What does the high-octane world of football and sales have in common? More than you think! Many of the training methods and approaches that determine a football team’s success on the pitch also apply towards sales teams. Both disciplines also require a competitive spirit and a drive to succeed in order to get to the top of their game.

With the 2022 World Cup upon us, it’s time to score some goals for your sales while watching your favourite team in action. Here are 10 sales lessons we can all learn from World Cup football.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

soccer practice football

One of the most valuable sales lessons we can take from football is that practice makes perfect. Football players actually spend more time practising and doing drills rather than actually playing the game. Practice provides players with mental and physical conditioning, turning basic movements into instinct so they can gain an edge during the game.

Likewise, if you don’t practice how you present and speak during a cold call or sales pitch, you’ll never develop the skills of a successful salesperson. Practising your sales skills will not only give you confidence when speaking to potential prospects, but you’ll also be better equipped to answer any questions without floundering.

2. Have a Sales Playbook

Sales playbook, tactics and strategies

Football players go into matches with a strategy that dictates how they’re going to score and defend against their opponents. They will know who is making runs into the box, what formation to take out of possession, how to create space with the ball and so on.

The same philosophy is true for sales. A consistent theme across all sales lessons is that you should never approach a lead unprepared. This means having a sales playbook with all the different systems, methods and processes a sales representative can use to achieve success.

Your playbook should tell your sales team what to do in different situations such as how to answer common questions or how to gauge if your prospect is interested. When developing your playbook, it is crucial to lean on the experience of veteran sales managers or representatives who already have plenty of interaction with your target audience.

3. Create a Supportive Team Environment

supportive sales team at office holding world cup football

Football is a sport where players have to work together to win the game. From your goalkeeper to your defenders, midfielders and attackers, each player has a specific role to play in the success of the team. While individual skill can shine in football, the team with better morale and strategy often wins out.

The lesson to take here is that while sales is mostly a solo endeavour, the support, friendships, mentorships, morale and environment within the sales team can be the difference between exceeding targets or missing them. People in empowering, uplifting environments tend to perform better after all.

4. Develop a Winning Mindset

Football is a cutthroat business where only the top 1% actually make it as professionals. All professional football players have a winning mindset — they’re competitive, confident in their skills and relentless at doing what it takes to win.

What sales lessons can you take from this? Like football, the top earners in sales all have a winning mindset. As cheesy as it sounds, your prospects can sense when you’re being negative and lacking in confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, your product and closing the deal — neither will your prospect. To succeed in sales, you have to remain optimistic and be unafraid of being told “no”. Approaching each prospect to the best of your ability regardless of the outcome.

5. Leverage Data

Leverage data sales lessons you can learn from World Cup football

On the pitch, football is a fluid sport where anything can happen. Off the pitch, however, professional teams in modern football don’t leave anything up to chance. Successful teams employ analysts to study statistics like expected-threat and expected-goals to study the quality of goal-scoring chances and the probability of converting those chances into goals.

Like football, sales data is crucial to helping your team build better strategies and improve decision-making. Data can provide objective metrics that provide actionable insights into a sales team’s performance — it can help you identify your ideal customers, expedite the prospecting process and optimise the sales process. Learning how to collect and interpret data is crucial for sales teams looking to improve their performance.

6. Review and Analyse Past Performance

While data is a quantitative way to approach improvement, reviewing performance can be more qualitative. Professional football teams often review and analyse their previous games to spot mistakes and identify areas to improve.

The same is true for sales. One of the key sales lessons football teaches is to consistently review performance. You can do this from quarter to quarter, pitch to pitch, or even from call to call. If your numbers for a quarter are down, you could potentially ask questions like “Did we chase too many prospects with low purchase intent?” or “Did we take too long to prospect each client?”. Meanwhile, asking yourself questions like “What could I have done better on that cold call?” can also be a great way to introspect and improve your sales skills.

7. Teaching and Developing Skills

The academy is an integral part of a professional football team. It’s a source of new players for the first team, where new talents are scouted and developed according to the club’s philosophy. Through the academy, new players learn the skills and competencies required of a professional football player. Occasionally, first-team players will also join U21 games to mentor and set an example for younger players.

Out of all the sales lessons football players can teach us — mentorship and taking the time to teach skills are vital. None of us are born with sales skills. They are developed over time. Some salespeople develop their skills through years of trial and error. Others were lucky enough to have a mentor show them the ropes. Mentorship isn’t just a one-way street either, some veteran sales executives or managers may even feel revitalised if they take someone under their wing.

8. Make Sure Your Fans Are Happy

happy soccer fans yelling

The popularity of football as a sport lives and dies by its fans. Fans are a source of feedback, showing happiness or displeasure depending on how the team is playing. They can also be a source of support, giving the team confidence to turn things around if things aren’t going their way. Fans are also an important source of income, buying matchday tickets and merchandise to back the team.

Ultimately, fans make it possible for football teams to do what they do, which is why it is in the team’s and players’ best interest to make sure fans are happy.

In sales, your fans are your customers. It can cost five times more to acquire a new customer than it takes to keep a current one, so it is in your best interest to keep a repeat customer happy and earn his or her business. Furthermore, loyal customers aren’t just a source of consistent income, they can be your advocates too. Loyal and happy customers are more likely to recommend your services to others.

9. Make Use of Tools

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In today’s data-driven world, football is no exception. Elite teams invest substantial resources using third-party tools to analyse their team’s performance as well as the opposing team. Beyond tactics and strategies, professional football teams also use cutting-edge sports science tools to monitor their player’s health and fitness.

Sales teams can learn from football teams by taking advantage of sales tools to streamline and optimise the sales process. This can include applications and software for customer relationship management, sales and market intelligence, lead handling and prospecting, data analytics and reporting as well as sales automation and integration. The right tools can help your sales team work more efficiently and effectively, leading to better sales performance and happier customers.

10. Count On Peer Reviews

It might surprise you that footballers rely on peer reviews to know whether they’re doing well or not. Footballers provide feedback to teammates both in-game and post-game. During a match, footballer’s peer reviews come in the form of communication on the pitch. Players will not hesitate to tell teammates what went wrong and what they could have done better. After the match, peer review can help teammates play better and develop an understanding of each other’s playing styles and how to improve.

While football coaches set the overall strategy, they cannot micromanage the on-pitch performance of 11 players at once. That’s why communication and reviews between players doing the execution of the strategy is so important.

Similarly, while performance feedback from managers is a key part of sales, peers have the advantage of working alongside you, making them excellent observers of the way you sell and approach challenges. Perhaps they can point out some things about the way you sell you might have missed!

The Game Plan

World cup football soccer into goal success

With the 2022 World Cup well underway, football fever is at an all-time high. While you enjoy the spectacle, drama and excitement of the beautiful game, keep in mind that the world of sales and the world of football are more alike than you might think.

A great football coach ensures his players are prepared, well-trained and equipped with a solid strategy before sending them onto the field. Likewise, a great sales manager must give his or her team members the resources they need to succeed.

Like football players, salespeople need a competitive drive, a winning mindset and a willingness to stick to the game plan in order to hit their targets and achieve what they set out to do. If you want to score more goals in sales, look to sales lessons football can teach you.


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