How to coach a successful sales team: 5 lessons learned from sports

illustrated person leaping over a growing graph is if it was a hurdle.

Originally used to equip participants with the skills needed to win, sports have provided a place for people to learn valuable skills that transcend games and competition. In this post, we will explore practices that successful sports teams use and how sales leaders can apply these concepts to improve their sales team’s performance.

1. Visibility: More is more

Whether you’re coaching a team of athletes or managing a team of sales representatives, you’re leading a team of unique individuals. Each team member has different strengths and different weaknesses.

Visibility into what each team members does well and developing a personalized coaching plan to help them improve is vital in developing a successful sales team and boosting sales productivity.

For a collegiate lacrosse team, a coaching staff may have a couple of hours a day to be on the field with the entire team to get to know them and learn about their abilities. They also have time to work with players to watch film. This is where the majority of insights will come from.

A coaching staff will go through hours of film every day, finding common themes to review with their players in the next team meeting. Finding themes and noticing trends is an important part of the film process because neither the players or coaches can watch and coach every situation that may arise during a game.

Sales managers have even less time (if any) on a daily basis to sit down with their team to run mock sales calls or be present in live conversations. It’s important that sales team leaders have the ability to review calls efficiently and conveniently to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each salesperson.

Equally as important, sales leaders need to have a way to identify conversational trends within their team and coach their team on the most common situations, just like a coach may while watching film.

CallRail’s Conversation Intelligence is helping sales managers do just that every day by transcribing every call that is taken by their team.

CI redacted transcripts

It allows sales managers to identify keywords and phrases that are being spoken on the call, and even recognize whether the prospect is happy or unhappy. Conversation Intelligence makes training easier and automated, giving valuable time back to sales managers.


2. Enable your team members to learn from each other

When I played for and coached under Head Coach John Galloway at Jacksonville University, he would always emphasize the importance of the players on the team learning how to coach and be coached by one another.

With around one coach on staff for every 10 or more players, not only are there time constraints that eliminate personal coaching at times, peer feedback is also much more memorable than coach feedback, making it instrumental in player development.

Successful coaches enable their players to coach each other through the use of team captains, positional leaders, leadership councils,” and more. Sales managers should do the same.

A salesperson may tweak an email/text template to increase response rate by a few percentage points or have a killer question in discovery that really opens up the conversation with a client.

With CallRail’s Whisper Monitoring feature, managers and teammates can listen in on each other’s conversations and give on-the-spot coaching that only the employee can hear. This will allow teammates to instantly experiment with their peer’s feedback and advice.


By empowering their employees to teach one another and giving them the tools to easily learn from each other, they allow these new techniques from fresh perspectives to spread throughout their team. If each team member brings just one thing that helps their teammates improve fractionally, team performance as a whole will grow exponentially.

3. Compete!

Najee Harris, a running back from the University of Alabama Football team recently said , “The competition level in practice was almost greater than the game.” This culture of competition within the team led to them being crowned National Champions with an undefeated record in 2021.

Twitter first take

Source: Twitter, First Take

They also tied the record for most players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, meaning many players achieved their individual life-long goals.

While salespeople in an organization may vary greatly in terms of innate competitiveness, sales managers can use metric-based “spiffs” to encourage a culture of healthy competition within their team. This culture will push team members to become the best version of themselves, and like Alabama, will lead to a successful organization as a whole.

CallRail’s Lead Center can facilitate this competition. Lead Center is CallRail’s business communications solution. All lead and customer interactions such as calls, texts, chats, and form submissions can flow through Lead Center in a unified timeline.


With timing being such a large factor in making a sale, sales teams motivated to compete will try to handle these incoming interactions as quickly as possible to ensure no opportunities are slipping through the cracks. Managers will be able to see the results through Lead Center as well.

Stats such as average wait time, number of abandoned calls, and average speed to answer will give sales leaders insight into how their team is performing. Not only does this create healthy competition to grow the sales teams' skills, it improves your business and brings in higher conversion rates through faster response times and better organization.

Real-time stats

4. Consistent feedback, through wins AND losses

In sports, players from each team will describe the game in vastly different ways when there is a closely contested game. Players from the winning team will describe the great plays that their teammates or themselves made to help secure the victory and talk little about their mistakes.

Meanwhile, players from the losing team will only recall what went wrong and not the great plays they made. While the emotions after a win and a loss are drastically different, a good coach will recognize the importance of continuing to coach their team regardless. They will continue to have their players strive for optimal performance to be ready when the next competition occurs.

Similarly, in sales, there are many variables that can lead to a successful sale or a lost opportunity. A sales leader needs to recognize the importance of consistent feedback through both the wins and the losses. This will lead to a culture of perpetual growth.

While important, the most successful leaders don’t just look at an individual deal or even an individual quarter; they are focused on growing the company to be successful long past even their tenure. With tools such as Conversation Intelligence and Lead Center, managers can look into the different variables of each deal and determine what should be celebrated and what should be coached on.

This will lead to resiliency through the losses and even further improvement during the wins. In sales, you either win or you learn. A great sales manager should make sure that this holds true for their team. Capture every opportunity to improve the team and your process, regardless of the result!

5. Use matchups

When preparing for a game, teams will establish the most favorable matchups between their players and their counterparts on the other team. These matchups will be based on several factors such as a player's strengths, weaknesses, position, athleticism, etc.

In sales, these matchups are just as important to get right. Connecting a caller to the appropriate team member based on the reason for their call or if they are a first-time/return caller is key. Doing so allows your team to specialize and learn the ins and outs of how to handle these interactions. You do not want your sales team's time to handle calls meant for your support team or vice versa.

Call Tracking’s Call Flows can route calls and streamline this process.

Call Flows (1)

Completely customizable to route calls based on a number of different variables, you can be sure when your team is picking up the phone, they are speaking to someone that they will be able to help.

And in case a caller does slip through the cracks and connects with the wrong person, with Lead Center, your agent can seamlessly transfer the call to the appropriate team member. These tools will provide a better experience for the caller and higher quality interactions for your team.

Ready, set, go

There are many different parallels between a great sports team and a great sales organization. To achieve a high level of success, you must continue to improve your processes, create a strong team culture with competition, generate peer feedback, and show progress after every single opportunity.

CallRail has the tools to help you stay on track throughout the entire process; start testing them out for free. If you can do that, you and your team have a great opportunity to reach your goals this week, this month, this quarter, this year, and far into the future.