Sales strategy and the NBA playoffs – lessons from the court

Sales strategy - including lessons to be learned from the NBA

NBA Finals and Sales Strategy

Sales strategy and the NBA? One point made in the analysis running up to the NBA Finals struck us: Both the Heat and Spurs are lousy on the boards. In fact, that is the case with most of the NBA. The leading theory for this situation among NBA insiders is that changes to the way the game is played has made rebounding less important.

Here are some stats …

  • This season, the correlation between a team’s rebounding rate and its winning percentage was .438 (with 0 = no correlation and 1.0 = a perfect correction) – a steep drop from .744  20 seasons ago.
  • Nearly a quarter of all shot attempts were threes this past season, up significantly from 20 years ago, when threes accounted for just 10% of all shots.
  • There was a much stronger correlation between a team’s three-point shots taken percentage and the numbers of made three-pointers per game this season when compared with 1992-93.

This means that in the past, if a team rebounded, they usually won. Today, teams spread out on the court and rely more on the three-point shot.

Are there lessons to be learned for sales strategy? Well in both cases one is talking about very skilled people, doing a very difficult task, while competing against others who are also skilled.  So, yes there probably is a lesson or two.

When working with sales organizations we’ve observed that too many focus on just doing a better job doing what they are doing vs. making adjustments to the fact that the “game” has changed.  Driven by a number of business and economic factors buyers are changing what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.

So just as the NBA has shifted from a strong inside game to a small-ball game, sales organization need to make some adjustments.

Today it is not just about the old ask some questions and then talk about your product game.  Instead sales reps are expected to bring a high level of understanding and knowledge about what is going on in the customer’s world.  They are expected to have a point of view about how to help the customer go where they want to go.

The winners are those that can help the customer think about their needs from a different perspective and who can provide insights and creative solutions versus just presenting products.  This means this whole discussion around sales enablement actually matters.

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©2013 Sales Momentum® LLC

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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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