Coaching the Winning Team

Coaching the Winning Team

By Dave Baragrey


I love sports. Not just the sport itself but also the lessons learned from sports that apply to business, family and life off the court or field. These lessons that work in sports can also be valuable tools to manage your business.


My youngest son plays on a high school football team that is headed toward the state championship game. After making the state playoffs for 3 consecutive years, the coaching staff has designed a program that seems to produce winning teams every year. Below I have broken down the program into six categories and drawn comparisons to business applications.


· Routine – Each week the team has the same routine. Breaking down game film, analyzing strengths & weaknesses of the competition and even their pre-game meal is the same every week. Routine is very important to execution of each play. Every reaction becomes a “natural” reaction after it has been practiced so often. It is important to schedule time regularly to analyze the strengths of the competition and prepares your sales and management team to plan how to defend against losing a major account. Analyzing your competition’s weaknesses helps you determine market segments your paper can lock-up. With routine reporting your sales staff begins to look for information and feed it regularly to management to be better prepared. The routine of making sales calls the same time and same day helps cut time spent with customers. The advertisers begin to expect your sales staff to call on them at the regular time and are better prepared to plan their advertising.

· Conditioning – Even though high school football is played just 2 - 3 months a year, the players condition all year. They work all year to build their strength and stamina. The great salespeople work on improving their skills and strength consistently. While driving between sales calls they listen to motivational and sales training tapes. They carry sales magazines or newsletters in their briefcase to read when they are in the lobby waiting to speak to a customer. At day’s end, they discuss sales adventures and role-play as they recap the day’s sales events. They attend sales training seminars when offered by state and national associations.

· Game Plan Preparation – Before the football team hits the field, they know what play the opposing team is going to run from the formation they line up in. Before the salesperson hits the road, they know what accounts they are going to see and what they are going to include in their sales presentation. My best salespeople had a file on each account including ads they had run with both our paper and our competition last week and last year. They also kept an idea file by market segment of ads from other papers and idea sources they could easily access when planning their sales calls. Their daily planning guide was completed the night before so they had some time to think about what accounts they were going to see and what they were going to say. When planning to call on a major prospective advertiser, they anticipated all questions in advance and included the information to overcome these objections in their sales presentation. They would role-play the sales presentation on multiple occasions to help them prepare before the call trying to eliminate any surprises.

· Fundamentals – In football, players work over and over on their footwork and positioning to tackle, block, pass, catch and run the ball properly. These fundamentals must happen without having to think about them. The only way that happens is with repetition. The same is true in developing the fundamental skills for sales. It is only with repetition that the fundamental reactions seem natural. Knowing the answers to the questions advertisers ask without hesitating comes with practice. The seasoned veterans of advertising sales review their successful sales calls to recap what worked and why. They know the answers to the distribution data, what makes a good advertisement and how to approach customers to instill enthusiasm for buying advertising. Rookies have to practice. Role-playing and a regular review of their sales performance while in front of the customers helps them improve their fundamental skill development.

· Leadership – Winning breeds leadership in the football players. The recognition that comes with winning thrusts players into the spotlight. They have to show proper leadership both on and off the field. The top performers at your paper are also thrust into the spotlight. Other staff members look to them for a pattern for success. It is important for all top performers (and department heads) to show proper leadership both in the office and outside of the office. This sets the tone for the rest of the staff. Arrive at work early. Keep focused on your work and eliminate the time wasters. Somebody is watching everything you do. Set the tone for others in the office by always setting a great example.

· Enthusiasm for the Sport – A winning football team always plays with enthusiasm, whether on the field or on the sidelines. They are fired up and are not ashamed to show their enthusiasm. The winning coach creates an environment to support this enthusiasm. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. This results in all the best athletes trying out for the football team. Winning publishers, editors, general managers and ad directors create this environment for their staff. Have mini-celebrations to recognize the composition staff when you win ad awards at the state association ad contest. Take the sales staff out for dinner after completing a successful special section. Department heads need to make their area a great place to work. Create the work environment that everyone wants to be a part of. You will find the best writers, salespeople, composition artists and managers all want to be a part of the winning team. You will draw the best people from your community to work for your paper.



Here is a quote to remember:

“If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?”

Vince Lombardi, Football Coach



Dave Baragrey is a business consultant and sales trainer for Publishers-Edge, a Special Section syndicate for print and on-line special sections, and consulting business specifically designed to help weekly and daily papers.

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