Host country – and pre-tournament favorites to win it all – Brazil was cruising through the opening rounds of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament. They had won their Group and advanced past the Round of 16 and the Quarterfinals to set up a highly anticipated Semifinal matchup against Germany.

With their quarterfinal matchup against Colombia comfortably in hand, things suddenly took a dire turn for Brazil. First, defender and Captain Thiago Silva picked up a yellow card, ensuring that he would be suspended for the next game. Then, tragically, star and national hero Neymar suffered a devastating back injury, ruling him out for several months. Without their two best players, how would Brazil fare through the rest of the tournament?

Not well. The team was humiliated by Germany in a historic 7-1 defeat, before further capitulating 3-0 in the consolation match against Netherlands. How did a star that shone so bright at the beginning of the tournament dim so drastically?

By not understanding and adhering to the principle that you’re only as good as your worst performer.

What Sales Managers can Learn from Brazil

Brazil’s roster construction was not designed to withstand the loss of its two best players. Without Neymar and Silva, weaker players were forced to step into their shoes and try to replicate their strong performances; they could not. Having such a top-heavy approach to building out a team will leave severe deficits in other areas.

Similarly, your sales team should not be so heavily dependent on only one or two of your strongest reps to bring in most of your business. If your Bookings by Employee sales report looks like this, your team is in a very precarious position:

What if Andrea the sales rock star had to take a leave of absence, or go on a lengthy vacation, or – even worse – what if she left your company for another job? Your sales team would be in a tough situation, with a huge void left to fill by inexperienced or simply less talented sales reps.

The lesson here is to have a well-balanced team, with contributors across the board. You want every sales rep to feel that they are capable of taking on more responsibility, working on the most valuable opportunities and to be confident in their own closing abilities.

How do you get all your reps to that level of confidence and performance?

With more sales coaching.

A greater emphasis on sales coaching

One of the biggest sales management mistakes we see is a lack of emphasis and attention paid to practice and coaching. Sales is still largely thought of as a skill that reps are inherently born with; the good ones are good, and the ones who aren’t as good just will never reach the level of their superstar peers.

We disagree with this view. In fact, we believe that any sales rep can improve and get to the point where they can confidently work on and close any opportunity. All it takes is the right data-driven approach to sales coaching, and devoting enough time to it.

Learn More about Data-Driven Sales Coaching»

Most sales managers don’t carve out any regular or consistent time for sales coaching at all in their very busy days. Without that time commitment, your worst-performing sales reps will always stay at that level. Once you have carved out that time in your schedule, the next step is to figure out who needs sales coaching. This means diving into the relevant sales performance metrics and sales funnel analysis to figure out who needs help, and where in the sales process they need help.


Sales Skill ROI Time
Low Low 10%
Medium High 65%
High Medium 25%


Reference this table above for a guide to how much time you should spend on sales coaching, with one caveat: let’s assume that you don’t have any “drastically low-performing” reps – there is little hope of salvaging those. Instead, assume that all but your superstar reps are in the medium skill bucket. Spend a vast majority of your time coaching these reps, but don’t forget about maintaining and sharpening the skills of your superstar. In fact, part of your superstar rep’s sales coaching should be to work with his or her peers; that can be a great asset in reinforcing their own training as well.


Sales managers should never lean solely on their top reps to bring in deals, while ignoring or neglecting the improvements and performances of their other reps. The lessons of Brazil at the 2014 FIFA World Cup warn us of the dangers of relying primarily on our best players. Your team is only as strong as its weakest performers, so make sure those performers get the right sales coaching to step your overall game up.

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