Kick off to the Final Whistle: Training Your Sales Team to be Winners


With the 2024 UEFA Euro football championships about to get underway, it got the team here at Firestarter thinking about the parallels between preparing a sports team for a major tournament and training your sales team to be winners.

Both require strategic planning, continuous training and a huge focus on teamwork and individual skills. Just as the England and Scotland management teams will be preparing their squads for victory with game plans and training sessions that help them adapt to different opponents and game situations, sales managers must develop bespoke training programmes that inspire and motivate their teams to become winners.

Throughout this ‘Euros special’ Firestarter blog, we’ll cover key topics such as discovery training, negotiation tactics, value selling and the power of tailoring your training so that it’s specific to each team member’s strengths.

Why Sales Training is Important for Your Team

Sales training is important because it provides sales teams with the comprehensive knowledge and skills they need to effectively engage with clients. This includes responding confidently to enquiries, conducting meaningful sales conversations, and asking exploratory questions to understand client needs.

Just like top performing athletes who need to be quick on their feet and adapt to the flow of the game, salespeople must be agile in their approach, ready to adjust based on client interactions. Salespeople must know the ins and outs of their product/solution to really be able to “sell it”, developing a deep understanding of their client’s painpoints and how they can provide a solution to ensure each conversation results in a successful outcome.

Discovery Drills: Sales Discovery Training

Let’s begin with the scariest first step for all new salespeople – the dreaded sales discovery call. Fear is often the root cause of inaction and hesitation and it’s something all salespeople will experience during their careers. When deciding whether to call up a prospect now or later, it’s the fear of being rejected or failure to impress the prospect which often causes hesitance.

The most logical step for overcoming fear in the sales discovery process is to make sure that your team are fully prepared for each call, and able to anticipate potential topics and issues that they will need to address. Why not put your sales team through a series of drills that help test their skills and preparation habits when it comes to the sales discovery process? The first drill is to put them through a series of question and answer-based exercises such as:

  • What are your primary goals you’d like to achieve on the call with this prospect?
  • Does this prospect fit the persona type of our ideal client?
  • What are the most likely painpoints that this prospect is facing?
  • Do our products/services address these painpoints?
  • Is the prospect fully aware of our offerings or do you need to explain our business further on the call?
  • Do you have everything in your sales toolkit to really smash the discovery call?
  • What are the next steps and how are you going to confirm them?

Secondly, practice with role play and real-life scenario-based situations; just like football teams put their skills into practice with small, focused matches, sales teams can do the same by running through a hypothetical sales discovery call with another team member. We find that having someone who can act as an observer to help control the pace of the discovery call training really helps with the participants getting the most out of the experience.

Our final point on sales discovery training is to regularly refresh your skills. A more experienced senior salesperson may still require refresher training just as much as a junior salesperson – it’s all about continual improvement at every level. Ongoing training may be required to adapt to market changes, incorporate new technologies into the sales process, learn from your peers and address the ever-changing customer expectations and buyer behaviour.

Ignite your sales team with our bespoke sales training

Bespoke sales training for SME & large corporate teams looking to give your team essential sales, marketing and leadership skills, bespoke to your business. Our tailored training programmes drive growth and ignite sales excellence within your organisation.

Negotiation Tactics: Sales Training for the Winning Edge

Many athletes spend countless hours practicing, studying their opponents, and refining their techniques to gain a competitive edge. Similarly, sales professionals must prepare in the same vein, by studying their opponent (the buyer) and learning to control each interaction. By doing this, salespeople can ensure that they get the best outcome from their sales negotiations, whether this is for  a long-term contract, more quantitative sales, a larger order value or simply negotiating an agreement.

In this section, we’ll delve into some sales negotiation training tactics that can give your team the winning edge; by understanding and applying these techniques, your team will be better prepared to tackle negotiations with confidence and precision.


The most successful negotiations often begin long before the actual point of sale. Thorough preparation involves researching the client’s business, industry, and potential obstacles that could stand in the way of any deal progressing. Salespeople who enter negotiations armed with comprehensive data and a clear understanding of both parties’ goals are better equipped to address concerns effectively and propose tailored solutions. For example, understanding a client’s pain points allows you to craft responses that directly address their needs, positioning your offer as the ideal solution.

Staying calm

It is common for a salesperson to feel like they are losing control of a situation, especially when negotiating a sale. This can be compared to a footballer facing the pressure of taking a penalty in a major tournament (we won’t go into England’s penalty shootout record).

But the key to maintaining control is to always understand what you are expecting to achieve at each stage in the sales process, and anticipating the likely challenges that you will face. Think like you’re about to take the winning kick during a challenging negotiation, take a moment to pause, gather your thoughts and block out any distractions before responding to difficult questions or demands, this will ensure you maintain control and ensure that your responses are measured and strategic.

Building trust

Establishing credibility is fundamental to building strong, long-term relationships with prospects. By displaying your expertise, following through on commitments, and demonstrating consistency throughout the negotiation process, you are showing to your prospect that you can be trusted, therefore increasing your chances of a sale. This trust not only helps in the current negotiation but also lays the foundation for future business opportunities.

