Did you catch college football’s national championship game on January 8th, 2018? An exciting game, yes, but also a terrific demonstration for sales leaders and managers on how teams win.
There were two fascinating moments in the University of Alabama’s victory. The first came after halftime. Trailing 0-13, the coach replaced his two-year starting quarterback (QB). With whom? A freshman, whose playing time this season was limited and last seen nearly two months prior. The starting QB protested and pouted, right? Surprisingly, he became the biggest cheerleader for his replacement, who led the team to a 26-23 victory in overtime.
The second moment came on the next to last play before overtime. To run the clock down and set up what they hoped would be (yet was not) the winning field goal, Alabama’s coach called for the quarterback kneel play. Who did he trust to handle the ball in this high-pressure moment? Interestingly, it was the older, more experienced QB from the first half.
What creates this kind of trust and selflessness between peers? Richard Hackman, author of Leading Teams and for decades an authority on organizational behavior, found the following attributes in high-performing teams:
- Compelling direction: Team members are unified in their goal. At Alabama, the common purpose was obviously to win the national championship, not to protect someone’s job because he was older or was playing well.
- An enabling structure: The leaders create a culture where collaboration thrives. Played out as mentioned above.
- Expert coaching: Performers receive feedback that is objective and skilled, so they can adjust their game plan. This championship was the fifth for Alabama’s head coach, now tied for the most in history.
Does your company enable collaboration? To win the sale, do salespeople and subject matter experts from different lines of business know how and when to rotate in and out of the game?
What can you as a leader do to create a culture that promotes collaboration in winning the team sale? Start with my 3C’s – Communicate, Coach and Compensate.
Communicate: Clearly message your expectations for collaboration in the sales process — consistently across the company, tied to the company’s goals and objectives, and linked to the gain for your people.
Coach: Stay engaged through observations. Make time during one-on-ones to check for evidence and examples of collaborative behaviors. Be ready to coach to performance gaps.
Compensate: Recognize and reward the teamwork you seek.
You can find more details on how to build teams that win big at high stakes meetings in my book, Sell Like a Team (McGraw-Hill, 2017). Roll Tide, Roll Sales!