Business Miscellaneous

5 Ways to Coach Your Sales Staff Like a Winning Sports Team

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Sales is a highly competitive field. People who sell for a living often face many rejections before receiving a “yes.”

Coaching can be helpful to struggling salespeople, as shown by a recent Forbes article that reported many salespeople who quit cited a lack of coaches and mentors as one of the top reasons they bolted. Some in sales management see their role as comparable to a sports team coach, given the attributes required to drive success in sales and sports are similar: encouraging a positive attitude, motivating, presenting a clear strategy, insisting on dedication and breeding consistent winning habits.

“As a sales leader, you will often find your people looking to you for wisdom, direction, and reassurance,” says Lance Tyson, President and CEO of Tyson Group and author of Selling is an Away Game: Close Business and Compete in a Complex World. “Therefore, you need a coaching process that takes time to build up the people who make up your talent pool. You need to look beyond what they can do today and help them realize what’s possible tomorrow.”

 Tyson, whose clients include the sales departments of numerous professional sports and entertainment franchises, thinks improvement in sales teams starts with how effectively sales managers coach their teams while emphasizing a competitive mindset. 

He offers five ways sales leaders can improve their coaching of their sales teams and thus facilitate more team success –  much like a sports coach looks for ways to lead his or her team to more wins:

  • Identify weaknesses. Tyson says sales leaders must keep their eyes and ears open to find areas that need improvement. This information may come from a customer or vendor, a performance review, or observations from a colleague. “Regardless of the source, always assess different opportunities for coaching and improvement,” Tyson says.
  • Establish desired results. This requires a leader to describe to salespeople the gap between what they are currently doing and what they should be doing. “Associate an identifiable action with all the steps in between,” Tyson says. “When you outline the process up front, your team member can envision well-defined results.
  • Provide resources. For the coaching process to be successful, you must clear away obstructions and make the appropriate resources available: time, money, equipment, training, upper management buy-in and support, Tyson says. “Most importantly, your salespeople must commit to the process and want to achieve the results,” he says.
  • Practice, practice, and observe implementation. Better results require new behavior, Tyson says, which won’t come overnight. “Once you have the resources in place and you’ve explained and demonstrated the desired skill, it’s time for the team member to implement it,” he says. “They must sharpen the behavior with the help of a coach. Practice allows the coach to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement while witnessing the skill in real-time.”
  • Use effective follow-up. Many training sessions have gone for naught when there was no follow-up and new ways toward success were forgotten. “Remember as a sales leader that your goal is to effect a behavioral change,” Tyson says. “Coaching is a process, and it never really ends. The next step is follow-up – regular intervals to review results. And when your salespeople reach goals, take time to acknowledge and celebrate it.”

“As a sales leader, you just can’t settle for telling your team what they should do,” Tyson says. “You need a process for coaching them to achievement. It gives you a framework to accommodate an individual’s unique personality through small adjustments.”

About the author


Lance Tyson

Lance Tyson is President and CEO of Tyson Group, a sales training, coaching and consulting company listed among SellingPower’s Top 20 sales training companies of 2018. He is the author of Selling is an Away Game: Close Business and Compete in a Complex World. Among Tyson Group’s clients are many professional sports teams such as the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. Tyson was a franchise owner of Dale Carnegie operations in the Midwest and drove them to 230 percent growth before starting his own company. He conducts over 100 workshops annually in areas such as performance management, leadership, sales, sales management, customer service, negotiations and team building.