Should Your Salesperson Be In the Game, On the Bench, or Off the Team?

Basketball bench

In March, in Indiana and around the country, college basketball fans go a little mad as the NCAA basketball tournament takes center stage – or should I say center court! As we watch and root for our favorite teams (Go Dawgs!), I’ve been thinking about how this relates to sales organizations, sales departments, and sales teams. There are many parallels between basketball and sales; chief among them is the expectation of championship caliber performance for the good of the team.

So, how is a salesperson like an athlete? How can you determine whether they get to be a starting player or a benchwarmer? And what if they just aren’t making the grade – how can you tell when it’s time to cut them from the team? It might not be as difficult as you think. Read on to learn how to make the right call:

Game Time Performance

Nothing is a better indicator of your salesperson’s effectiveness than results. Forget talk. Forget excuses. Focus instead on results. For a player on the court, there are key performance metrics like points, rebounds, blocked shots, assists, and so on. Same thing for salespeople. Ask yourself: “Are our salespeople:

  • hitting their sales goals?”
  • setting up high-percentage shots when prospecting and increasing their sales pipeline?”
  • asking for assists and seeking one-on-one sales coaching when needed?”
  • quickly learning from and applying sales coaching in game situations?”
  • ready to play when the clock starts?”
  • eager to assist their sales teammates to get that big score?”
  • making in-game adjustments to be better positioned to win sales?”

If you can answer “yes” to all or most of these questions, you’ve probably got clutch performers who deserve to be on your sales team and in the game dealing with key prospects. If not, you’ve got more analysis and/or coaching ahead, and decisions to make.


Commitment is a baseline for acceptable performance. The more desirable trait in a salesperson is a higher level of commitment; let’s call it passion. The best salespeople are passionate not only about their product or service; they are also passionate about truly providing the best solutions for customers. They have a servant mentality and an inherent curiosity that leads to better decision-making and client service.

The committed, passionate salesperson is eager to improve and always reaching higher to better serve the customer. The committed and passionate sales performer works harder to learn new sales skills or learn more about their prospects. The committed and passionate salesperson also shows up early and works later to get a jump on the competition.


The traits above are key indicators of sales performance abilities, but they might mean little if your salespeople have bad attitudes that can easily be detected by prospects, current customers or competitors. On the other hand, if you’ve got top on-court performers with great attitudes, you’ve got real leadership potential on your sales team. To assess key attitude attributes, ask yourself: “Are our salespeople:

  • quick to shift the blame for failed sales efforts to other team members, to outdated sales collateral or marketplace conditions?”
  • easily discouraged when the going gets tough?”
  • complaining early and often?”
  • acting with an air of entitlement based on past accomplishments or inflated egos?”

If you answered “yes” to even one of the questions above, you probably have some serious motivational and correctional coaching to do. Ultimately, you’ll have to ask yourself if the salesperson with a bad attitude is worth the negative impact on your sales team and on how the market sees your company. You might be able to bench a skilled performer until his or her attitude improves, but not for long.

What are some attributes of salespersons with great attitudes? They are optimistic (but not unrealistically so). They are resilient. They inspire others to give more. They find ways to overcome obstacles. They have a servant mentality. And they simply execute instead of making excuses.

Bottom Line:

Sales and basketball have a lot in common. But sales success demands more than game time performance; it also requires extraordinary commitment and a winning attitude. In larger organizations, sales is also a team sport. Some players deserve playing time, others need to be benched, and still others should be cut from the roster. Use the criteria in this article to help make that determination. But if you need help analyzing or maximizing the performance of your sales team, click here to connect with a Sales Xceleration Advisor in your area. Or contact us today at 1.844.874.7253.