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Success and the ability to change


From premier league giants like Chelsea to England’s ashes-winning cricketers, what's the winning formula? Bryan McCrae analyses the psychology of success.

They all have coaches working with them in the background. These are top athletes who want to remain at the top of their game. So in business, how can you expect to be at the top of your game without a bit of coaching now and then? 

At the most basic level, all coaching is about unlocking a person’s potential to learn and ability to change. Potential is often limited by fear of failure, lack of confidence and lack of self-belief. In football this might be the fear that you’ll miss that crucial penalty, and in sales it might be the fear that if you ask for the order you’ll be told ‘no thanks’, or it might even be the fear of making any cold-calls at all.

In every form of coaching the purpose is to build self-belief, perhaps to overcome the fear of failure or perhaps to help grow the belief that performance can always be higher. In football, you don’t stop coaching your best players just when they become most successful.

Obstacles to success

The issue with traditional coaching is that it gets in the way of the day job. Luckily, recent coaching methods have changed so that it can be delivered in a variety of ways such as hour-long face-to-face sessions over several weeks, or smaller sessions - perhaps delivered online. External professional coaches might be involved (which is great if the budget allows for it), or sometimes sales managers will coach, which is great if they have the skills and can make the time to do it and sometimes, armed with the right tools, the players can coach themselves.   

However it is done, it is based on two key principles. The first is awareness – knowing what is possible and knowing what is happening around you. In football this might be knowing that there are only three minutes left to full time and also spotting a likely break in your opponents defence. In sales this might be realising that your cold calls get through to more people before 9.30am than at any other times of day and planning your day around that discovery.

The second principle is responsibility, taking ownership of what you do, rather than leaving others to do it for you. In football this might be taking the initiative to force that break in the defence line-up, while in sales it might be persuading your manager to move the daily sales meeting to 9.30 rather than 9.00 for a week so that you can see if the cold calling success rate goes up.

The Holy Grail

Motivation, that Holy Grail of high performance, depends on providing people with a way of meeting their own individual needs. Once basic things like food, shelter and looking after the family are taken care of, the emphasis shifts to higher level needs, such as recognition, status, enjoyment, meaning and purpose.

So how can we boost motivation and performance through coaching without impacting selling time (on the road or on the phone) or blowing the training budget?

Economic sense

This is where technology marches to the rescue. In the same way that digital match systems, with player tracking and technical analysis help players to better understand what is happening in a match and fine-tune tactics as a result, advanced multimedia sales learning systems provide a way to capture what happens in the most challenging sales situations, then offering a wider range of options to overcome them.

This latest technology saves time, money and provides a consistent approach to learning, whether used stand-alone or alongside more traditional methods. It works for both the top performers and for the rest of the team. It is easily carried out on a day-to-day basis, in bite-sized chunks. It can be used in and around normal selling activities, which is why it is a great, cost-effective way to learn new, more helpful, selling habits that quickly lead to greater sales success.

Bryan McCrae is a sales psychologist, sales coach and the founder of Sales-Motivations. He is a fellow of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management, a founding fellow of the Sales Leadership Alliance, a member of the British Psychological Society. For a free trial of this approach to sales coaching visit or for more information visit

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