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10th December 2012

Too many Wayne Rooney’s don’t make a Sales Team

I was chatting this afternoon with my brother-in-law. He loves football – which is something I know little about. But what struck me were its inherent and similar parallels with running a corporate business:

In both cases, to deliver results they need to:

To recruit and nurture top talent;

  • Employ teams with high achievers, but empowered with individual responsibilities;
  • The right finance and strategy focused on delivering positive outcomes;
  • Supportive partners (and evangelists) to drive growth and brand value (in football, they call them “fans”);
  • Collaborative working to deliver to common goals (excuse the pun!); and
  • Effective leadership and support, to deliver sustainable results.

But in some ways, I reflected, football is perhaps a little way ahead of how many corporate operations run:

To score goals, football managers don’t employ a whole team of strikers. Getting the right connections with mid-field and defence is key. And they develop these connections constantly through regular training and practice – together, no matter what the weather! By contrast, in the corporate world, many businesses seek to employ entire sales team of Torres or Wayne Rooney types. Furthermore, these ‘Type A’ ‘s are rarely trained in the same room with their customer support, marketing or other back-office counterparts.

In football, midfield players (and even some defenders) are positioned to assist or make goals. Ashley Cole being a good example. Some businesses do invest in training their support functions to up-sell or cross sell when interacting with customers, but to varying degrees of success. And how connected are these functions with the sales teams in managing the overall relationship with customers? How are they incentivized to “score”, compared with their front-line teams? And, how well are they incentivized and nurtured to deliver quality customer services to keep retention levels high?

These are perhaps simplistic examples. In football, the right culture, effective communications, and continuous collaboration – from the board to the team, and between front, middle and back of the team – are fundamental factors that influence behaviours to deliver desired outcomes i.e. scoring goals. And when they do this right, they satisfy their customers who turn into life-long evangelists (fans), and generate lots of income to keep everyone happy.

I also read a report earlier this week, from Xactly’s website – CSO Insights Sales Comp Key Trends Analysis – written by CSO Insights. They ran a survey involving over 850 corporates – all sizes, across all industries. It  confirmed that sales folks are still mainly focused and measured on one key metric i.e. making quota. Whilst this is understandable the survey also reported that coaching and getting the right culture in place is a common and recognised desire, as that is whats needed to build a more sustainable business.

There are of course many tools and technologies around to help support better collaboration, communication and incentivisation  in business – and we at Hyphen8 can help you choose some. But more importantly, businesses need to re-focus on how best to connect their various moving parts – and create a culture that embodies joined up working within and across their teams, that drives best value from its employees – the Wayne Rooney’s and the Ashley Coles alike.

Yes, it’s about teamwork … but business is not a game. It’s business.


For your copy of the aforementioned report, please click on: http://www.xactlycorp.com/assets/pages/CSO-Insights/2011-Sales-Compensation-and-Performance-Management-Key-Trends-Analysis.php.

Xactly are a leading provider of incentive and compensation management: http://www.xactlycorp.com/


Posted by | Buzz on Hyphen8 | 1 comment

1 Comment

  1. 20th December 2012 at 6:15 am Shreyas K

    Hi David,

    Its an interesting take. I agree with you on most of the points.
    But I feel there is a lot more to it than leveraging on the points you mentioned.
    Quoting a point you mentioned :
    “Employ teams with high achievers, but empowered with individual responsibilities”
    I cannot tell you how happy I am to see this point top the list. But this might in turn, also turn out to be the biggest mistake people make.
    Sales people, the good ones at-least, have an inherent aggressive trait. When you talk about a successful sales person, it is a mix of a lot of attributes, irrespective of the geography and the technology or product. A positive aggression, being the foremost.
    Putting high flyers in a single team might in turn disrupt the team dynamics altogether. A high flyer, or a high potential sales person, is motivated by a lot of factors which might not be the same for each person in the team.
    Its like putting a bunch of piranhas in a tank, with few fish to feed on. Every fish becomes an object of competition and increases the aggression level of the team.
    I’m not saying that this is an impossible task. I have seen highly aggressive teams managed in the most perfect way possible.
    But they can only be managed by someone who understands the aggression and has been able to control and channelize it. A team of high flyers need to be treated differently. They cannot be managed using the traditional rules. And that’s where most organizations fail to sustain and retain an aggressive sales team.
    It basically breaks down to either a great white shark leading a team of piranhas, or a goldfish leading them. Either ways, the consequences directly affect the revenues, and couldn’t be more obvious.
    And yes. Business is definitely not a game. Its business. And there are no rematches.

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