Go, Fight, Win: 4 Things Successful Sales Teams Have in Common with Top Sports Teams

Business.com / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Top-of-the-league sports teams and successful sales teams have more in common than you might think. Here's why.

From “the ball is in our court” to “we are neck and neck with the competition,” sporting metaphors have long been a part of office language.

That’s because the collaborative and competitive nature of business, and in particular, sales, is similar to sports.

The role of sales person demands a competitive personality, along with motivation and self-confidence.

And all of these attributes are required to be a successful sportsperson.

Related Article: Hiring Sales Staff? 15 Must-Ask Interview Questions

Research published on the Harvard Business Review showed that there are several things which all top-performing sales organizations have in common. The results provided an insight into the type of corporate culture which leads to results – a culture very similar to that in top-performing sports teams.

Here are four things which all successful sales teams have in common and how they are surprisingly similar to sports.

1. Sales People at Successful Organizations Rate the Quality of Their Company Highly

Whether or not sales people are proud of where they work has an impact on how successful the organization is. While this is arguably a chicken and egg situation, there had to be at least some people who felt passionate about the sales organization to lead the team to success in the first place.

Harvard Business Review found that twice as many sales people and sales leaders at high-performing sales organizations rated their organization as excellent, compared to average and underperforming respondents.

Similar to a sports environment, team morale is essential. If you have confidence in the company you work for, you have greater confidence in yourself and in your team as a whole.

Can you imagine the Dallas Cowboys winning a match if half the team thought the club itself was rubbish?

2. High-Performing Sales Organizations Have Structured Processes

There are those that love structure and those who don’t, but according to Harvard Business Review research, structured sales processes are something successful organizations have in common.

50 percent of study participants at high-performing sales organizations described their sales processes as closely monitored, strictly enforced or automated, compared to 28 percent from under-performing organizations.

The difference between high-performing and underperforming sales organizations is made even clearer by the fact that 48 percent of participants from under-performing organizations said that their organization had either a non-existent or informally structured process.

The same applies to sport – you simply can’t have every member of the team doing their own thing or things would end in chaos.

3. High-Performing Sales Organizations Are Not Afraid to Aim High

The team at the top of the NBA Basketball league is not there by accident. They’re there because second or third wasn’t good enough.

The same principle applies to sales teams. Competitive people always want to up their game. It’s a motivation that keeps driving them forwards.

75 percent of high-performing sales organizations raised their 2014 annual quotas more than 10 percent over 2013 quotas. Only 25 percent of average sales organizations raised quotas this high and just 17 percent of under-performing sales organizations. 

What’s more, annual quotas remained the same or decreased for 65 percent of under-performing sales organizations.

4. High-Performing Sales Organizations Are Quick to Fire Poor Performers

If you made it into the New York Yankees team, but then dropped ball after ball and never made a home run, do you think you’d be in the team for very long? 

Under-performing sports people don’t last long in top teams, but neither do poor sales people in leading sales organizations.

The better a sales organization is, the quicker they are to fire a poor performer. 18 percent of high-performing sales organizations would fire an under-performing salesperson after just one quarter. Whereas only 2 percent of average organizations and 5 percent of under-performing organizations would do the same. 

What’s more, 78 percent of high-performing sales organizations would fire a poor performer within a year, compared with 63 percent of average and 52 percent of under-performing sales organizations.

As with sports, there’s a huge amount of pressure in sales. If you fail to meet your revenue targets, you not only fail personally, but you let the whole team down.

Similar to sports teams, top sales teams are driven by their competitive nature, a clear plan, unshakable confidence and accountability for their own success or failure. Just like an athlete may always be trying to beat their personal best, a good sales person is always striving to improve their performance.

Related Article: Sales Leadership: 6 Steps to Becoming an Effective Sales Leader

Help your sales team be the best they can be with ContactWorld for Sales, giving your team all the insights they need, plus real-time data and call-recording, so that you can train your team effectively.

What do you find all successful sales organizations have in common? Any other similarities between sports and sales?  Share your thoughts below.

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