effective_sales_coaching_tips_from_lacrosseI was at a college lacrosse game this weekend between two top ten teams. On paper it should have been a close game; one team ranked second in the country and the other ranked 10th. It ended up being a blowout.

I learned some important things about the impact that a coach and her actions can have on the entire team. I believe they apply in the sales world as well as in the sports world.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of a coach:

  • a person who teaches and trains an athlete or performer
  • a person who teaches and trains the members of a sports team and makes decisions about how the team plays during games
  • a private teacher who gives someone lessons in a particular subject

Apply this definition to sales.

That makes the sales manager ─ who acts as the coach ─ a person who:

  • teaches and trains salespeople
  • teaches and trains members of a sales team and makes decisions about how the team executes on their sales calls
  • a private teacher who gives someone lessons in sales

From the Lacrosse Field to Your Office: Usable Coaching Insights

Beyond this dictionary definition, here’s what I noticed in this particular lacrosse game about differing coaching skills that could apply to the business world:

1) A superior coach is able to adapt to the situation and guide his or her players (i.e., salespeople) in a direction that will lead to success. She is able to help strategize with the players to maximize their effectiveness while using the unique talents of the individuals on her team to succeed. An inferior coach just keeps doing the same thing and expects to get different results (isn’t that the definition of insanity?).

TIP: Coaches, you must adapt to market conditions and use the strengths of the players on your team. There is no single full-proof strategy or tactic on the playing field ─ nor in a sales call.

connect_the_dots_for_sales_success2) A great coach will not just tell her players to go play better, or get more sales when they are behind in the game or behind their sales quota. She will break it down for them and help the players connect the dots between where they are now and where they want them to be. The excellent coach actually walks the player through what specifically needs to happen to get better results. The inferior coach just tells the players to go do better, or do more, or work harder, or sell more. That isn’t coaching. That is nagging and does little to actually enable the players to execute at a higher level.

TIP: Connect the dots and walk them through their path to success from point A to point B.

3) Finally, a great coach keeps his or her cool under pressure. As the leader of the team, the coach must keep her head about her so that her brain will function in an optimal way. It is a physiological fact that when one is under stress the blood flows away from the brain and moves to the muscles causing our brains to function less optimally. The best coaches stay calm under pressure, which allows them to make good decisions, and it helps their players stay calm and be able to perform at their optimal level as well. Those coaches that have a tendency to “lose it” with their players in a panic during the heat of competition ─ whether we are talking about athletes or salespeople ─ seldom produce the best results because of the stress they induce in the player. This causes the team to execute in a sub-par manner.

TIP: Keep your cool for best results.

It is not going to be a surprise for you to learn that during this particular college lacrosse game the team with the better coach won. The coach of the winning team did the following things:

  • adapted her tactics to the situation
  • made adjustments at halftime that allowed her team to take advantage of weaknesses in the opponent
  • kept her cool on the sideline

This coach stuck to these winning tactics throughout the game; when it was close as well as when they had begun blowing out the other team. Her coaching was victorious and so was her team.

Sales coaches, if you can apply these three winning principles to your coaching, your teams will come out on top more often than not. Take a cue from athletics coaches. It will help your salespeople grow and develop into more successful self-sufficient producers.

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