How to Build an Effective Sales Team: 3 Things We Have Learned From Sports

Michael MignognaSalesLeave a Comment

effective sales team sports

tom brady winningFrom the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots to the NCAA champion North Carolina Tar Heels (sorry Baltimore sports fans), there are examples everywhere of coaches who not only assemble the greatest teams in sports but guide them to titles year after year. The question then becomes, what do they do differently and how can that tactic be applied to building an effective sales team?

1. Championship Teams are NOT Necessarily Made Up of the Most Naturally Talented People

major league movie roster

Just take a look at this motley crew.

While it is tempting to assemble a team of star achievers, it is not necessarily the best tactic when it comes to productivity. One study published by the Association of Psychological Science showed that people perceive a direct correlation between the level of talent a person has the level of performance they will not only have themselves but inspire in the team around them. In reality, talent may facilitate performance but only up to a certain point where talent has a detrimental effect on the way a team interacts. There is no greater example of this in real life than the Seattle Seahawks. After several dismal seasons, Coach Pete Carroll began assembling a Super Bowl Championship team, not out of first round draft picks pegged for their talent, but from talented, but overlooked individuals who were hungry for success. Today, players like Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, who were not high on the draft, are among the top performers in the league.

2. A Little Task Conflict is Good

kerri strug winning medal

With an injured ankle, Kerri Strug handled task conflict with flying colors!

There are two types of conflict in every team – task conflict and relationship conflict. Task conflict occurs when challenges are presented to getting the job done. Relationship conflict stems from differences of personality, opinion, background, or any number of demographics. In some cases, task conflict can strengthen the bonds within a team as each individual recognizes their strengths and the necessary role each member plays. However, there is a point at which task conflict can cause relationship conflict, thereby destroying the team altogether. One study published in the Sage Journal on Small Group Research found that the factor that predicts whether a team’s bond will be strengthened or destroyed amidst task conflict is the team’s perception of their performance. If a team has a high perception of their ability, they will be strengthened by task-related problems they encounter. When the New England Patriots were down 28-3 at the end of the third quarter, they were faced with one of the biggest task conflicts in Super Bowl history. Their perception of their performance ability was able to carry them to the first ever overtime victory.

3. Feedback Should be Clear and Constant


Buck Showalter left hanging giving feedback

If you have ever watched coaches during a game, they are giving constant feedback to their players, other coaches, athletic trainers, even officiating personnel. They see themselves as managers of a thousand moving pieces, each requiring individual attention at different times. The same can be said for the most effective sales teams. One study of more than 22,000 leaders showed a direct correlation between the level and frequency of feedback a leader gives and the level of engagement of the subordinate. This process is especially crucial in sales teams who must work to remain current on products, policies, clients, and marketing strategies. Communication is key.


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