Sell from Strength: Taking a Lesson from Sports

by: Jarvis Alexander


Business is like football. One player runs the ball. But it takes a team to score. Success for your business comes, not from the individual who makes the sale, but from the team effort that supports the win. And that team includes everyone in your business.

Support players must be good at their individual jobs. Highly successful sales teams include the smiling voice of the person answering the phone. The team includes the marketing materials that support the products and services. Your team includes a front end aimed at making the sale. And it includes a back end aimed at keeping it together through customer service and follow-up.

You are the business owner, and that makes you the coach. From the sidelines, you call the plays. You send in better players. You help your people be all they can be. You juggle the day-to-day to help your salespeople bring home the win. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Smoothing out the rough edges.


So, how does a successful sales team perform? First, they look for opportunities to practice, practice, practice. Practice can take the form of a formal presentation that doesn’t yield a sale. It can be that casual conversation with a prospect over a cup of coffee to share information about needs and possible solutions. It can be the conversation with a co-worker that discusses obstacles to a sale – or the hot button that landed a sale. Whatever the form, it is important to be in front of a live person to discuss a company’s products and services. The goal is to receive important feedback.


And then, there is the game. Take a lesson on what happens before the game. In football there’s always a warm-up period before the team takes its position on the field. Stretching. Running in place. Passing the ball to other players. For a salesperson, the warm-up includes doing the homework prior to sitting down with a prospect. Checking out a website; going over notes from a previous conversation; and anticipating possible obstacles the prospect might raise. The time spent preparing for the sales presentation is important – and it demonstrates preparedness.


Every winning team has a strategy. The team knows from hours of practice what strategies work in various play situations. So it is with sales. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” goes an old proverb. This is more important in today’s business climate than ever.


The most important skill that a salesperson can develop is that of a good listener. Show you care by asking questions about the prospect’s needs, challenges and desired outcomes. Listen carefully, and let the prospect tell you what products and services they need to solve their most pressing concerns.

The Win.

We all want to win—it’s human nature. And, in business it’s imperative to win. The perfect win is when the customer gets their needs met at a fair price, the business makes a fair profit and the salesperson has earned a fair commission. But, the reality is, nobody wins all the time. Some days, salespeople are off their game. Some days, prospects are off theirs. Neither is paying attention. Whatever the reason, it is important that the salesperson make a fair assessment and take away lessons learned. This improves chances for future successes.

Salespeople owe it to themselves, their company and their prospect to do the homework prior to the presentation. It is simply good manners to listen, pay attention and be genuinely interested in the prospect. With practice, the wins become more frequent – but even an apparent loss can be turned into a win when a lesson is learned.

Football can teach us many lessons. The game shows how to put together a winning team to support the sales efforts in business. It is the coach’s job – to juggle, to cajole, to create a well-oiled team, and to win. The race for market share is won through persistence on the field of sales.