Sales Coaching Blog

What Sales Leaders Can Learn from Football

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

October 10, 2016

Sales Leaders and FootballIn the spirit of fall and the football season, I would like to share a few common sense observations for everyone in a sales leadership (coaching) role. Side note: I am not a huge fan of the NFL or any professional franchised sport, but I adore college football. Having stated that, I am still enamored with coaching at all levels.

Let’s begin with the obvious question: How can there be such significant gaps in performance when so many programs have similar resources? They all have access to the same talent, the same technology, the same equipment, and while some may claim facilities as the differentiator I say “bunk”! If that was the case then Nebraska would have won more national titles since 1997 and Green Bay would not have claimed any Super Bowls. A while back I visited with a recently retired NFL player who shared a few things with me:

  • In football, whether collegiate or professional, teams are engaged with their players for the same amount of time during the day. For example, the number of hours a collegiate team can have their players in some sort of meetings/practice is the same across D1 schools. Though the number of hours is different in the NFL, during the season most players start and end their day at the same time.
  • In spite of playing for four different teams, his days were primarily structured the same with each team. He spent the same time each day dedicated to conditioning, meetings, practices, etc. regardless of the team.
  • Of the four teams on which he played, he said the talent differentiation was minimal. He also believed that what was endemic of every NFL team (though not everyone had a Peyton Manning) they were all loaded with great talent, enough to compete at the highest level.
  • He went on to say that what was very different among the NFL teams was the time spent with coaches and how it was utilized. How the players were treated by the coaches during practices, meetings, etc. was vastly different across his four teams.

The obvious takeaway is that most every team has the same ‘’quantity” of coaching, but the “quality” of coaching is where teams separate. In sales, our research shows that while coaching quantity is still important and lacking, similar to college and NFL teams, it is the quality of coaching that matters most. The great news is that when done properly, coaching quality can be profoundly affected.

Proof of the above is exhibited by a client who in the 10 months since they began their coaching improvement journey, grew their average coaching quality score, by manager, from a 62 to a 75 (100 point scale). To keep this in perspective, EcSell’s client average is a 71. However, this doesn’t matter if improved coaching cannot be shown to grow sales... During the same 10-month time frame this particular client increased their percentage growth three-fold over the previous year. Yup—coaching quality matters.

What should be empowering to every sales leader is to know you have total control over the quality of your coaching. You control how you behave during a 1:1 coaching session, you control how you provide skill feedback, you control how team meetings are run, you control how you respond to adversity, etc. (to learn more about “coaching quality” read this previous blog).

So, if you are not performing like a Belichick, Saban or Osborne (yeah, I had to throw him in there), take a look in the mirror and ask yourself—“would I be a top performer if I was being coached by me?”

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