We’re in the midst of the NFL playoffs as teams compete for the Lombardi trophy. So we thought it would be a good time to see if there were lessons to be learned for those of us in the world of sales. Sure enough there was an interesting point about coaching introduced by Tom Pelissero in the USA Today sport section last month.
In a nutshell: At Stanford, Andrew Luck was the quarterback and Pep Hamilton was his coach. When they sought to resolve disagreements, Hamilton often would say – “because I say so.” Now fast-forward to today. Luck is the Indianapolis Colts quarterback and Hamilton is the team’s offensive coordinator. So Luck and Hamilton are still together but their relationship has evolved.
What particularly caught our eye was a key point made by Hamilton: “We both have to feel good about any given play that is called. But it’s more important that he feels good about it than I do.” The relationship between the quarterback and the play caller is one of the most important one in sports – few other relationships have as great an impact on team performance.
Mike McCarthy at Green Bay makes a similar point – “The biggest mistake I ever made was trying to call plays that I liked. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting on Monday after a big lost knowing that I sent in a play that I liked – but knew the quarterback would not be comfortable with.”
Let’s transition all this to sales and sales coaching
As is the case with the NFL, the coaching relationship between a sales rep and their front-line sales manager has a direct and immediate impact on sales success.
It is also true that sales coaching isn’t just a question of doing or not doing what the sales manager calls up. A coaching session which leads to a sales rep going into an account and not being comfortable with what the sales manager suggested will almost always lead to a lack of success.
One of the biggest traps for sales managers is coaching to their favorite plays – that is suggesting what they did in a similar situation. First that was then and this is now – lots of things have changed in the world of sales. Second, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, so your sales rep may not be able to pull of that play that was so successful for you. This is why in the big leagues, great sales coaching is more about helping people to learn – then telling them what to do.