What the World Cup teaches us about selling

Strikers in the football team are remembered more than, say, goalkeepers and defenders. Strikers ‘close’, and spectators crave that-goals.

The World Cup is a week in, today. Football mania is in the air. And with it, plenty lessons on selling. Here are three.


64 teams. 32 matches. 1 winner. Those are the numbers that were bandied about when the tournament started. A week later, the first two have reduced. Only the last statistic still stands, and will, till the end – one winner. These numbers resemble selling from recruitment, to retention to performance. “64” could apply, “32” get interviewed but only “1” gets the job. “64” eager beavers could get the job, “32” slink away succumbing to its intensity, but only “1” remains standing; and finally, “64” could start the quarter, “32” barely scratch the surface with meeting their targets, and only “1” meets, let alone, surpasses, target. If you did a Pareto analysis on your team’s sales performance you will notice that only ‘20%’ bring in ‘80%’ of the numbers. Do you do away with the 80%? Well, in the World Cup, now that you need only one winner, do you do away with 63 teams?


The World Cup is exciting to watch. What with the razzmatazz footwork, the gripping commentary, the relentless cheering and the pomp and colour. But football is also ruthless. I mean; you can have a deft piece of footwork, occupy half the opponent’s side and even have the loudest cheering team; unfortunately, for all the statistics displayed on the screen, only one reigns supreme. And it isn’t corner kicks, or fouls, nor shots at goal. No. It’s goals scored. You played well, but did you score? In selling the enviable dribbling and commendable shots at goal can be compared to prospecting (finding people to buy your product); interviewing (finding out how your product will help solve their problem); demonstrating (showing them how it will); validating (convincingly responding to queries about it); negotiating (coming to terms); and asking for referrals (other prospects). Whereas all these are necessary to a sale, the statistic that is king is closing (sealing the deal). You ‘played’ well, but did you close?


Unfortunately, the average stellar seller is a loner. So teamwork, in this instance, does not necessarily mean working with fellow (sales) team mates but with indispensable parties to the sale. Strikers in the football team are remembered more than, say, goalkeepers and defenders. Strikers ‘close’, and spectators crave that-goals. But strikers are not lone rangers and would fail miserably if the other ten-odd players (and unsung heroes) did not pull their weight. Equally, the salesperson should not forget the unsung heroes in the sale. The technicians who installed the software; the supply chain team that ensured timely delivery; the clerk who ordered the cheque book, etc. All these made the super striker salesman score. For a continual seamless synergy and winning, it is in his interest to have them on his team, by recognising their efforts.

These are my three similarities. Share yours.

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