Many, a great many (sales) managers use professional sportsmen and sportswomen to deliver motivational speeches to their staff. I have attended workshops with top-level volleyball players, soccer trainers, aikido senseis and mountaineers. Their presentations and speeches usually address perseverance, teamwork and setting goals.
Contrary to what you might expect, I have never observed any changes in sales or motivation in any company in the wake of such workshops or presentations.
One of my last experiences with a sales/top-level sports combination was a blog about American football players using a ‘playbook’ to direct their play. The players know the playbook by heart, they use the scripts in each training session and practice their reactions to situations that occur in their games.
The writer of the blog suggested that sales managers would gain by developing a similar playbook for sales representatives, by developing a recipe for selling.
I sensed that something was wrong in that statement. I felt that you can’t simply copy principles that work well in sports, apply them to a company and expect them to work…
I tried to figure out why I got this feeling. I think it is because I see more differences than similarities between top-level sports and most companies.
Let’s take a closer look at top-level sports, for instance at a team sport like football or soccer, and see what are the determining factors:
Compare this to the situation in an average company:
Reading this, one could say, a company is ‘a whole different ball game’.
If you are a top-level executive and you feel that working in a company can be likened to top-level sports, you might want to implement and ensure top-level sports conditions as well:
With these conditions fulfilled, your company might indeed begin to look like a top-level sports team and your sales representatives like top-level sportsmen and sportswomen.
By that time, no-one will care about parallels anymore. Your company’s success will be huge and your employees are out there giving inspirational speeches to other companies.