Sales Management Blog

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What Football Fans Can Teach Salespeople about Emotional Control

Posted by Gretchen Gordon on Thu, Oct 10, 2013 @02:00 PM

comparison between football sales and emotional control

For years, 26 to be exact, I have listened to comments in the football stands as the wife of a football coach, and now mother of a football player.  Now you might be thinking that the title about emotional control has to do with those fans that lose it and scream and yell at the refs.  But I am talking about another kind of emotional control.  Or lack thereof.  The kind where we take a little bit of information and make assumptions that we know the rest of the story, the intent, the problem, the reason.

Here’s what it sounds like in football:  “Why didn’t he throw the ball?”  

Answer:   Maybe because some wide receiver ran the wrong route and it caused a defensive player to be laying in wait for the ball to be thrown. 

On those rare occasions where I have bitten on the comments, and have later asked my husband why someone did something (based on comments from the stands), there is always some other reason that was not apparent to the average fan in the stands.  It is the same with your salespeople.  When they fail to understand the underlying reasons why something is said, why something is done a certain way, why they would choose a new supplier or not, etc, they are operating on only partial facts and making up the rest. 

Here’s what it sounds like in sales talk:  “The meeting went really well.  I think they are going to buy from us.  They just need some time to think it over.”

Answer:  The salesperson assumed the prospect was going to buy and therefore didn’t ask the question “why” when the prospect said they needed to think it over.   

The salesperson lost emotional control by assuming they knew what was going on in the prospect’s head.  He didn’t ask the “why” questions and now will be caught in an endless game of trying to follow up with the prospect, likely to no avail and to no sale, but will waste plenty of time. 

Unlike football fans who pay their money for the ticket and the right to be armchair quarterbacks, the average salesperson cannot afford to make those assumptions and travel down a path filled with assumptions and loss of emotional control.  

You, as an effective sales manager can help coach them effectively through their emotional control issues affecting sales by constantly asking, “What is the next agreed to step?”  Notice I said “AGREED TO”, which implies that the prospect has agreed as well.  If it is a follow-up it should be on the calendar with a date and time agreed to by the prospect.  If the prospect won’t agree to a next step, then the salesperson may want to go back and ask some “why” questions.  The meeting may not have gone as great as they thought, because they lost connection with the prospect, due to a lack of emotional control.   

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