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NHL Playoffs: Lessons in Building a Winning Sales Team Like a successful hockey team, empower your employees and play to their strengths.

By Trevor Turnbull Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

NHL playoffs, Penguins

Just like in the National Hockey League playoffs, a successful sales team is made up of stars, role players and a strong supporting cast. As a sales manager, to build a winning sales team you have to find and empower the right people to ensure your company's financial success.

The second round of the NHL playoffs is in mid-swing, and across the eight-team field, there has been no shortage of entertaining match-ups. League stars like Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Detroit Redwings left winger Henrik Zetterberg unquestionably helped propel their teams to first-round series wins. But without their supporting cast of team members, neither of these teams would have found themselves in their current position in the conference semifinals.

Here are three lessons from successful NHL teams on how you can build a winning sales team.

Related: Tips to Manage a Successful Sales Team

1. Empower your team members based on their strengths.
With nine goals and 17 assists between them, Penguins right winger Evgeni Malkin and Crosby have lived up to expectations in the NHL playoffs. But the duo isn't responsible for all aspects of the team's success. Head coach Dan Bylsma delegates responsibilities to players who have shown strengths in other areas of the game, allowing his superstar players to focus on what they're best at -- scoring goals.

As a business owner, recognizing your sales team's individual strengths and empowering them to do what they do best is critical. If a sales team member is more confident in a support role, perhaps he or she should write your business proposals or manage existing client accounts. If someone enjoys hunting for new accounts, let that person hunt and close deals.

2. Don't rely solely on your star players.
For the last five years, the Red Wings have exhibited a one-two punch in the form of Zetterberg and center Pavel Datsyuk. Through the second round of the playoffs, the duo has combined for six goals and 12 assists.

Yet, Detroit has seen production from less recognizable individuals such as center Damien Brunner. The rookie has tallied four goals and four assists in eight games, and has been a major contributor to the team's early success in the NHL playoffs.

Related: 3 Ways to Lead Your Business Like a Baseball Manager

Managing the ups and downs of a sales cycle can be one of the biggest challenges faced by sales managers -- especially if you're relying solely on your all-star sales members for production. To ensure that deals are being closed on a consistent basis, distribute leads to your entire team and empower them with equal support.

3. Don't be afraid to look outside your organization for help.
When an NHL team is struggling or trying to find a missing piece, they sometimes bring in new players from outside their organization.

A week before this year's trade deadline, the Penguins traded for veteran right winger Jarome Iginla. The trade raised the expectations of the team and showed a commitment by management to winning. In the team's nine playoff games thus far, Iginla has registered two goals and eight assists.

Hiring sales professionals from outside your organization can spark your current team to give more and perform better. Clearly communicating to your team that your willingness to invest in top talent is driven by a desire to help everyone succeed can instill confidence and trust in management.

Related: Unique Hiring Techniques to Find the Right Person for the Job

Trevor Turnbull

Co-Founder, Online Reputation Strategist & Podcast Host at

Vancouver, Canada-based Trevor Turnbull is COO of sports news site Sports Networker and the Sports Executives Association, where he manages content production, social marketing and community development.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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