Mentor's Perspective

Building a great sales team : Look for sportspersonship

It is not a secret that having a right team is the key of success for any project, program or enterprise. If right team is identified half of the problem is solved. But building a sales team is always a challenge and it becomes critical if hiring goes wrong as impact can be devastating. While employing, Individual brilliance of a star salesperson is great but for consistent growth a right team with complementary skills and never die attitude is needed.

A Hiring managers and HR spend hours in scrutinizing right person for required technical and soft skills both. They keep looking for leadership, communication, ownership, integrity and what not. Most of the times organization makes a check list and interviewer keep ticking the boxes. There are parameters which can be evaluated objectively. Like the consistent good academic performance or skill certificates conveys that individual has certain level of competence. But the real struggle happens in evaluating the soft skills. It is difficult to judge a person leadership or winning spirit in few minutes of interactions. It becomes tricky when one has to filter an application based on resume only. At this stage one need to look beyond the academics and I can say from my experience that some of key skill required for corporate sales is learnt on the field of sports. Sportsmanship brings some of unique qualities which are keys to success not in field but in corporate world too. Let me list few important attributes which I have found in people who have seriously played any competitive sports in their life and critical for sales world.

Preparation for match: A person who has played any sports  understands the significance of practice and preparation. A player knows that instant success comes after long practice hours. Without practice of key skills, one can’t deliver when it is required most. While the skills are used in key projects, they are fine-tuned on every day on regular basic. During the critical stage of bid cycle especially in the crunch moments the preparation comes handy and can make a difference in winning or losing.

Importance of team members: Apart from skills of team members the success of a project is dependent on collaboration between team. We all have seen that many times a team with all star players fails to deliver due to their internal dynamics. A person who has played sports understands and appreciates the importance of other contributions. He/she knows that match is hardly won by individual brilliance. Even the players of individual game (like chess or badminton) know the value bought by their coach, trainers and acknowledges that. This skill is very useful in corporate world where each member has to contribute on his role for project success.

Raise the performance level for key match: While winning is a good habit and each win helps in building the morale of team, there are certain match which matter for ultimate glory. In corporate world there are few projects which can set the path of company. These projects are of high stake and need to be delivered at all costs. These are like knockoff matches where intensity has to be high with no room for error. People from their familiarity of sports understand the importance of these projects and lead from front to make it success.

Losing a match: While winning is important, none of success is possible without its own share of loss. A loss can be frustrating and can show the fault lines, but team has to move on with positive attitude for next project. People who have played any sports understand this very well and great ready for next match with more vigor and plan. They learn from past mistakes and analyze the opponent strength. This is very critical for sales as you will be pitching against the same company for another project.

  A sportsperson know that no defeat is final till you give up.

But does it mean that people without sports background are not performer? No, while experience of sports helps, other people can also acquire these sports man skills by training and coaching.

The views expressed are personal.

Authored by:  Niraj Sahay, President, Kinetix Engineering, IIM Bangalore, IIT Kharagpur

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