The US Women’s National Soccer team recently became just the second to win two World Cups and the first to perform the feat back to back. They accomplished this success despite FiveThirtyEight’s statistical model originally projecting the American side as second best to host France and repeated as World Cup Champions just two years after a disappointing quarterfinal 2016 Olympics loss to Sweden on penalties. In their historic victory, the team offers valuable lessons for sales professionals.
- When you’re elite, don’t rest on your laurels. Your competition is getting better.
Much of the post-Cup narrative has been about how the gap between American women’s soccer and the rest of the world is closing – particularly Europe, with the continent having 7 of the 8 quarterfinalists. And although the US won, it had several close matches in the knockout stages that could have gone the other way (particularly England and France).
So it will be too in sales. If your sales organization or you as an individual sales rep is A level and one of the best, don’t get complacent. There are other top tier sales entities in your industry and well-coached B-level reps with high work ethic are always on the verge of breaking into the A tier to become your new competition.
- Rough patches will happen. What matters is how you respond to them.
In 2016, the team was stunningly upset by Sweden in the Olympics quarterfinals and followed that up with an 0-3 shutout loss to France in the 2017 SheBelieves Cup – one of two home defeats in that tournament. The nadir arguably came in July 2017 with an 0-1 loss to Australia in the Tournament of Nations, whereupon a sizable contingent of players went to the US Soccer federation to express deep concerns about a lack of communication from the head coach and poor on-field performances.
The federation backed coach Jill Ellis. A change in formation to a 4-3-3 and greater creative freedom given to star players paired with unprecedented team depth restored American dominance that led to this World Cup win.
Sales leadership can draw several lessons here: back your proven direct reports in slumping times and give them the security they need to figure it out. And when your sales force is telling you need to change things, listen and look at what can be done to improve problem areas.
- Put people in the right roles to succeed.
Ellis remarked that one of the keys to the team’s success was adjusting to her player’s strengths. Specifically, “You build the system around them… get to this point with players in their right spots.”
In other words, have your employees in the right roles that they can excel in and your sales organization will correspondingly thrive.
The staggering on and off pitch successes of the 2019 Women’s World Cup made it one of the most delightful sporting events to follow this year. And in the case of the US team in particular, there’s several lessons sales professionals can draw from to become better at their own craft, as we’ve seen here.