Sales managers – a lesson from the Duke Blue Devils

Duke Blue Devils

Coach K (Mike Kryzewski) led the Duke Blue Devils to four NCAA championships and the men’s Olympic basketball team to two gold medals.  Much has been shared about his coaching style and his management philosophies.

One that strikes us is his “next play shout out”.  As the game unfolds and a particularly thrilling or disappointing play occurs, he immediately shouts out “next play.”  Why?  Rather than admiring a dunk, alley-oop or last minute three point shot … or fretting over a missed shot, or an easy lay up by the opposing team; Coach K wants his Blue Devils to quickly focus on what to do next.  Reflecting on what just happened is okay – but lingering around thinking about it, according to Coach K, isn’t beneficial.

We were reminded of this point while thinking about how sales reps and their managers react after one of their plays.  For example, some spend an inordinate amount of time “enjoying” a successful sales call – thinking:  “Wow, after that great presentation we should have this one in the bag.”  Meanwhile the competition is talking with their internal champion about how their next call can be a “get make in the game” type play.

U.S. Olympic Basketball Team

the other side of the continuum – sometimes too much time is spent wallowing why something went wrong and missing opportunities for future success.   It is important great players don’t fret over a missed shot – even if it is a game changer.   Sales reps sometimes forget this confidence lesson.  They become gun shy after something goes awry in a sales opportunity.  Regardless of the specific nature or cause of the failure, the impact is the same – the sales rep seeks to minimize risk and avoid future situations of a like kind.

No sports team is going to consistently win championships without a great coach and the same is true for sales teams.  Even great basketball players need coaching and top sales reps still need great sales managers. And, as Coach K’s counterparts in the world of sales would share – a part of great sales coaching is skill development … but a part is also how to deal with exhilarating success and crushing failure.

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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