Five Sports Myths of Successful Business Development Teams

What does it take to build a successful business development team?  There are a lot of right and wrong answers.  Since it’s a team you’re building, a good way to look at it is through a sports lens.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve not found a business situation yet where a sports analogy isn’t apt.

  1. Anybody can play this game

If you want to staff up a winning sports team, you wouldn’t just hire anybody off the street, would you?  You want talent.  Overall talent and specific talent.  How do you identify talent?  In sports, they use statistics and tryouts.  But too many businesses hire people who are available (why are they available?) and who they know.  A better way to staff up your BD team is to identify talent not only with strong resumes and solid interviews but also with personality assessments.  Not everyone has overall aptitude for sales and for specific sales jobs (outside sales, inside sales, account management, etc.).

  1. If you can play well, you can manage well

What do most companies do when they want to reward rain-making business developers?  They usually they promote them to managers and vice presidents. Have you experienced that the talents that gave those natural salespeople great results are not necessarily the talents that produce the best business leaders?  BD stars have a natural aptitude for sales.  They often have little empathy for the rest of us and make indifferent mentors and coaches. It reminds me of that golf lesson when the pro said, “Just swing like this!”

  1. Individual efforts are more important than fundamental skills

In business as in sports, the harder you try the worse it can get.  The wins don’t always go to the teams that work the hardest.  They go to the teams that master fundamental skills and play as one.  When was the last time your business development team was trained?  Even pro baseball players go to spring training every year.  In sales training, the new players learn how to play the game and the experienced players relearn what works and share their experiences with others.  Business development should be a team sport.

  1. Goal setting is more important than process improvement

It’s essential that business leaders task their business development teams with goals for the quarter and the year.  If you don’t have goals you can’t focus on winning.  But sometimes too much attention is paid to the goals and not enough paid to the processes needed to achieve them.  Want to be number one in your business sector?  Great!  But before you commit your team to it, make sure it’s an achievable goal and then prepare, prepare and prepare.  Assemble your talent, train them, build them into a team and give them the right plays to make.

  1. Players are only motivated by the money

And there’s one more very important thing. You need to motivate your team. It’s not just about the money, though financial incentives are important in keeping your players from becoming free agents.  Those of us who’ve had the good fortune to play on winning business development teams loved the challenge of competition and the thrill of winning.  When a team comes together with the right talent, the right management, the right preparation, and the right strategy – all directed by inspiring leadership – it’s a joy to be part of.

Now, bust those myths and go out there and win something!

David Potts is the author of Etiquette for Engineers and Customer Relations and Sales from A to Z, bothavailable through Amazon.  His blogs can be found at

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