Four secrets a sales team can learn from sports

Some popular products seem to sell themselves, but the reality is the success began with a process.

The same is true in the business of professional sports, a $60-billion-a-year industry where some franchises grow into monster brands.

Sales managers in many industries sometimes use sports themes in their coaching — competitiveness, dedication, strategy execution, etc. And, as someone who has trained the sales teams of major sports brands, I see what often separates the winners from the losers.

The problem with selling today is there’s no home-field advantage.

The selling game takes place in the buyer’s mind. As the salesperson, you have to determine how much the potential buyer knows or doesn’t know. And even with all the technology, it’s never been more competitive; there are more salespeople interacting directly with customers than ever before.

I offers four concepts to consider when coaching your sales team on today’s more complex playing field:

Screw the better mousetrap.

You don’t necessarily have to build a better mousetrap; you have to do a better job selling your mousetrap. You have to understand there are a lot of new variables in selling. Social media and online information have changed the game, but despite all the new technology, the bedrock of sales remains the same: people selling to people.

Attitude adjustment.

Grit is a key component of both championship sports teams and successful sales teams. One notable difference is the relative importance of skill set in each profession. Skill set does not equate to success in sales. Hard work isn’t a skill; it’s a choice. It’s starting early, staying late, being resilient after rejection. It’s forming the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.

Level the playing field.

The sales process is like choosing which game to play in a casino. Your odds of closing improve if you keep your sales process simple and tailor the approach to the buyer’s mindset. Otherwise, the salesperson can be as distracted as if in a casino. In sales, we don’t have to be gamblers, but we do have to be odds players. So you want to play craps rather than the slots.

Find common ground.

Establishing credibility with a prospect requires engaging them in a conversation. The first seven seconds are the most critical to get their attention. If you survive, you have the next 60 seconds to win their interest. To do this you need to see the sale from the buyer’s perspective.

There’s plenty of room for a salesperson’s creativity and a customer’s need for tailored solutions. At the same time, you can use that process repeatedly to provide solutions and compete in a complex world.

Lance Tyson ( is president and CEO of Tyson Group, a sales training, coaching and consulting company. 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.

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