Something to learn from the World Cup

Many would never guess, but I actually played soccer in college. I wasn’t great, but I was good enough to walk on and play defense (Left Fullback, thank you very much).

Of course, this means that I am one of the few Americans who actually watch the World Cup with a moderate level of interest.

All of the ridiculous flopping aside, there has been some beautiful football played this year (and yes, I use football and soccer interchangeably – viva, ‘Merica). And the thing that I am attracted to most is actually a perfect analogy for sales.

For me, watching the ball move is mesmerizing. To see the perfect dribbling and passing, the subtle touches and flicks that redirect the ball toward the goal, and even the feints and fake moves that don’t touch the ball at all… It requires a massive amount of coordination. And it’s why the world calls it “the beautiful game.”

In sales, we have the exact same dynamic.

The work that a great team will perform, when done in unison, is mesmerizing. The coordination of each team mate – from Sales to Marketing to Ops – to develop and deliver value is my favorite part of business. To see a customer delighted is the equivalent of celebrating a goal.

What is the secret to great ball movement AND great selling?

To paraphrase the hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky, it’s moving to where the ball is going – not where it is.

In soccer, I can tell when a team is doing well or not by how they move to where the ball is going to be. Teams that only move to where the ball currently is positioned are either getting pushed backward or getting out-maneuvered by the other team. It’s a recipe for failure.

In sales, the same principle holds true. We have to move to where the customer (and thus, the sale) is going to be.

Here is where it gets tricky because success requires a number of things:

  • Clarity – Everyone needs to know everyone’s role. If the goalie is not clear on what his role is, what does that to do to the rest of the team? If the sales rep is not clear on what her role is, what does that to do to the rest of the team?
  • Timing – Get there too early and you’ll stall the game; get there too late and your competition will take over.
  • Knowledge of the Environment – If the stadium is loud/wet/windy/etc., how will the game change? If the market is being disrupted by pressures and trends (like AI, IoT, generational shift, etc.), how will your customers be impacted?

Question: How well do you and your team mates know where your customers are going?

Deeper question: How far into the future are you looking?

If you and your team are not spending time to truly understand where your customers are going and acting accordingly, your game is hurting. And you won’t win the championship.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

About the Author