The Similarity Between A Football Coach and a Sales Manager

By ianperkins on March 17th, 2015

Is A Sales Manager’s Role Any Different To That Of A Football Coach?

Football has been all over the headlines recently, often for all the wrong reasons, yet no matter which code you favour the most, your hunger for a game is now satisfied, with more live matches streaming across the television networks than ever before.

As the players often fill the headlines, in the background there are teams of committed servants, putting the final touches on master plans, to try and ensure that this is their team’s year. As we all know, the person handed the responsibility of putting that master plan together, to achieve the end goal, is the Coach. Even though they cannot change the actions of the team in the heat of the battle (or in their private time off the field), ultimately the buck stops with them. A winning team bankrolls a football club, through higher gate takings, increased sponsorships, bigger merchandise royalties and all of the other trimmings that go hand in hand with success. A coach is paid to deliver success!!!!!

In my daily life I work closely with business owners and sales managers across a number of different fields, and you cannot ignore the direct parallel between a Coach and the person that is responsible for delivering the sales performance for an organisation. If the Sales Manager does his job and their achieves their numbers, then the business is strong and able to capitalise on market opportunities. Conversely, if sales are sluggish then so is the business performance – decision making is slower, short cuts are taken and catching up seems like a reasonable goal.

I often find myself working with companies where sales management is just one of the many roles of the CEO, Owner or General Manager of the business. However when considering the skill set required to drive sales within a business successfully, and the importance of those results for a companies future, clear independent driving of the sales team is vital to the long term success of any organisation.

So what makes a great Coach or Sales Manager, and why are they similar?

They Both Possess Impeccable Brand Integrity – A successful Coach or Sales Manager understands implicitly the pillars of the brand they represent and have the ability to engage the total organisation into respecting and building on those core values, every moment that they belong to the particular organisation.

The Both Possess A Distinct & Clear Vision – Any successful Coach or Sales Manager will take this Brand Integrity and develop a clear vision for the organisation going forward. They will have the ability to ensure that the end product is in line with this vision, and will have an unrelenting passion to ensure that the product only ever improves. They will work with all parts of the organisation to ensure that no one part adversely affects the overall performance of what is trying to be achieved. They will feedback information to areas within the organisation on a regular basis, to ensure consistency and continuity of delivery.

They Both Possess The Ability To Develop and Maintain A Champion Team – A successful Coach or Sales Manager has the ability to not only build a great team, but also possesses the ability to inspire them to be better every day. They maximise returns by utilising an individuals strengths and talents. They develop teams by merging worldbeaters with workhorses and get them working in unison, to get the job done.

They Both Implement Clear Goal Setting – Success is built on clear, simple messages and directions, that if followed, will get the job done. A successful Coach or Sales Manager creates these pathways, trains their team to handle anything that is thrown at them whilst on their journey, doesn’t change the goal posts and rewards them when they achieve their objectives.

They Are Consistent, Yet Innovative In Their Approach – This may sound like a contradiction, however every business and every sporting team must have a foundation that the organisation can rely on year in year out. This backbone creates brand loyalty, whether it be a certain range of products that become consumables in a customers business or a style of play that fans love to watch and keep them renewing their membership each season. It is this base that provides organisations with longevity. The innovation factor keeps the opposition at bay. It may only reflect 20% of any teams performance or organisations product range, however it is this surprise factor, based on quality research and analytical thinking, that keeps the competitors at arms length and allows an organisation to succeed.

They Both Understand The Need For Disciplined Training Methods – Preparing team members to handle any situation thrown at them in the heat of the battle or the work force, is the key to achieving success in the short and the long term. There are no short cuts available – If a team member is to perform then they must understand their role in the team, have a clear understanding of the “Big Picture”, and ensure they always perform within the guidelines set by their leader.

They Know When To Attack and When To Defend – Whether it be sport or business, scenarios present themselves where decision making needs to be fast and effective and this is where a quality Coach or Sales Manager comes to the fore. When things are going well strategies need to be implemented to obtain maximum results, whether it be on the scoreboard or the bottom line and conversely when things are not travelling as planned solutions need to be executed that will defend a position and ensure the best outcomes are achieved at all times.

They Have Big Ears – Of course I am figuratively speaking, however a successful Coach or Sales Manager will surround himself with quality support staff, will be acutely aware of everything that is going on within the game or industry that they participate in and as a result, will listen before executing or adjusting their master plan in any way or form. Ultimately the buck stops with them, however the analysis of relevant information, from trusted sources, should always be considered prior to any decision making.

They Will Always Celebrate The Wins and Learn From The Losses – It is a known fact that there are no sure bets in either sport or business. In a committed and dedicated team environment, with trusted and respected participants, the same efforts can quite often produce varying results. This is why it is vital that when a team wins, the achievement is celebrated as a team. Individual brilliance should be recognised without being overstated. The efforts of the team working together to achieve the required goal should be elevated to the highest level and the result achieved celebrated in some format – together. Conversely when a result does not go the way as hoped, the team must unite and together, analyse what needs to be done to get the job done in the next period, game or match. Both of these scenarios can have a positive effect on the future operations of any organisation.

So if a football team is going to have a successful season or a business is going to have a great trading period, in my mind it is vital that the organisation’s “key product deliverer”, the Coach or the Sales Manager possesses the above qualities. Like a football team cannot function properly without a Coach, a business must have someone who is committed to driving all aspects relating to the sales performance of an organisation.


Ian Perkins is the Chief Strategic Officer of Brisbane based business consulting firm Blurb Consulting. Ian works closely with a number of organisations nationally, implementing innovative sales strategies and managing the results and growth of the programs using his 30 years experience as a Sales and Brand Manager. For more information contact Ian directly or visit