Scoring Sales Goals Like Messi: The Art of Winning in Sales

Sell like Messi 

Taking some enterprise sales lessons from a soccer superstar!

I was recently watching Lionel Messi, widely considered to be the world’s best soccer player, and noticed something really fascinating… 

He’s lazy. 

Ok, I don’t really mean lazy. (I should say “efficient”). He has clearly put thousands of hours into practice, and the $50M – $60M annual price tag at his new football team Inter Miami CF confirms his sublime capabilities. 

 But during the game, he stands around. A lot. 

Most of the time, when every other player is running around the field trying to get into position, he’s walking, or standing still. Watching the field. 

 And then, suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, he scores. 

If you don’t believe me, check out the video to the right.



There’s an interesting lesson here for those managing enterprise and complex B2B sales teams. (Bear with me here…) 

Having trained thousands of enterprise salespeople over the years, the best ones always seemed a little lazy. They weren’t slogging it out. They very rarely had the most activity (logged calls) on their boss’s CRM dashboards. But they knew how to turn it on when it really mattered, and they managed to get to President’s Club most years without seeming to break a sweat.  

Here’s a few things that great, lazy salespeople tend to do that their hard-working mid-performing peers don’t: 

  • They look to solve client problems, not to pitch product. It’s easy to commoditize a product, it’s much harder to commoditize a solution to a serious customer pain point. Sadly, nobody really cares about your product, only what it can do to improve their condition. 
  • They engage the C-Suite earlier. Great AEs look for short-cuts. And some of the biggest short-cuts in enterprise sales, with their long sales cycles and multiple decision-makers, come from engaging the senior decision makers earlier in the sale. A CIO, CFO or SVP of Sales is much more likely to have a big problem and both the will and the means to fix it, than someone one or two levels down the org chart. Your mid-pack salespeople will feel less confident in the C-Suite and will tend to have more meetings with less senior people. That’s a bit like running around the soccer field – it might keep you fit but doesn’t necessarily advance the ball.  
  • They make the big meetings count. Complex sales are not linear. Every big meeting in the sale is an opportunity to lose the deal. The best AEs have fewer meetings, but they plan them with intent and hence get much more out of them. Good pre-call planning with a specific meeting goal (“Advance”), and a simple game plan to execute it, can make a dramatic difference to productivity. 


There are a few simple steps that sales leaders running complex sales teams can implement quickly to create more Messi’s: 

  • Focus on quality, not quantity. Drop “activity performance metrics” such as number of calls logged in Salesforce. These KPIs can be quite useful for high-velocity simple sales cycles (for inside sales or SDRs) but really aren’t very useful for complex sales.  
  • Deploy a good, robust non-product focused pre-call planning process for the big meetings. This is one of the single best ways to get your mid-pack enterprise salespeople to perform closer to what the superstars can do.  
  • Teach your front-line managers to coach the person, not just the deal. Pre-call plans are a brilliant tool for managers to use pre-meeting and in a debrief, allowing them to spot sales rep competency and skills gaps early. If you use salesforce as your CRM, here’s a turn-key call planning and coaching solution that plugs in out-of-the-box. 
  • Build simple mechanisms for osmosis amongst the team. The best sales teams are learning organizations. Reviewing a pre-call plan after a meeting that went badly can be amongst the most powerful coaching activities in your toolkit. Share wins and losses, and explore why you won (or lost) so you can replicate success and address gaps for next time. 

If you’ve got some Messi’s on your team, enjoy it and look after them, obviously. But getting your mid-performers up a notch can also make a massive difference to your overall sales productivity, and give you more shots on goal. 

Good selling! 

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