Sales Lessons From The World Cup


(By Rick Fink) First, let me confess that I am not a soccer expert, but I love the game! Although I understand the game to a degree and I did coach some rec and high school soccer, I was only in charge of motivation and conditioning, period. I’ll be the first to admit that I would screw up a good soccer player.  

However, while watching the World Cup recently, I noticed some tactics that I think can and do relate to media sales.  

These are world class athletes, but I am sure, like most, they started out as clumsy little kids, tripping over blades of grass. The difference was, they continued to practice, they had a passion and desire to get better at their profession. Even after reaching the pinnacle of their game, I can assure you, they are still willing to be coached and trained, and are continually working to get better. Are you?

First, there is the offensive strategies or tactics. Most of the time while on offense, they are creating situations that give them a better opportunity to score. That’s certainly the case on free kicks and corner kicks where they have “set plays.” But there are also times out of desperation, frustration, or just for the heck of it, they simply take random shots and hope for a little luck. I am not suggesting you make a habit of this, but every once in awhile you just need to take a shot, “pitch” and get a “no” out of the way to get one step closer to a “yes.” Like a well laid-out proposal and presentation, offensive tactics and set plays have a much greater percentage of scoring than taking that wild shot, but it also involves more effort. Sound familiar?  Hard work pays dividends!

Then there’s the defense, which should be every bit as strong, if not stronger, than your offense. If not, you’ll find yourself working a lot harder than you need to and losing a lot more business than you should. It’s the old two steps forward and one step back analogy. Gain some, lose some, and your success will always be around the corner and never at your doorstep.  

So, what is defense when it comes to sales? It’s the service work, the little extra things you do after the sale that keeps the client for life, not just a one-time deal. Seth Godin says, “Dude, you’ll lose all your clients if you don’t deliver something of value every week.” From a client’s point of view, the greatest value is more often than not delivered after the sale has been made, on the defense side of the sale.

Soccer is like most sports: offense gets all the glory while the defense does all the dirty work and gets very little recognition, other than the goalie, that is. It’s the same in media sales. Selling is the fun part, we love to make the sale, it’s what you get the “high” from. But, it’s the defensive side of sales that will make you the most money and make you a cherished pro. And, unlike sports, you WILL get all the glory and recognition. Over the years I have heard many business owners say, “That (salesperson’s name) is a heck of a salesperson,” or “He/She could sell ice to an Eskimo,” but that statement is usually spoken with a bit of a sly tone. On the other hand, and not nearly as often, I’ve heard business owners say, “That (media rep’s name) sure takes great care of me,” or “I don’t know what I would do without him/her.” That statement is ALWAYS delivered with vigor and is heartfelt and genuine.   

You’ve heard the expression, “Defense wins championships,” and in sales it couldn’t be truer. Anyone can win a game or make a sale, but to be really successful you need to have a GREAT defense, so you can keep that client for life, stay ahead in the game, and ultimately become a champion.  

Let me ask you, do you think your clients would rather have a rep that is a good seller (offense) or a rep that provides great service (defense)?

Are you practicing and preaching defense with your sales team?  I can assure you, the GREAT sales teams are!  

D-E-F-E-N-S-E!    D-E-F-E-N-S-E!    D-E-F-E-N-S-E!

Rick Fink is the president of ENS Media U.S.A., a radio sales consulting firm specializing in helping stations to increase their local-direct revenues. You can reach Rick at [email protected].


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