What B2B sales teams can learn from UK football Club Huddersfield’s promotion

Amanda Fennell
Amanda Fennell
In Business, Sales management, Sales Motivation, Sales Performance
Amanda Fennell is Senior Director of Marketing & Operations in Xactly EMEA, based out of the London office. She has 20 years marketing experience in IT, including working with some leading cloud organizations. She was the first marketing recruit in salesforce.com EMEA and supported the launch of the company in the region.

Recently, the Huddersfield Town football team beat Reading in a dramatic penalty shootout in the Championship play-off match. As a result, Huddersfield has been promoted to UK football’s top flight, the Premier League, for the first time in over four decades. Where they were once playing on a budget of less than £12million, this win and promotion for the team means that they can expect a windfall of at least £170million – a reward of enormous magnitude for a team that through hard work, determination and the right goals and motivation in mind, worked together to break a 45 year-long cycle.

Huddersfield Town’s cyclical rise to success offers key lessons for businesses looking to optimize their own sales cycle. So, when it’s the new start of the sales season, what lessons can we learn from Huddersfield Town’s impressive turnaround?

Put effort in at the right times

The ability to bounce back and overcome setbacks is key to any success, be it in business or sport. The performance of the Huddersfield team at the end of 2016 showed no indication of the success they would reap at the close of the season. Three defeats in October and a continued slump in November left them in poor form. However, through their sheer determination and teamwork, they turned around their performance going onto win four successive games, putting them back in the promotion race. Drawing a parallel in business, there will be times where not every deal in the sales funnel is struck, leaving a team feeling defeated and downhearted.

However, with the right data, sales leadership can identify key points in their own sales cycle and make tactical management decisions based on an understanding of where the teams’ strengths lie. This might mean putting more effort into identifying the right leads, or supporting sales executives in closing that final deal. Without data, management is done by gut – in the same way that Sunday League football managers use their instinct when coaching, while Premier League managers can rely on reams of data, from Opta statistics, to TV replays and more. Thanks to real-time data on the sales funnel and individual performance, the whole sales team can perform at its best to close those lucrative deals, and ensure they keep going for their goals.

Get the team engaged and onboard

Having great skill and tactics is just the beginning for any team. To nurture it into a great team that works together and strives for success, all members need to be engaged and encouraged. For the Huddersfield manager David Wagener, although notably not the most experienced football coach, what he lacked in knowledge he made up for through passion, desire and ideas, inspiring his team to work as a unit and achieve their goals. With closer relationships and a more optimistic outlook, the players of Huddersfield Town took responsibility and knew what they needed to do, and so were better able to perform and implement the team tactics successfully. This underlines that it’s not enough for managers to devise a great strategy: business leaders must create the right culture and tone to set up success.

Money is motivation

Financial incentives are a powerful tool in the business world, and one that has also been used to great effect in the sports world. In the 2016-2017 season, Huddersfield Town had a budget of £12million to play with, but with their elevation to the Premiership League, they will be rewarded with at least £170million – not a bad return for their efforts!

Real time information on bonuses also gives employees a clear view of the money they stand to gain on each win. By using smart compensation management platforms, leaders can incentivize the weaker parts of the sales cycle by assigning bonuses for sales people that succeed in these areas. Plus, with smart forecasting, businesses can ensure that their bonus plan won’t cut into their profit margin. Organizations who define what success looks like to their teams early on, and then tie financial incentives to that success, will reap the rewards.

So, to achieve your own Premier League promotion, here are some top-line lessons that businesses can take from Huddersfield Town:

  • Use data to identify the parts of the sales cycle that your business needs to prioritize
  • Create the right atmosphere to engage your team to get them on board and achieve the business strategy
  • Boost engagement to boost profitability: Set targets and then incentivize them to drive great performances that will get you the desired results


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What B2B sales teams can learn from UK football Club Huddersfield’s promotion

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