Knowing when to walk away

Finally, something that is difficult for all salespeople is knowing when to walk away from a deal. Sales professionals must recognise when a deal doesn’t meet the minimum acceptable terms and have the confidence to exit the negotiation. This could be due to several factors such as:

  • Client is insisting on a price below the minimum you can accept.
  • The client may request actions that don’t align with your ethical standards or company policies
  • The client insists on timelines that are impossible to meet without sacrificing quality or overextending your team.

While walking away from a deal which once looked promising is never a pleasant experience, it is far better than falling into the trap of committing to something unprofitable, or which you cannot or should not deliver.

Understanding Value Selling

What is value selling?

Value selling is a sales approach that focuses on understanding and promoting the unique value that a product or service brings to the customer, which in turn directly relates to solving particular painpoints and personal motivators towards identifying a solution. Instead of simply highlighting features or benefits, value selling emphasises how the offering can solve specific problems and deliver significant benefits to the customer, enhancing their overall experience and satisfaction.

In today’s market, buyers are more informed than ever due to advancements in technology meaning they have higher expectations. Buyers are not only seeking products or solutions, but meaningful value that aligns with their specific needs and goals. This shift requires sales teams to adopt value-based selling strategies, moving beyond traditional methods like feature selling or solution-based selling.

Value-based selling revolves around the principle of putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and really understanding their personal motivators (painpoints) for seeking a solution. You, as the seller, then need to demonstrate the tangible benefits a customer will receive in relation to the problems they’ve identified, thus highlighting the value that you can provide. This approach contrasts with other selling methods in several key ways:

Feature selling

Feature selling is a method that focuses on the features of a product or service rather than the problems it helps to solve. While it highlights what the product/service can do, it often fails to connect those features to the customer’s specific needs. For example, stating that a football boot has advanced grip technology doesn’t convey the full value unless it’s explained how this technology can improve a player’s performance on a slippery pitch during a match.

In a sales conversation when trying to demonstrate value to your client, highlighting the features is often not enough, that’s why an approach that combines features and the values that those features provide is beneficial to your selling strategy.

Solution-based selling

This approach goes a step further than by addressing specific problems the product can solve. However, solution-based selling still can fall short if the salesperson hasn’t had training on ways to clearly articulate the broader value and impact of the solution.

For example, presenting a basketball player with a drill such as shuttle run tests that are designed to improve an athlete’s power, agility and endurance may only see the benefits when linked to individual performance within games, specifically dummying opponents or outrunning them on the court. The same goes for salespeople; by not training your team to recognise how solution-based selling links to value selling, you’re essentially selling yourselves short in sales conversations.

Value-based selling

This approach integrates both feature and solution-based selling but places them within the context of the customer’s needs and requirements (ie: their painpoints). It answers not just the “what” and “how,” but also the “why” to understand the REAL problem that they are trying to solve.This allows you to position your offerings from a unique value standpoint that your potential customers won’t be able to find anywhere else. With customers being more discerning and expecting sales interactions to be personalised and relevant to their specific needs, training your team on value-based selling becomes a crucial strategy for sales success.

Ignite your sales team with our bespoke sales training

Bespoke sales training for SME & large corporate teams looking to give your team essential sales, marketing and leadership skills, bespoke to your business. Our tailored training programmes drive growth and ignite sales excellence within your organisation.

Coaching Sessions: The Impact of Sales Mentoring and Coaching

Training your sales team is an essential first step in making them winners, but to truly elevate your team’s performance, sales mentoring and coaching can play a critical role. This approach is akin to Sir Dave Brailsford’s marginal gains theory, which focuses on making small, continuous improvements across various aspects of performance. By applying this theory, sales mentors and coaches can help each team member achieve small incremental percentage improvements in their skills and techniques over a period of time. These incremental gains, when aggregated, lead to significant overall performance enhancements, much like Brailsford’s strategy transformed British Cycling into a world-class team.

With  sales mentoring and coaching, you can provide your team members with personalised feedback and targeted advice, helping them to sharpen their abilities and stay ahead of the competition. This approach not only helps in closing deals but also builds a foundation for long-term success.


In the spirit of Pelé’s wisdom, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Both share a common journey to success: preparation, practice, and continuous improvement. Both require strategic planning, rigorous training, and a focus on individual and collective strengths.

Drawing parallels between the two, just like a sports team prepares for a tournament with team talks, warm-ups and analysis, a sales team must engage in discovery drills, negotiation tactics, and value-based selling strategies.

Remember, it’s not just about putting the ball in the net, effective sales training should concentrate on sharpening up skills at every stage in the sales process – from Kick Off to the final whistle. This approach ensures that each team member is equipped to handle various challenges and deliver successful results, much like athletes adapting to different game situations.

In conclusion, the path to sales success mirrors the dedication and hard work seen in sports, as Bo Jackson famously said, “set your goals high and don’t stop till you get there”.

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