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November 30, 2017

What Vince and John Knew About Building Great Sales Teams

Two of the most legendary coaches, Vince Lombardi and John Wooden, possessed training and coaching skills that helped their teams win NCAA championships and Super Bowls. In our sales management courses, I always share my two favorite quotes from each that explain how and why they built great teams. 

Vince Lombardi: “They call it coaching, but it is teaching. You do not just tell them it is so, but you show them the reasons why it is so and you repeat and repeat until they are convinced, until they know.”

John Wooden: “Don’t equate expertise with your ability to teach.”

Both understood the power of teaching. Sales managers, you might be the greatest salesperson in the world. However, that doesn’t mean you have the skills and/or desire to teach. The best sales managers I work with have worked hard at developing their teaching and coaching skills.  As a result, they are able to transfer the skills and knowledge that made them a top producer. 

So how do you get started? First steps are to learn the neuroscience and psychology behind effective teaching and coaching. This knowledge helps sales managers replicate their success and the success of others.  

#1:  The neuroscience of learning. Sales managers are busy and often resort to one-and-done training. They regard training as an event, not an ongoing process. They teach a selling concept once or twice and expect their team to flawlessly execute it.

The problem with this approach is that people don’t learn this way. Repetition is the key to mastery. Hebb’s Law states that cells that fire together wire together. When a person consistently repeats an action, habit or skill, they form a new neural pathway in their brain.    

Think of building new ‘sales’ neural pathways like hiking. Let’s say you are an adventurous hiker who wants to blaze a new trail. On the initial hike, the path is covered with branches and weeds, making it difficult to hike fast. However, if you hike the same path over and over, you eliminate branches, weeds and rocks. The hike becomes easier and faster.    

It’s the same with learning new selling skills. Practicing a new skill requires a lot of hiking. It requires saying and doing the same skill over and over. A recent study from the European Journal of Social Psychology shows that habit formation requires 66 days of repeated behaviors.

There is no shortcut to excellence or to winning Super Bowls or NCAA championships. 

#2:  The psychology of learning. When I was a new sales manager, I often defaulted to the one-more-time approach when a salesperson wasn’t executing the right selling behaviors. After I worked with an adult education expert, I realized that lack of knowledge wasn’t the root cause for poor performance.  The salesperson knew what to do — I had told him 20 times! The reason behind his lack of execution was often a self-limiting belief or buy-in issue. The salesperson simply didn’t buy into my sales approach.

Or in many cases, self-limiting beliefs held back the salesperson from executing the skill. 

For example, every sales trainer on the planet preaches the value of asking questions. Folks, this isn’t a new concept. However, a lot of salespeople still present solutions too soon and too often. It’s time to work on the right end of the problem. Stop telling the rep what to do. Instead, work on the salesperson’s self-limiting beliefs or buy-in by asking good coaching questions.  

  • What’s making you uncomfortable asking questions?
  • What’s your biggest worry about asking “this” question?  Is that worry based on perception or data?
  • When you asked these questions on prior sales calls, how did your prospect respond? Positively or negatively? 
  • What happens if your competitor asks these questions and you don’t?    

Vince and John knew what it took to build a great team. Yes, they recruited top talent and had a great playbook. And they also knew how to transfer the knowledge, skills and attitudes that consistently won games.

Study the greats so you can be great

Good Selling!

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