Lessons for sales teams from former AFL player Brian Lake

As part of our team’s regular coaching and development, a couple of weeks ago Franco Crismann, one of Barrett’s business development managers, went to a senior management business event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground where Brian Lake, former Hawthorn/Western Bulldogs AFL footballer, spoke about maintaining a winning culture at work.

Here is Franco’s report and reflections on the session:

“We had a room filled with C-level managers who were listening to a sports star talking about business and maintaining a winning culture at work, and I noticed them nodding in agreement. This, to be honest, surprised me.

What I found interesting is the fact that Brian pointed out that as a professional sportsman even at the top of your game you are constantly evolving and being coached, never resting on your laurels. That training and coaching were not jettisoned once you reach the pinnacle of your sporting potential, on the contrary you trained harder and were coached more. Why is it that this same attitude is not conveyed within the business world?

He spoke about leaving your ego on a hook and playing for the team and not for yourself. He spoke about creating an environment that was safe and enjoyable with no competition between team mates. He spoke about how saving a buck and always taking the low cost option is detrimental to building a winning culture.

Looking around the room I couldn’t help but notice all the people continuing to nod their heads and agree with what was being conveyed.

Brian spoke about role accountability and clarity being of the utmost importance. Knowing that the man (or woman) on your left and right are accountable and know exactly what their jobs are and where they fit into the grand scheme of things.

The competitive nature of sports and business are very similar, so why has business’ approach to organisational development been so different?

In sports you are only as good as your last game and every move you make on the field is scrutinised, having been built on a foundation of capability and development. Whereas in sales you are only as good as your last sale and sales results but commonly you’re thrown into the deep end and left to sink or swim without much support at all.

In sports when you are training you have physiotherapists, nutritionists, psychologists, coaches, managers and masseuses. In too many sales environments, you have nobody but yourself to rely on.

You are given your KPIs and target market/area and let lose to go and “make sales”. In the sporting world this is the equivalent to getting a team of 15 individuals who have never played the sport or trained together and putting them into a sporting league and expecting them to play to the highest standard and win.

Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? If this idea is so ludicrous why are too many businesses doing this?”

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is the founder and chief executive of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform www.salesessentials.com

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