Run your sales team like the best sports teams

The world’s best sporting units like the All Blacks and Barcelona have a lot to teach sales leaders. GoCardless’ VP of Sales explains how.

Last month we staged our 5th Sales Confidence live event at GoCardless HQ London. We had 100 SaaS enthusiasts watching two sales leaders, a consultant and a coach sharing their secrets. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our articles.

Our second speaker on the night was Marcus Oulds. Marcus came from Google to run sales at GoCardless. Incidentally, when anyone asks him what the differences are between running sales at Google and GoCardless, he says there’s no difference! The topic of Marcus’ speech was the philosophy of running a great sales team.

Sales = sport

There are so many parallels between a successful, smoothly run sales team and a champion sporting unit. I think another article might have to be written! During his talk, Marcus mentioned two teams whose philosophies he espouses at GoCardless.

The All Blacks

The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. The most successful sporting team in human history. They have won 75% of their games in the last 100 years. However, in 2004, things were going sour for the team after a poor showing in the 2003 World Cup. (Who won that again?) Their new coach, Graham Henry, began to rebuild the team, placing emphasis on individual quality and character. He implemented some simple rules, that Marcus applies to his team too:

· Sweep the sheds — After a game, the All Black players, the best at their profession in the world, would tidy up their dressing room. It was an exercise in humility. You’re showing that you’ll do everything to be successful, even the dirty jobs. As Marcus put it. ‘No one is bigger than the team.’

· Keep a blue head — This means keep cool when you’re under pressure. A ‘blue head’ is the opposite of a ‘red head’, when you have lost your temper and your focus.

· Champions do more — The people who are at the top of their profession are always striving to improve in whatever way they can. If it means doing more in the gym, learning more, staying later, so be it.

The final one:

· No dickheads.

Marcus is an Aussie, so you can understand how it must pain him to praise the All Blacks like this, but the parallels are there. The best sales teams are not above doing the dirty jobs, they keep calm, and they always strive for better.

La Masia

The second team Marcus holds up as an example is Barcelona FC, specifically their youth academy, La Masia.

Las Masia was set up in 1979 by Johan Cruyff as an attempt to replicate the famous Ajax system that he went through growing up in Holland. La Masia produced world greats like Xavi, Pep Guardiola, Cesc Fabregas and of course, Lionel Messi. 8 of the team that started the 2010 World Cup Final for Spain graduated from La Masia.

Cruyff pinpointed three elements that make a successful footballer:

· Technique

· Vision

· Speed

Marcus looks for the same in salespeople. If you have these attributes, you are more likely to succeed.

Most footballers also left La Masia with a college degree. They would say. ‘We don’t produce footballers. We produce men.’

Marcus aims to set his salespeople up for long-term success, at GoCardless and beyond.

How about you?

Marcus went on to talk about Billy Bean, the baseball coach who was the focus of the book and film Moneyball. He was a pioneer in using metrics over gut instinct. That’s for a future article though.

Over to you now. What sports teams do you model your sales team on? If you don’t run a team, what sporting coach or manager is your sales leader most like? Let us know in the comments below.

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