Sales Consulting

What We Can Learn About Sales from Nick Saban

Sales is a lot like football. On any given day, a well-executed game plan can let a sales rep  sell just about anything.  Just like on any given day any team can beat any other team.  

If you know college football, you know the Alabama’s legendary Coach Nick Saban. Year after year, Coach Saban builds an outstanding team of high performers. Graduating from Alabama, I saw this in action. 

How does he do it? He focuses on recruiting the best players, and enabling them to perform at the highest level.

There are a few things Coach Saban speaks about often


The best teams are committed. Committed to the program, team and methodology. As coaches, you have to get players who want to be committed. Those players who have the right attitude to commit.  Alabama has a deep group of talented running backs. The best 5-star recruits won’t play for 2 years. They can easily go to another university and play immediately. But Saban shows the recruits how sitting 2 years before having a shot to crack the lineup will benefit them. In the long run, patience will make them better players. As a sales enabler, you need to find teammates who want to be committed.  Coach your team to follow the steps laid out for them so that they can later perform to the best of their ability.


Goals are for everyone. They are the reason Alabama is so successful. You may think your goal is an undefeated season, or have all your reps double their sales. But is that really what you should focus on? Goals need to be small, like making it through a game without missing a tackle. Or in sales, meet a new prospect every week. Because Saban sets small, tactical goals, his team wins. Meeting and achieving the small goals adds up to a big win.


There’s a process when it comes to both football and sales. Chances are, even your best players aren’t going to walk into the first meeting and perform well. There’s a lot that goes into developing them. Coach Saban has to be patient in developing his team. He focuses on his process and has full faith it will produce winners. Developing and executing your process will enable your reps to consistently exceed their goals. And you exceeding yours.


Strong performers prepare as much as they can before taking their stage. Athletes and coaches spend dozens of hours each week practicing, watching film, and studying plays. Similarly, sales reps spend time learning best practices, studying their customer, the company, and planning out the conversation. As a sales enabler, you need to give your rep everything they need in order to prepare. That could be a training session where they learn a new product, or a playbook detailing how they should start a presentation.  Without good preparation, the rep is just waiting to fumble or be tackled.

Mental Toughness

Staying mentally strong is important. Coach Nick Saban is constantly talking about how he wants his players to have “mental toughness.” This is exactly what you should have as a sales rep. Players who are mentally strong are able to cope with high pressure situations, stress, and even failure. Sales is a ‘full contact’ sport. On the front line, reps are likely facing rejection daily, even if they’re the best of the best. Reps can’t let every hit break down their pride and drive. Sales enablers need to coach the reps to get right back on the field and be ready for the next play. 


Always remember to be resilient. Losing can be hard in both sales and football. Coach Saban teaches his players that sometimes it’s about the process, not the achievement. He believes that every loss should be a lesson to learn.

Coach Saban has spent his career developing student athletes into the best of the best.  He has a process, communicates expectations and prepares his team.  It creates an atmosphere for success.  Do you create a place where your sales reps can be successful?  If you need some help, let us know here.  We have helped thousands of sales enablers.  Maybe we can help you? 

About The Author

Author photo Elaina focuses on enabling sales teams through analyzing best practices. Her consulting work has touched a variety of industries in healthcare, technology, financial services, media, and professional services.

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