06/25/2014 11:11 am ET Updated Aug 25, 2014

What the 2014 World Cup Teaches About Winning Business

The 2014 FIFA World Cup started off with many shocks and upsets. My son is an avid soccer fan -- so much so that he calls it futbol. We watched the group stage match between USA and Portugal. It was a roller coaster. I naturally started seeing parallels between World Cup soccer and the challenges companies face in growing their businesses.

You can learn several valuable lessons from this one soccer match such as:
  • Starting from behind,
  • Working as a team, and
  • Constantly seeking risks until the deal is done.

Don't Worry If It Starts Rough
Early in the match, an errant clearing attempt led to a quick goal from Portugal. So, minutes into the competition, Portugal was leading 1-0. The USA did not panic. Rather, they assessed their strengths, took stock of their position, and executed their plan.

In business, often I hear salespeople complain that the competitor showed up first. The sales professional might even suggest that since the other people got there first, it is time to go home or divert from the original plan. Instead, evaluate if you are the best fit for the customer. If so, then don't let the competition get you to change your plans. Too many companies worry more about their competitor than they worry about the customer and the goal. Play your game.

A Team Effort
Jermaine Jones played a beautiful shot and leveled the match at 1-1. Shortly later, a team effort led to a 2-1 USA lead with only 10 minutes remaining in the match. Sometimes in business, the CEO or senior executive might have to deliver an extraordinary message, facilitate a meeting, or make a phone call that puts you into the game. In many cases, an individual performance can help make the opportunity possible. Once the door is open, it typically requires a team effort to wrangle a strategic opportunity.

It's Never Over
With time winding down, it seemed inevitable that the USA had come from behind to win the match. There were literally seconds remaining in the match. The players had a look of accomplishment on their faces. Team Portugal had the ball in their own end of the field. The USA forgot one thing, however -- Team Portugal also wanted to win, and was going to do everything in their power to have a chance. Given the environmental conditions, the players were exhausted, and USA was not going to give up an easy opportunity.

Moments later, Cristiano Ronaldo, who many feel is the greatest player in the game, ended up with the ball on his foot. The defense pressured him so that he could not take a shot. Instead, Ronaldo passed a ball to his teammate who finished a diving header into the U.S. net to earn a 2-2 tie.

In business, often teams celebrate prematurely. They are convinced that the customer is in their corner. You've won the deal! Recognize that your competitor might have their own star player who can enter the match in the eleventh hour and shift the tide to their side.

Rules to Delivery Victory
Always know your position. Don't let the competition change your game plan unless there is good reason for doing so.

Consider what types of high-performance players you might have that can capture the attention of your customer and get you back in the game.

Constantly evaluate your position and do what it takes to stand out over the completion.

Once you know you are in the lead, recognize that the competition is working their strategy until the end. So, until you hear the whistle, keep playing 100 percent.

It's Your Turn
Share your roller coaster story of a deal you pursued. The best story wins a copy of Same Side Selling or Upside Down Selling at your choice.