Why Selling is the Ultimate Team Sport


I recently had a conversation with a friend on the dynamics of a successful sales team. In particular, we debated why sales reps, aka individual contributors (BTW a term I hate), are so instrumental in the success of their co-workers in the same role.


I get the point; it can be difficult to thoroughly understand how a single salesperson contributes to a team's success beyond the revenue they produce. Certainly, as a manager, it’s a much easier concept to grasp. However, as individuals, it’s cloudier to quantify beyond the rep's closed deals.


As the baseball playoffs hit full stride, there is a wonderful lesson to be learned from a little-known 3rd base coach and a group of infielders that proves my point why individuals with singular objectives impact the success of a team far beyond their numbers. If you’re on a sales team, take notes…. we can all learn something from Coach Ron.


If you’re an avid Atlanta Braves fan like I am, you’ve probably heard about 3rd base/infield coach Ron Washington and his commitment to bring out the best in his players. The Braves infield is arguably the best in the Big Leagues. They have incredibly talented players, but what makes their infield the best is each player’s desire to be great individually and as a unit. They are committed to improving every day by learning from each other and from a coach who creates a culture of success through attention to detail, creating the right habits, personal accountability, and dedication to practice.


Before every game, Coach Ron conducts a series of drills designed to help each player improve their technique and situational awareness. Besides honing each player's skill through repetition, an equally important outcome from the sessions is how they learn from their peers as they execute various drills. In-between taking turns fielding ground balls, they share positioning tips, discuss situations that may arise in a game, and develop a healthy competition that brings out everyone’s best.


By the way, we are talking about the absolute best in the world at their craft. Safe to say they all learned how to field a ground ball when they were little kids. Nonetheless, Ron and the boys still spend hours practicing, so muscle memory takes over when its game time, and executing plays becomes routine.


Baseball players and salespeople are similar in a lot of ways. Individual performances are heavily measured by their stats (batting average, quota, etc.). However, success always ties back to coaches and teammates who taught, shared, and learned from others on the team.


Why should a sales team be any different?


If you’re a sales leader, what do your practices look like? What drills do you run to prepare your team for game time? Instead of fielding ground balls, are you:


  • creating a culture of learning with everyone on your team?

  • practicing how to anticipate and handle tough objections?

  • using call planning worksheets to game-plan an important meeting?

  • helping your sales team create winning value statements that connect with prospects?

  • committing time during 1-on-1 sessions to listen and coach reps in areas where they're struggling?

  • delivering on the spot coaching if you observe an opportunity for improvement?


If you’re a salesperson, ask yourself, what can you learn from your teammates?


How do the best reps prepare for a meeting?

How do top performers always find time to prospect, secure appointments, and build pipeline?

What questions do they ask to create a need?

How do they handle tough objections?

What are their work habits?


Just as important, what can you share to make your teammates better?


  • What did you learn on a recent sales call that can alert teammates about an emerging trend?

  • What did you learn about a competitor in the area?

  • What led to a recent success?

  • What did you learn from a book you read, webinar you attended, or podcast you listened to?


My point is this - even though you may be measured on an individual statistic, nobody wins alone. We all have a responsibility as coaches and players to make ourselves and teammates better.


At Butler Street, we help players and coaches get better every day. We teach sales leaders how to become better coaches and train salespeople on how to raise their game. If you need help building a winning team, give our team of Coach Rons a call.


Below is a 2019 Spring Training interview with Coach Ron if you're interested in learning more about his training approach: