5 Traits of a Cinderella Sales Team

Some of the same qualities basketball teams use during March Madness can help propel your sales.

learn more about Mike Schultz

By Mike Schultz

Streeter Lecka | Getty Images

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March Madness is one of the most anticipated college sporting events of the year. From Selection Sunday and the first tip-off to last-second buzzer beaters and bracket busters, the three weeks of single elimination games provide constant thrills. But there's another thing that I love about the Big Dance -- Cinderella stories.

There's almost always one team from a smaller conference that secures a seed and advances farther than anyone expected -- take Butler and Brad Stevens. These teams possess certain qualities that not only earn them a ticket into the tournament, but also allow them to progress.

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These are some of the same qualities that allow sales teams to win deals when it really matters. The only difference is that every day is the Big Dance. Here are five traits your sales teams must have to take down the net.

1. Work hard.

"Talent is never enough. With few exceptions, the best players are the hardest workers." -- Magic Johnson

If your sellers want to be successful, they need to be willing to put in the work. Yes, we're talking about practice. Just like teams study their opponents, your sellers need to study their prospects and consistently focus on ways they can provide value. They must seek to always go above and beyond.

If your sales team wants to be the best at prospecting, they must know how their buyers want to be contacted, how many touches it takes to get through to them, and what type of content is going to catch their attention. For instance, a recent sales prospecting research report revealed that 69 percent of buyers are influenced to accept a meeting when a provider shares primary research data relevant to the buyer's business. Prospecting is hard, but if you put forth the effort, buyers will accept meetings with your sellers.

2. Handle adversity.

"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it." --– Michael Jordan

Teams are faced with adversity in the tournament. Teams that know how to deal with it tend to come out on top. The same is true in sales.

If a buyer says they don't have a budget or pressures your sellers for a lower price, how do they handle that? If a buyer says they're already working with another provider, do they accept the rejection and move on to the next call? Or do they attempt to dig a little deeper and learn more? How do they rebound from a lost sale?

Sometimes, adversity can be minimized, or even eliminated, through training and preparation. If you can help sellers handle adversity and common sales objections, your team will win in big ways.

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3. Be consistent.

"Consistency is what counts; you have to be able to do things over and over again." -- Hank Aaron

To win the tournament, teams need to win six consecutive games. That means they need to bring their "A" game six times in a row. Players and teams can't afford to have an off game.

If you want your team to consistently win more sales, help your sellers build and execute a strategy to win sales opportunities of all sizes. Develop their skills to consistently drive and win those sales opportunities.

4. Good coaching.

"Coaches win practices, players win games." -- Pete Carril

If sellers are going to rise up from the pack, good advice and mentoring are essential. An effective coach can be the most significant factor to a seller's success.

Successful sales coaches meet regularly with their team. They help them create goals and action plans, build winning strategies, hone skills, and stay on task and on target. Help your sellers be the best sellers they can be. If you do this, they won't just meet their goals, they'll likely beat them.

5. Forget overtime.

"We didn't lose. We just ran out of time." -- Vince Lombardi

Several games during the tournament will go to overtime. Players are likely physically and mentally exhausted and would prefer to win the game without adding five additional minutes to the clock.

As a sales leader, help your team get their wins in before the end of the quarter. Set them up for success from the start. Achieving sales goals isn't going to be a slam dunk. Your sellers need to create a strategy for how they're going to beat their sales goals and review them daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Help them devise a solid game plan and they should be able to achieve their goals before the final buzzer.

Related: How to Use the Book You Wrote to Close Sales

To make it far in the tournament, teams need to have a lockdown defense, skip the midrange game, perfect their pick-and-roll, and try and recruit the next LeBron out of high school. If you want your sales team to come out on top, they need to put in the work, be consistent day in and day out, resist buckling under pressure, focus on goals and track progress, and have a leader, like yourself, to help them prepare for the big "W."

Mike Schultz

President of RAIN Group

Mike Schultz is a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations, Insight Selling, Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely, and Not Today: The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity. He is Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group, a Top Sales Training Company that delivers award-winning results through in-person and virtual sales training, coaching, and reinforcement. He and RAIN Group have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 75 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential.

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