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Whether your sales team is filled with young professionals or experienced salespeople, you might find that they are in the same place these days. Depending on what they’re selling, they may be trying to figure out how to get in front of the right people, gain insight on the person they’re meeting with, and build a relationship or provide just the right “solution” all within 60 minutes or less.

How do you do that really well today? And, what’s “really well” anyway? What’s their closing ratio? Are you, as their sales leader, even measuring it?

Sales is hard. There is an element of good karma that winds itself around focus and determination, knowledge and insight, teamwork and self-motivation, if you are lucky and smart. Sales and marketing are changing at rapid speed and the skills needed may not be the skills that your top salespeople possess.

As football season kicks off (in our house this is a big deal) I’ve been reading about who has made the team and who hasn’t. I think there are similarities between athletes and salespeople.

If you or someone you know is an athlete you probably get this. They have a natural ability, they know the rules, they love the game, the continue to train so you are well conditioned, you listen to your coaches and fellow teammates, you strategize, you execute and you play. Sounds easy enough, huh? Well everyone who plays a sport knows it’s not. It’s demanding and takes years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice to make a team. (I’m not including rec league or club sports). Two of our daughters played/play Division 3 sports and I see the sacrifice and work they devote toward their team. I can’t imagine what Division 1 requires.

Justin Tucker, the kicker of the Baltimore Ravens, has a three-year completed field goal average of 89.8%. That’s pretty good. In fact, Tucker is now the most accurate kicker in the NFL. As Tucker prepared for the upcoming season he didn’t rest on his laurels. In fact, he found a creative way to hone his craft amidst NFL and CBA rules that prevented him from practicing at the Baltimore Ravens’ training facility during the offseason. He transformed his drills into a community event.


Sports teams strategize, develop their playbooks and continually coach to the strategy. For businesses, the buying playbook has changed; has your sales playbook kept pace?

Let’s take a look at that.

Curate — Scouts and coaches recruit carefully for the right skills for a particular position. Each position requires certain elements and not every athlete can play every position. Sales needs to move in this direction. Recruiting for sales is too ambiguous. Do you need a lead generator, a closer or a manager? Most salespeople are not good at all three. Lead generation often bores the closer and is out of the comfort zone of the account manager. Closing is prime time and not every lead generator is ready for this. And it is daunting for most most account managers. Nurturing and organically growing the account is often to slow part of a process for either the lead generator or the closer. Know what you need and hire for that area only.

Train — Sales and marketing continue to change at a rapid pace and the sales training needed to be competitive is far reaching. The following areas need to be considered when professional development comes up:

  • Products and services
  • Competitive landscape
  • Sales methodology
  • Networking
  • Professional branding
  • Productivity tools (Office 365, Google Apps, Evernote)
  • CRMs (Salesforce, ACT, Solve 360 etc.)
  • LinkedIn (social selling, recruiting and messaging)
  • B2C: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (the company’s top two or three social channels)
  • Blogging

Inspire — Someone needs to set the tone of the mission, vision and values. Someone needs to champion the team (even if it’s a team of two) to be excellent at what they do. Someone needs to rally the team in disappointing times and celebrate the wins with them, all with a big-picture perspective.

Push — Salespeople need to be inspired to move beyond their comfort zone, to make an extra call, punch up their proposal, re-do their presentation template to make it their own, connect the dots with just the right success story and measurable results. There needs to be an expectation set and communicated. Good salespeople may not always reach great. Every team needs a combination of stars and steady contributor striving for excellence.

Coach — This is the everyday pat on the back, “way to go” email. It’s noticing the good and making people want to do more. It’s showing and sharing the nuance so the salesperson gains insight into how to create an edge; a competitive advantage that differentiates them and their organization from their competitors.

Test — A travel day or joint sales call is important. It’s difficult to know where your team is if you don’t see them in action (on the field). Salespeople need to know they are being vetted, they need the debrief after the meeting to continue to improve.

Retest — Did they listen? Or, is every call and conversation an isolated instance? Are they growing and testing what works for them and honing from there? Are they listening to your feedback?

Provide Resources — All of this requires a budget of time, intention and money. Those who say they are interested and don’t commit to it, are kidding themselves in trying to make long lasting change for their teams. Resources, money and intention; how many initiatives are forgotten after week 12? Don’t start what you don’t see yourself finishing. It’s a marathon to create and maintain a great sales team, not a sprint.

Support — Are the people on your sales team people you like? Would you want to spend 24-hours straight with them? If not, consider if your customers would. Are you willing to support them and invest in them?

Super Bowl champions don’t usually emerge quickly. The franchise needs time, direction and resources to put the right players on the field. A full-scale sales development program doesn’t happen overnight but as you consider your 2016 budget. Where do you need to adapt, increase, begin to grow your team into a true sales force? In the meantime, start with smaller goals and look for tiny gains that can add up quickly.