Train a Winning Sales Team: Rounding Third and Heading for Home

Although I never met the man, I imagine Lou Boudreau would have made one heck of a field sales trainer. In 1942 the 24-year old Cleveland Indians shortstop was promoted to player/manager of his team, and for the next eight years Boudreau did what we, as trainers, are called upon to do every day: demonstrate success, inspire success and cultivate success. Think of it as the triple play of sales training.


A seven-time All-Star shortstop, Boudreau was only the second manager to take the Indians to a World Series Championship, and no one has done so since. Clearly, he was a man who demonstrated success. As field sales trainers we must similarly make success a habit. A field contact with a trainer may be the first "in situ" opportunity a new rep has to test their impressions of the company, and possibly selling in general. Is what we say consistent with the corporate sales direction? Is what we do consistent with what we say? Most importantly, are we successful at gaining customer commitment and moving the sales process forward?

Inexperienced reps may need guidance on effective territory management and specific techniques for gaining access to prospects. Experienced reps are more familiar with the demands of the position, so their concerns are usually more territory-specific. Their willingness to accept us as role models may depend on how well we demonstrate successful resolution of field challenges: "The key thought leader in my area is on the speaker's bureau for Competitor X. How can I compete with that?" "Most of my key decision makers won't see reps. What can I do to impact their decision making process?" Established reps need to know that we have successfully overcome similar challenges and can give them strategies to do the same.

Demonstrating success is also vital because as field sales trainers we hold a uniquely dual role in the sales organization. In addition to the time we spend training and coaching sales reps, most of us are responsible for increasing sales and growing market share in our assigned territories. Our ability to manage our time and territory productively is vital in order to reach our own performance goals.


Selling is fun when sales are good, but experienced reps know that's not always the case. Without any warning you run smack into a competitor's newly expanded sales force. Your blockbuster technology launches with software challenges. You spent your weekend studying a new clinical reprint, but every doctor you see wants to talk about last night's exposé on the cost of prescription drugs.

Inspiration is our second wind. It keeps us focused on the big picture when our progress temporarily stalls. It's a safe bet that all sales reps want to succeed? a good trainer will inspire them to succeed. The wanting gives us aim, but it is the inspiration that makes us reach. Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller understood the power of inspiration to drive performance: "I remember in 1948... I was having a rough season, and instead of replacing me Lou (Boudreau) said 'We're going to sink or swim with Feller'. After he said that I won 10 of my last 12 games. He instilled a confidence in his players they never forgot."

In the final analysis inspiration is unique to the individual, so figuring out how to inspire our sales reps may be the most challenging aspect of being a trainer. It can also be the most rewarding.

One way to inspire success is to celebrate its many forms. Baseball fans illustrate this perfectly. Do they wait soundlessly for the final out in the bottom of the ninth? Of course not! They cheer every solid crack of the bat? every difficult catch? every stolen base, because they recognize that each of these small successes brings them closer to their ultimate goal. The more skillful the play the more fervent the cheer, which motivates the athletes to stretch their abilities to achieve even more.

I think the single most inspiring thing you can do is to pay attention to your reps. Don't wait until the bottom of the ninth to commend their progress. Make a point to notice their incremental gains and celebrate their success!


When I first started in sales I thought I should be just like Gregg, the most successful member of my team. I stifled my own personality and conducted my sales presentations as if I were Gregg, copying his voice inflections, the rhythm of his speech, and even some of his jokes. It wasn't long before I began to suspect that his achievement was more a matter of luck than skill, because clearly, this selling approach was a failure!

In truth, the failure was mine. By rejecting my personal style I had violated one of the fundamental principles in cultivating success: respect individuality. Gregg's approach worked for him because it was his. When I rediscovered my style and trusted my own instinct, that's when I developed success. When Boudreau was promoted to player/manager his team was made up of more than just shortstops. He led his team to victory by relying on each player's unique strengths to overcome the challenges of their position. Whether we are working with new or veteran reps, we must respect that their individual traits and talents have gotten them this far. Our job is to expect more.

