What Sales Managers Can Learn From the NCAAs

Watching the NCAA men’s final four games this weekend made me think of the impact that coaches have on successful teams. The execution, intensity and teamwork of the teams were a beautiful thing to watch. Louisville, Michigan, Wichita State and Syracuse were all great.  In each case, it was clear that these teams are being driven by a coach who is more than just a recruiter or tactical expert or motivator. They are led by head coaches who are leaders.

Too often in business, we see good salespeople led to failure by sales managers and owners. You would think in these tough economic times, we would be seeing more leadership and better execution. Unfortunately that is not the case.

Great Sales Management Makes the Difference

The most compelling reason we can see for this lack of leadership in many companies is a general loss of confidence. Consequently, sales manager sometimes resort to ill-advised and short term tactics to generate results.  Threatening job loses, harassing sales people daily or creating over generous compensation plans may work in the short run but not in the long run.

For basketball coaches, the measure of success is wins and championships. In business, there are two simple questions to determine how well a sales manager is leading: Is the company selling enough and are they selling at the right price to generate sufficient profits. With the large number of business failures, strong leadership is required to succeed.

Trying to understand why so many sales managers can’t or won’t lead is daunting. Most great basketball coaches go through an intern process of going to training clinics, working in summer basketball camps, studying other great coaches, serving as assistant coaches and seeking the mentoring of other coaches.

Perhaps this is the answer, sales managers should learn the skills and knowledge necessary to lead like college basketball coaches. That means going to school, getting training, observing successful managers, reading books and materials on successful sales management and getting help from outside experts.