchased will minimize downtime, maximize productivity, and provide a fair return on the investment.

Whenever you create that level of trust with a prospect, you’re guaranteed a sale.

As you work your way through BOTH SIDES NOW©, you’ll learn everything there is to know about virtually every significant business strategy and technique – aligning priorities, benchmarking, competitive analyses, coping with culture change, cutting overhead, goal setting, improving quality, and managing resources effectively . . . you’ll need to effectively and quickly increase sales and profits.

This article will help you build, motivate, and lead a winning sales team, a team of sales professionals whose collective ability to win can be uniquely built upon compelling and profound knowledge, skills and understanding; fundamentals which are essential to all great human achievement.


Suppose you ask Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, or Phil Jackson the following question: “Hey, coach . . . how important is it to prepare for the first practice of the season?”

What do you think he’d say?

One answer and one answer only: Preparation is everything.

If that’s true (and you know it is), what, specifically, should you do to prepare for your all-important first practice session?

Define your primary objective in your first sales practice . . . the questions: Be smart and start at the beginning: The main objective behind your first sales practice is to introduce the Sales Coaching Concept to your team. You know that you’ll introduce the Sales Coaching Concept to some folks who know nothing about Sales Coaching while others will know or think they know everything there is to know about Sales Coaching. So, what do you think? Will the Sales Coaching Concept be a tough sell to your team? Will the majority of your sales team understand and agree that Sales Coaching will generate more sales, more profits, and more income? If your team is skeptical, will the primary concern be about whether Sales Coaching will work as opposed to how it will work? How will you introduce Sales Coaching to your team? Will you simply drop the concept on the group and make a plaintive announcement with the expectation that Sales Coaching will be accepted and implemented immediately? Or, will you start slow, explain the concept, open a dialogue, and patiently work toward consensus? What are your performance expectations . . . for yourself, for individual sales players, for the team? How soon do you expect to see an impact on sales and how significant should you expect that impact be? How much investment of time and energy is the company willing to put into Sales Coaching to make it work for everyone involved? How much investment should the company make before it realizes a return? And, how do you think this article will impact the every day lives of individual Sales players and how do you think will it impact the team as a whole?

The first sales practice . . . the answers: Without pointing fingers, let every Sales Player know precisely what your performance expectations are . . . for yourself, for each individual, and for the entire team as a group. Prepare a list of prioritized expectations, edit the list carefully and thoughtfully, and, even though you should take your list of expectations to the first Practice Session, we suggest you take the time to memorize it. Why? Because you’re likely to get peppered with questions in the first sales practice and you don’t want to struggle for answers, get sidetracked, and forget to cover something important.

Paint an honest but positive picture . . . Nobody likes change, least of all, sales people. So, let’s face it; you’re likely to get passive, perhaps even aggressive resistance from your Sales Team to the Sales Coaching Concept. So, consider how individual personalities might shape the group’s reaction as you decide how best to present Sales Coaching to your team positively, honestly, to get broad support. Clearly communicate the potential for growth and success that comes from utilizing the Sales Coaching approach. Talk about the fact that Sales Coaching is more than theory . . . it is a proven, incredibly positive tool each Sales Player can use to increase sales, profits, and income.

Explain the technical stuff . . . Don’t pull any punches here. Be honest about why you need to make a change. Talk about specific reasons behind the lack of acceptable sales, profits, and income the team should be generating. Spell out specific techniques that individual Sales players – and the team as a whole – can use to improve sales skills. Though you want to be completely honest, don’t allow this part of your practice session to become personal. You won’t gain anything by slamming individual or collective feelings. The team will respect your honesty and will at the same time appreciate your sensitivity. Nevertheless, we caution you . . . if and when you’re forced to make a choice between honesty and sensitivity, the respect that comes from honesty will be far more important to your ability to coach than appreciation will be . . . so tell it like it is.

Eliminate negatives with positives . . . Let Sales players know that you have absolutely no interest in criticizing individual mistakes, errors, or shortcomings. Make it clear that your only interest is to equip each Sales Player to sell more, more profitably, more often. Build consensus by actively soliciting viable solutions to any obstacle that may threaten the team’s overall ability to increase sales, profits, and income. In every conversation, maintain your focus on the primary goal: To build a winning sales team.

Establish new relationships with sales players . . . You are now someone you’ve never been before. You are no longer the Sales Manager. You’re not the VP of Sales and Marketing. You’re not the General Manager. Because you are now the Sales Coach! And, as Sales Coach, your first responsibility is to emphasize the human side of coaching. By that we mean never criticize, put down, or put a Sales player on the spot – even if you think you’re kidding – in front of anyone else. Make sure that every dialogue develops communications not confrontations. Though you’re still the boss, you will find that a new dimension will have been added to the relationship, a leveling of positions that, handled properly, will allow you and Sales players to work more closely than ever to achieve common goals.


There is an old saying in professional football that applies to Sales Coaching: The will to win is meaningless without the will to prepare to win.

As Joe Gibbs, one of the all-time great NFL coaches, once said, “A winning effort begins with preparation. The game may be played on Sunday, but it is won on the practice field during the week; in meeting rooms, where coaches and players prepare the game plan; and in the weight room where the best players do a few extra repetitions.”

How is this any different from your Sales Game? Your Sales Game is played on a prospect’s field every time a Sales Player gets in front of a prospect to ask for an order. How does your Sales player get on the playing field? How does your Sales player get in the right position, in the right place, at the right time, to ask for the order and score the win?

Practice. And where do Sales Players practice? In sales practices in your conference room and in your office where you and each Sales Player prepare and practice each individualized game plan. And, where will you find your best Sales Players? Like coach Gibbs said, you’ll find them practicing . . . maybe not in the weight room, but perhaps in front of a mirror at home to improve their ability to win by doing a few extra repetitions as they practice presentations.

Copyright © 2008 by l.t. Dravis. All rights reserved.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, Email me at [email protected] (goes right to my desk) and since I personally answer every Email, I look forward to hearing from you soon.


l.t. Dravis