It is widely understood that human capital is often a company’s most valuable resource in the 21st century.
Business executives are continually striving for ways to drive higher performance from existing resources. This article explores the concept of the high-performance sales team and how the world of sports can (and cannot) inform sales management practices.
What Can Sports Teach Us About High-Performance?
You will be familiar with the “motivational” speaker if you have worked in sales. They present at sales conferences, sales kick-off meetings, and achiever club events. Often these speakers are from the sports industry. They were a renowned player or coach from their chosen sport. The messages they have to tell are motivational but the inspiration usually wears off 24 hours after the event.
A key problem with the sports as motivation for business is that the sporting field is so very different from the business field. In business, you don’t have a set game time. The rules aren’t codified. There isn’t a scoreboard with a clear score at every second of there game. You don’t come face to face with your competition every game day. It's difficult to get reliable statistics on the performance of your staff. You don’t have a reserves team where you can ‘drop’ underperforming staff for a couple of weeks.
But, there are things about the sporting arena that do hold true as strong analogies for performance in business.
Four Habits of High-Performance Culture in Sales
There are four sporting habits that have practical applications for the sales force.
Habit 1: Training & Rehearsing
The importance of training and rehearsing. Sports people and teams commit to a regular routine of practice. They don’t wait until game day to see how their kicking style works. Likewise, salespeople should never “practice” on their customers. There is almost always scope for performance improvement through role-playing and rehearsing with colleagues and their manager prior to a customer meeting.
Habit 2: Running Reviews
The importance of the review process. High-performance sports teams are always reviewing the last game. What went wrong? What went right? What can we do to improve? Salespeople should take the same approach.
Good sales teams meet regularly to review what’s in the pipeline. But they also use the opportunity to review their performance of the prior week. They celebrate the wins and focus on what was done well. Then they review the losses and focus on what was missed or could have been done better. There are now plenty of tools available for recording customer meetings (just remember to ask the customer for permission to record) so that sales managers can review performance just like the coaches of big-time football teams.
Habit 3: Transparency of Performance
Transparency of performance is a key habit for high-performance sales teams. There’s nowhere to hide on the sporting field. Everything is measured and monitored. To be sure, it’s challenging in most businesses to have a detailed scoreboard that shows the “true” score at any time of the day - but we can certainly aim to get better at providing a regular and transparent view of performance across the team.
Habit 4: Healthy Competition
There is always intense competition for positions in high-performance sporting teams. The fear of missing out on team selection can be a powerful driver of incremental performance. It is difficult and potentially dangerous to drive competition within the sales force arena. But, when done well, healthy competition can be extremely effective.
To do it right, you must have the performance transparency box ticked. A healthy way of tapping into people’s competitive spirit is to focus people on maintaining membership of an ‘elite’ but achievable group. For example, “achiever’s clubs” have proven to be powerful motivators when they focus salespeople on exceeding their annual sales quota. “President’s Clubs” that focus on rewarding the top 10% can be effective but be careful - performance measurement needs to be accurate and transparent and be perceived to be fair for these programs to be effective.
High Performing Companies Automate Sales Commission
At Performio, we strive to help our customers drive a high-performance sales culture. We do this by providing sales teams with the data and the tools to support high-performance habits.