How can we help our reps progress from expecting more to achieving more? By encouraging risk taking and new behaviors. Too conservative a team culture makes it difficult to raise the bar; few are willing to reach higher, for fear of falling short. As trainers we should be first at bat, risking innovative approaches and new ideas. Boudreau wasn't afraid to think differently. He recognized that teammate Bob Lemon was misplaced as an infielder, so he reassigned him to pitcher, liberating Lemon from mediocrity and helping him achieve MVP/All Star status.


Just as a coach can't swing the bat for the player at the plate, we can't be with our teams every play of the game. We must share our best techniques for sales success, so that when split-second adjustments need to be made, they have the skills to make the right ones.

"I can't be with you every day" has become something of a team slogan; a reminder that ultimately we each bear responsibility for creating our own success. As trainers our mission is to teach the art of unflinching self-assessment. Perhaps the most important thing we can give our reps is the ability to evaluate themselves honestly and specifically. Once they master that skill set they will be rounding third and heading for home!

Copyright ©2004 by Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.

Sally Bacchetta - Freelance Writer/Sales Trainer

Sally Bacchetta is an award-winning sales trainer and freelance writer. She has published articles on a variety of topics, including selling skills, motivation, and pharmaceutical sales.

You can contact her at [email protected] and read her latest articles on her website.

In The News:

Lawson Products' Q4 Sales Up 2.7% | 2020-02-27  Modern Distribution Management
Lexmark Cloud Print Management Gives Partners Insights, Sales Tool  CRN: Technology news for channel partners and solution providers
Veritiv Sales Down 11.9% in 2019 | 2020-02-27  Modern Distribution Management
BMAT - UK Sales Manager (UK)  Music Business Worldwide
25 Sales Hacks Backed by Experts  Business 2 Community
On C-Level Buying  Business 2 Community
Sales and Marketing Management  Business 2 Community

How Do I Manage Workplace Conflict?

Workplace ConflictConflict is an inevitable part of business life and... Read More

The Achilles Heel of Management Coaching

While heading home at day's end, you begin reflecting on... Read More

The Differences Between A Commercial Collections Agency & Lawyer

If your letter writing and phone calls have all failed... Read More

Sales & Marketing Plan Strategies

Design and Implementation of a new Sales & Marketing campaign... Read More

Run a Productive Business From Your Car-Office

The way we do business has changed dramatically over the... Read More

Ten Awesome Ways To Incease Your Sales In Holidays

Everybody thinks that the businesses will slow down a bit... Read More

6 Steps to Avoid Losing Summer Sales

It's a fact - the online world dies down in... Read More

The Product or the Sale

This is a quandary not unlike the chicken or the... Read More

How to Sell Strategically

If you want to maximize your sales performance, take a... Read More

How To Become A Better Sales Manager

YIPPEE! Kendra won, or should I say, "She was hired,"... Read More

Pointless Targets

I recall a heated discussion with a sales director some... Read More

How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Sales Performance -- Part 1

Business executives and sales managers frequently bemoan "80/20" performance on... Read More

Effective Sales Territory Management

How you prioritize your sales territory management activities depends upon... Read More

14 Top Lead Generation Tactics

According to former Harvard Business School professor David Maister, typical... Read More

It?s Time For A Sales Management Revolution

Are you dog tired because of the way you manage... Read More

Do You Really Want Local County Contracts?

If you really want to secure government contacts at the... Read More

We Will Make It Back----- A Fictional Story Based on Fact About Sales Management Success

Bill Borders stepped up onto the podium. He had just... Read More

Are Your Business Proposals Losing You Sales? 10 Steps to Get the ?Yes? You Deserve

Your ability to write an effective and persuasive business proposal... Read More

Is Your Sales Trust Factor High Enough to Win Against the Competition?

How high is your sales trust factor?Is it higher than... Read More

Increasing Sales by Using Coupons - Will it Help Your Business?

Increasing Sales by using Coupons. Will it help your business?... Read More

Your Extended Shadow And Successful Sales Management

In a small midwestern town, the local high school of... Read More

Energize Your Organization

No matter what you do, it seems, your employees do... Read More

How Exhibitors Can Move More Attendees Closer to Buying

Q. What's the single, biggest change exhibitors can make to... Read More

8 Line Items of a Trade Show Budget

Budget Guidelines for Trade Show MarketingB'techa didn't know - Trade... Read More


As a group of sales trainees took a break from... Read More