It was late to bed last night and up
early this morning. I’m doing a little work from my hotel room in Columbus,
Ohio where later today I’ll be coaching my son and his teammates in the Ohio
Middle School Lacrosse State Tournament. I’m excited for the boys to
participate. They have worked hard since late February preparing for this
weekend. It’s not to say they’ve taken the rest of the season lightly, and
there are still a few weeks to go, but this weekend eyes from around Ohio will
be on them. And, to a certain extent, on me too. My mind started to wander back
to work, my sales team, and on to lessons I’ve learned over the years. You see,
much can be taken from coaching experiences, as a youth sports coach, and as a
Like sales, you plan ahead and work
closely with each individual and the team as a whole, in an effort to be the
most prepared in the marketplace. You study your competition, learn the in’s
& outs of your own company and services (or products), and you practice.
You practice your pitch; you practice what to say when overcoming objections;
and, you practice how to best interact with your prospect to “get the job done”
– closing the deal.
When coaching youth sports, much like
sales, you work hard to prepare your team for the playing field. You study the
competition and how your team will match up. You plan ahead by working with
individuals and groups to make sure they understand how to face challenge. And,
you guide by experience. Regardless of the age, patience is a virtue in youth
coaching, just the same as it is a virtue in sales management.
Of course, not everyone may feel you are
doing a good job, both in management and coaching. On a personal level I’ve
been coaching lacrosse for a number of years. There has never been a season
where a parent or player has not complained. They don’t like the amount of
playing time their son is receiving. They feel their son should be on the A
team and not the B team. Their son is a superstar now and will certainly play
NCAA Division I…of course he’s only in 7th grade currently. Forget
that fact that there are 42 other boys in the program. Forget the fact that
planning for the season started 5 months before the first practice. Forget the
fact that I am a volunteer and trying very hard to accommodate everyone. The
reality is, it is impossible to make everyone happy all of the time, and the
same is true in sales management.
No matter what the size of your sales
team, whether you have 2 or 22 sales reps, you will not make everyone happy all
of the time. You must remain true to the team and plan not to play favorites
but work hard to treat everyone equally. You must accept that, like youth
sports, you will have some sales people that are A players and some sales
people that are B players, but that is life. Giving each sales person or player
an equal opportunity to succeed is all that you can do and all that should be
expected of you.
Sales management, like coaching, can be
emotional. You want the best for your team, for all team members, and to avoid
disappointment. Working toward this goal is a step in the right direction as
you become a leader in your organization. But, accepting too the reality that not
everyone will be happy all of the time, is also part of being a leader. Be open
and available to your team at all times. Do not shut them out. Treat the team
member in a mature manner and listen to their concerns. Keep in mind that they
may still be a B player, you can help them be successful still, and avoid
disappointment down the road.
There are many similarities to being a
coach and a sales manager. The best advice I can offer you is this…try to
always be supportive, try to ignore the negative commentary, and work hard to
stay true to your principals. Give everyone an equal opportunity for success.