You can’t help but smile at an athlete’s victory pose. Whether it’s Usain Bolt and his signature ‘lightning bolt’ or Mo Farah’s ‘Mobot’, we are eager to recreate and share in that person’s triumph. Their symbol of success makes us feel good.

However, this is not the case when a person is met with defeat. There are no celebrated ‘loser poses’ that we adopt when we come second, third and definitely not last, or when we don’t make that all-important sale at work. But this is where sales teams can learn from sports teams, because their secret is in the way they pick themselves back up behind the scenes.

So what is it that allows them to do that?


1. Practice. Sports men and women spend up to 80% of their time practicing their skills. Whether this is physically, mentally, or even socially, an athlete will actively improve their performance. This is not always the case with salespeople. If there’s an important sales presentation coming up then they may rehearse, but that is not the same as focusing on improving their skill set. It’s essential that someone can highlight all the ways in which a sales person can evaluate their performance, so it can be improved upon. Can you imagine Andy Murray finishing a game and then not practising his skills until the next tournament – and expecting to win?


2. Monitor. It is essential that sportspeople follow best practice, as these tactics have been tested, measured and assembled because they work. An article from the BBC highlights the small GPS systems worn under football players’ shirts to gather data such as speed, acceleration, distance and heart rate which is reviewed by the coaching staff to monitor performance. If you ask 100 salespeople how to sell, you’ll get many different answers because there isn’t generally an agreed best practice in place, so evaluation and constructive criticism to help improve their technique becomes very subjective. There is opportunity in defeat, if you choose to reflect on what can be improved upon.


3. Supervise. An athlete expects feedback from their sports coach, and if the sportsperson continually lost their matches the coach would be fired. Does the manager get fired when someone in sales doesn’t hit target? Not often. Athletes are supervised in training to prevent bad habits becoming common practice; salespeople execute their role largely without direct supervision. If you want your people to perform like a winning sports team then treat them, and train them, like they’re going for gold at the Olympics.


4. Improve. Continuous development is the key to success. Do you think Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world’s highest paid footballers because he scored a goal once? Regardless of the outcome, the focus has to be on bettering the match just gone. On the contrary, once a salesperson has achieved their target they often coast in fear that their next target will be increased if they overachieve. High-performing teams hone their skills, and what’s more they have a mindset of wanting to always improve their performance.


5. Discipline. No one likes being told they’re doing something wrong. A great manager will focus on details and use discipline as a tool, not as a form of punishment. It is just as important in how you deliver the carrot, as much as the stick. For quick insight on reigniting team performance click here, and for setting clear boundaries and disciplining salespeople whilst still maintaining mutual trust click here. To consistently produce demonstrable results, you need to look at key activities such as record keeping and planning. Keeping your eye on the prize needs to include self-discipline and guidance from others.

If you continuously develop people you will continuously improve performance.

These are just some of the ways you can embrace sporting methodologies and new ways of working to dramatically improve your sales team performance. When you’re there to witness your salesperson’s triumph, you too will be striking that victory pose!