Pete Carroll knows a thing or two about winning and success. The 62-year old head coach of the Seattle Seahawks just led his team of castoffs and unheralded players to an NFL championship, dominating the favored Denver Broncos in one of the most lopsided championship games in history. Along the way, he received praise for not only his X’s-and-O’s tactics on the field, but also the far-reaching positive effects he has had on all levels of the Seattle organization. In fact, in an anonymous survey of NFL players, Carroll received the most votes (23%) for the question, “Which NFL coach would you most like to play for?” Those are approval ratings any manager would be envious of.

What does any of this have to do with sales management? As it turns out, a lot! Drawing from his players quotes about him, as well as his own, it turns out that we can learn many sales management lessons and secrets from a Super Bowl-winning coach after all.

1. Put players in a position to succeed

Guys have different makeups, different ways about them that make them unique contributors to their team, so you just have to figure it out. This is the result of a journey to figure out how you can create an environment where people can find their best, stay at their best, foster their best for the people around them so that everybody can join in.

- Pete Carroll

Two of the best players on the Seattle defense – strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman – came into the league as unheralded players, both drafted in the fifth round. Star quarterback Russell Wilson has endured criticism his entire career, claiming that he was too short and small to play quarterback. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who caught a pivotal touchdown in the Super Bowl, wasn’t drafted at all.

The moral of the story? Players, even less heralded ones, can succeed if you put them in position to. Diamonds in the rough can be unearthed if you’re looking in the right places.

Sales VPs should take note. Just because a rep appears to be struggling doesn’t mean this rep is just bad at his or her job and should be summarily dismissed. What if the rep is particularly effective at closing large accounts and handling difficult negotiations? What if the rep currently working on those accounts is better suited to be a prospecting rep or an account manager? Look for strengths among your reps, instead of just focusing on their weaknesses.

2. Never lose sight of your vision

It starts with an overall philosophy of how the game works. Philosophically, we have a really sound mentality and we build from that. We have been doing it for years. If you don’t have a really clear vision of what you are creating, then one year it is going to be this and one year it is going to be that.

- Pete Carroll

Carroll always knew what type of team he wanted to build – one that was stout on both the offensive and defensive lines, stingy in the secondary and that ran a deliberate offense predicated on protecting the ball. This vision dictated the way the Seahawks roster was constructed, as well as the way he coached them.

As a Sales VP or CEO, it is critical to have a clear vision of how your team and company should operate. Are you primarily focused on an inside sales model that stresses efficiency, and emphasizes the right sales metrics to do so? Are you more interested in cold calling and face-to-face sales? Whatever your vision is, be steadfast in your belief and transparent in your communication of this vision to the rest of your team.

3. Don’t forget the power of positivity

He finds the positives when we lose, in addition to the things we can improve on. I’ve never been on a team where the coaching staff was so positive. There isn’t a lot of yelling and cursing at players. It’s about conversations, not aggression.

- Richard Sherman

He’s like, legitimately, always positive. It’s kind of weird.

- Doug Baldwin

Pete Carroll didn’t win every game he ever coached. Yet, the image the media and fans have of Carroll is one of a 62-year-old with the sideline exuberance and demeanor of an overjoyed 20-year-old. Carroll is always positive, and as evident by what his players have said, this positivity can have a calming, yet uplifting effect.

Your sales team isn’t going to win every deal. It’s not going to hit its number every month or every quarter. Maintaining your positivity and leading the ship calmly can help lift your team’s spirits and performance. If your sales reps see an exceptionally stressed leader who makes panic decisions at the first sign of trouble, they’ll operate in a similarly haphazard way. If they see a leader who embraces the positive side of things? They’ll believe you when you say that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

4. Trust in the process

There’s a whole mentality that goes into how you get there, that once you get there, you continue. It…[takes] great discipline and it does take the proper work ethic and mentality so that you can stay in connection with that which got you there. You have to know how you got there so that you can repeat it and retool.

- Pete Carroll

Carroll gave that answer when asked about his team’s chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions again next season. His answer stressed the importance of process, knowing what it takes to win and having the discipline to keep putting in the work and doing the little things necessary to get there.

Successful, scalable sales growth is all about having a repeatable sales process that works. By having a process that has brought you substantial closed-won deals in the past, you can improve the efficiency of your reps, develop stronger skills through repetition and ultimately be a better sales manager. If you don’t have a sales process in place, you’re doing it all wrong.

5. Embrace the power of social media

Pete Carroll is one of the very few NFL coaches with a personal Twitter account. Could you imagine Bill Belichick tweeting? Maintaining this social media presence allows Carroll to not only interact with fans – as seen above – but also to relate to his players, many of whom are active Twitter users.

Sales leaders should should social media in a different way – to actually sell! You know how effective social selling can be, so set the right example for your sales reps and teach them the right ways to use social media for their sales efforts.

6. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box

  • Wrist devices that help the team track sleep patterns, ensuring players get proper REM sleep

  • An on-site chef and nutritionist that emphasizes organic fruits and vegetables and the right portion sizes

  • A life skills consultant and addiction counselor to help players through a myriad off-field distractions

  • A high-performance sports psychologist on the sidelines during games and practices to talk to players

These are just a handful of the outside-the-box innovations that Carroll has introduced to the team during his tenure in Seattle. None of them are typically found in other NFL franchises. Even if an idea might seem out of left field, Carroll is willing to try it out, provided it has the potential to help his team. It’s all about the little things.

Sales managers should take a page out of his book. Simply “selling the way you’ve always been selling” is no guarantee of success. Sometimes, you have to think outside the box and consider new approaches. One of these outside-the-box sales innovations is simply subscribing to the right sales metrics, and making these metrics available to your entire sales team.

7. Look for competitiveness as a key virtue

The challenge for us is that competitiveness that we are trying to find in the guys, that chip on the shoulder, that mentality that they have that will take them beyond where normal people go.

- Pete Carroll

If you’ve seen Richard Sherman’s epic post-game interview after the NFC Championship Game, you might have sensed that the Seahawks are a passionate, competitive bunch that plays with a chip on their collective shoulders. This is not a coincidence. Carroll has specifically talked about looking for players with a certain makeup and mentality, those that are only satisfied with being the best and playing their hearts out.

There are many attributes that sales managers should look for when hiring reps – not least of all, coachability – and competitiveness should not be ignored. Just because sales reps are naturally competitive, doesn’t mean that they are all willing to go the extra mile. Look for the rep with the chip on his shoulder who will run through a brick wall for you and your company.

8. Have fun!

He’s an incredible coach. He makes you want to play hard for him because he knows how to balance letting us have fun with getting us to practice hard and play hard.

- Michael Bennett

I don’t ever want them to lose sight of how much fun the game is. If you always pay attention to the fun, I think it adds to the overall experience.

- Pete Carroll

Finally, just have fun! Pete Carroll, in one of the most high-stress and totally-immersive jobs there is, appears to always be having fun. He plays music at practices and dances with his team. He shares inside jokes on the sideline, during high-pressure game situations, and lifts the confidence of his team. He revels in the team’s success with its fans.

You should be doing the same. Just because sales is a tough business, and your company so focused on growth, that there isn’t room to have a little fun every now and then.


There you have it, 8 incredibly relevant lessons in sales management and sales leadership from Pete Carroll, a Super Bowl-winning coach. If these management tips worked for him and his team, why shouldn’t they work for you and yours?

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