Three Sales Lessons from Super Bowl LII

Super Bowl 2018 was a nail-biter and kept fans on the edges of their couches, bar stools and chairs. It was a great example of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The game served up great lessons all of us can apply in sales and sales management. No need to reinvent the wheel; just model and duplicate proven principles of success.

Lesson #1: Emotion management. I teach the power of emotion management throughout our sales and management training workshops. Watching the Super Bowl is always a great study in emotion management for me. You’ve got high-powered teams showing up with great playbooks and players. Each team has invested hundreds of hours practicing and executing their plays. Play execution on game day is as much about mental management as physical prowess. It’s the ability to execute a pass when a 300-pound linebacker is looking to sack you. It’s the ability to remain calm and catch the football when three sets of hands are looking to slap it away.

Sales lessons learned: Devote time in group coaching sales meetings and one-on-one sessions to teach emotional intelligence, emotion management and the mental game of sales. These soft skills are as important as hard selling skills, product knowledge and industry knowledge.

Salespeople often know what to do. But on game day, it’s easy for emotions, rather than effective selling and influence skills, to run a sales meeting.

Lesson #2: Respect for your opponent. I’m guessing the Eagles and Patriots respected each other entering the Super Bowl. That respect translates to doing the work and preparation needed to win the game. It isn’t resting on your laurels or previous Super Bowl rings. It is hours and hours of watching game films. It’s being open to trying new tactics to win. (Remember the great two-point conversion by the Eagles in the first half?)

Respect for your competition means you prepare for your competition.

Sales lessons learned: Apply the EQ skill of reality testing and ask yourself this question: How prepared is your sales team when trying to unseat a great incumbent? For example:

  • Does the salesperson even know the name of the existing vendor? I know it sounds like Sales 101. However, I have asked this question more than once during a sales training workshop, with participants answering. “No” or “It’s hard to figure out.” Here’s the reality: If you don’t know the incumbent, you can’t design tactics to unseat them.
  • Has your sales team designed value propositions that point out the gaps in the incumbent’s products and services, without ever mentioning their name? Have they designed thought-provoking questions or are they showing up to meetings with canned questions?

Lesson #3: All in. When the big guys take the field, they show up playing to win. They are all in. It starts well before the Super Bowl game by being all in at practice, doing more than you thought you could. All in means doing the hard work needed so you can experience its reward. It means finishing the race, even when you’re tired of running.

The Eagles were leading at halftime. When Coach Doug Pedersen was asked about the strategy for the second half he said, “We’ve got 30 minutes to play.” My translation: We have to and will play full out for 30 minutes.

Sales lesson learned: Check your all-in factor. The next time your CEO or sales manager asks you to engage in a role-play drill skill, lose the attitude. “This isn’t real. This makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like to role play.”

Great salespeople are like great athletes. They are in it to win and will do the work to earn the reward.

A lot of salespeople that aren’t all in lose one full day a week. They aren’t really prepared as they start the week so finally kick into gear on Monday morning around Noon.  Then, they goof off Friday afternoon.  That’s adds up to one day a week, four days a month and 48 days a year. No wonder the competitor is winning more deals!

Manage your emotions. Respect your opponents. Check your all-in attitude. All three will make a big difference in your success this year.

Good Selling!

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Colleen Stanley

Colleen Stanley is the founder and president of SalesLeadership, Inc. She is a monthly columnist for Business Journals across the country, author of ‘Growing Great Sales Teams’ and co-author of ‘Motivational Selling.’ Her new book, 'Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success,' published by Amacom, a division of the American Management Association, is available in bookstores now. Colleen is the creator of Ei Selling®, a unique and powerful sales program that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative selling skills. Prior to starting SalesLeadership, Colleen was vice president of sales and marketing for Varsity Spirit Corporation. During her 10 years at Varsity, sales increased from 8M to 90M. Varsity was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 200 fastest growing companies in the United States. When Colleen is not traveling or training, she loves to hike, read and hang with her husband Jim, and friends.

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