It is no accident that Phil Jackson has gone on to become of the NBA's all-time greatest coaches. As a player, he spent 12 seasons with the New York Knicks, the best of which saw him average 11.3 points per game. He elevated his game to an elite level as a head coach, going on to win 11 NBA titles, six with the Chicago Bulls and five with the Los Angeles Lakers. Much of Jackson's success as a coach can also lead to success for sales managers.

Managing Egos

It is no secret that the NBA has its share of egos. A key to winning big in the NBA is managing those egos. Jackson's approach to this is an integral part of coaching. He opted to take a step back and accepted input from his players. That meant asking guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal for their individual input. Even though Jackson stepped back a bit and curbed his ego, he still had final say. That resulted in a more harmonious team dynamic.

Sales managers can take a page right out of Jackson's book. Many times, sales reps have big egos of their own. Having closed out big deals in the past can inflate the ego of even the most humble of sales reps. Keeping that in mind, there is no room for another ego among sales managers. Sales managers need to remember that sales is not an internal competition, but rather a team-oriented process. That will enable the sales manager to put personal recognition aside and really work on helping sales reps learn throughout the entire process.

Running the right offense

Jackson's championship teams thrived at running the triangle offense. But what exactly is the triangle offense? It is an offense designed on the premise of reading and reacting. With every pass that is made, there are several options that exist. It is an offense that also thrives on passing and constant motion.

In the sales game, much success is also contingent upon reading and reacting. Like the triangle offense, there is no exact blueprint for sales success. The reaction of a sales rep sometimes determines how a prospect will respond. Sales managers cannot expect their reps to go through a series of detailed actions when trying to close a sale. Therefore, time must be spent developing options. Coaching hypothetical sales situations and preparing for unasked questions are a couple of good coaching methods managers can employ. 

Making the right connection

Jackson's coaching style may be a bit unorthodox compared to other NBA coaches. He routinely had his players meditate and, according to his book Eleven Rings, Jackson would have them attempt to synchronize their breathing at times. His goal was to improve the connection among his players. 

Unified sales teams with a much stronger sense of togetherness experience more success when it comes to selling. However, not all efforts to unify a team have to be conventional ones. As Jackson proved, some out-of-the-box thinking can go a long way.

Holding an event outside of work is a great way to bring sales team members together. There does not even have to be any sales talk. Simply bringing people together in a social atmosphere can strengthen bonds and help establish better connections. 

Playing games may not be the first thing to come to mind when trying to connect a sales teams. However, creating a fantasy sales team and establishing a point system, much akin to fantasy football, has its benefits. Weekly Yoga, Spin or Zumba classes are also a great way to bring teams together without the pressures of actual work. 

Step out of the comfort zone

Some may believe it was easy for Jackson to win with players like Jordan, Bryant and O'Neil. But only one NBA title was won among those three without Jackson as the head coach. Part of the reason Jackson was able to make great players even better was because he forced them to step out of their comfort zones. To pull players like Jordan out of his comfort zone, Jackson would do things like make his team practice in the dark. His rationale was that it trained them for chaos.

Forcing sales reps to step out of their comfort zones is a valuable tactic managers can also utilize. Every sales rep has a comfort zone, something they enjoy doing and it is usually something they are good at doing. The key to making them better sales reps is to force them to work on the areas they may not do so well.

If a sales rep struggles with calls to a CFO, assign them more CFOs to call until they become comfortable with the task. Don't stress results during those calls, so there is not the added pressure of meeting a quota.

Consistent exercises in areas of weaknesses is one way to create more comfort zones, which are not a bad thing at all. 

Become a 'Zen Master'

Jackson has been nicknamed the 'Zen Master', but there is more to his success than incorporating different parts of the Buddhist philosophy to his coaching. His unique efforts all contributed to achieving a serene state of mind. That is very important in a competitive setting as those who do not get rattled often reach the highest levels of success.

Sales managers can attempt to mirror that peaceful and serene state when it comes time to face adversity. Reacting with the wrong emotion during any part of the sales process can prove disastrous for sales teams. It is also important to emphasize the fact that prospects are turned into clients based off positive emotions. Taking a tactical approach to sales means getting your mind right so that nothing can rattle a carefully prepared sales pitch. 

Training any team to expect the unexpected and preparing them for chaos will bring them closer to a state of zen, which can result in victories both on the court and in the office.


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