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What does football have to do with the science of selling?

It’s possible to over-do the relationship between sport and business and for those of us that have sat through “punch-the-air” motivational talks from sporting achievers of the past, it’s not always clear how the lessons from one translate to the other.

The work of Steve Peters in sports ranging from cycling to snooker and now football is a clear exception and so we at sales-mind welcome the news of his appointment to work on the mental performance of the England football team.

Of course, it’s not just about penalty shoot-outs, as Roy Hodgson was keen to point out. But since England’s exits over a succession of tournaments has been defined by these psychologically stressful moments, it’s worth remembering Dr. Peters’s past work with athletes such as Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy, the latter struggling with almost crippling anxiety ahead of Beijing 2008 – something that is hard to imagine post London 2012.

For all the hackneyed use of sporting metaphors in sales, there really is a parallel here. In sales visits we attend, we frequently see sales people when, out of their comfort zone and under pressure over the result, rushing the call and propelling it to an outcome – often a quick but sub-optimal sale or the agreement to send a proposal. There is now real science behind the benefits of mental preparation, focus and optimised cognitive performance in stressful situations – the world of English football appears finally to have acknowledged this. Long may it continue.

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