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Podcast 116: Sales Lessons From Coaching The Yankees With Coach Dana Cavalea
sales lessons from coach dana cavalea
By Kelly Driscoll | September 20, 2019

This week it’s an honor to have Coach Dana Cavalea on the podcast. He’s spent years working with the Yankees on their strength and conditioning, working with elite athletes every day. We’re talking about people who win every day. Now, Coach Dana is a keynote speaker and performance coach for leading business-people who want the same elite mindset and behavior to match. We dig into the ways we can all take sales lessons from our sporting heroes and use them in our work as salespeople and business leaders…

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • Building a successful mindset
  • Staying on top of your game
  • Using healthy motivation to win

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Building a successful mindset

John Barrows: So what are some of the standout attributes that you’ve found in elite sports but also translate into business too? I’m thinking that usually the mindset of a winner is a huge driver to success in any field, but hard work is obviously one too that I’ve found. What have you noticed…

Coach Dana: It’s honestly very different than with what many people think. And then I say that because so many people think it’s about being that hustle grinder, 365’er. And I have to say to tell you, I work with a guy that’s now building his fifth billion dollar company. I work with guys that are truly incredible in the world of business. And the one thing I saw that was so similar between the guys in business and the players that were the most elite, they didn’t have that gladiator type mentality. That gladiator was within them, they weren’t beating their chest and talking about 25 hour days and 8 day weeks.

But there wasn’t what I call a lot of false hustle. That stuff doesn’t really stand up in a professional sports team and it shouldn’t in a boardroom. They didn’t give a sh*t if it was 5pm and they had to leave. They were leaving, but they knew that they worked hard on the objectives that they needed to achieve between 9 and 5. I was brought up in sports and I was taught by my coaches that if you’re not the first one there and the last one to leave, you’re basically gonna suck. And I’ve also seen that happen in business cultures. And what I find is, as much as we want to see that effort out of our people in terms of they’re here, they’re working, I think we could all agree that we’d much rather see great results and we’re okay if it’s within less time.

Staying on top of your game

John Barrows: Let’s talk about coaching people out of a slump. There’s always times when the deals just won’t close or you just can’t catch a break. So how do you see people coaching those top performers out of a bad patch? There’s gotta be some sales lessons that reps having a bad week can take out of how athletes out of form turn it around on a big game.

Coach Dana: I start with this. Just because you’re losing doesn’t mean you’re a loser. See, what happens is so many people, they connect themselves personally to the result. And again, it’s good to be passionate about what you’re doing. But listen, we all know when we play the game of sales, there’s going to be deals that we think are guarantees and they’re not. They ended up being a bust. Then there’s that deal where you’re like, I don’t even know this one probably has no chance.

And all of a sudden, boom, that’s the one that comes to through. We can’t also live for the results we get. So I always tell this story about Mariana Rivera and as a kid. I’m a young guy in high school at the time when he first came up to the big leagues and I’m trying to figure out who I am, what I’m about, you know, all those things that teenagers deal with.

I see this skinny Panamanian kid come up on the mount and Yankee Stadium, 1995 and he’s throwing fire and it’s amazing. Nobody’s seen this guy before. And every year it got better, better, better, and better. So this was back in about 2009, I’m at his house and I say I’m stretching him in the off season in his basement. I asked him a question I’d been waiting since 1995 to ask. I asked him How do you do it? Like really, how do you do it? How do you go out there in these competitive situations and get it done?

And he looks at me and he goes, buddy, I do three things. Number one, I slow everything down. Number two, I quiet the noise. And number three, I throw one pitch at a time.

And he said, I don’t let the externals and anything else, stadium noise, anything, control my internal environment. I don’t let that control how I feel about myself. I don’t let my results control how I feel about myself. And I said to him, but what about the big moments like the world series or that big deal? You know what about that? And then he says, buddy, every moment is the same. We decide what’s a big moment.

We decide what’s a big deal and we decide what emotion and emotions we give life to first. When I heard that it changed for me, the whole way I go about my life and about my business. And I realized if I’m getting worked up, that’s coach responding to an external problem. When I look at people in business that are up and down, up and down and their life is a roller coaster and they lack the trust and they lack really the belief in themselves in their process and everything in between

Using healthy motivation to win

John Barrows: With all the successful athletes and business leaders you’ve been around, who wins out of the people who hate to lose, versus the ones who love to win? Really successful people seem to have a hyper-allergy to losing, and some are ridiculously obsessed with the win.

Coach Dana: So that hate to lose mentality. That person that we’re talking about that does not need external motivation at all. So I work with a bunch of guys in business. A lot are born and raised in Brooklyn. Back when Brooklyn was a dump. And what’s interesting is these guys are motivated for life. They are very successful. I mean the top 1%. And what’s interesting about them, they say that they still have memories of Brooklyn and they still fear having to go back to Brooklyn.

Some people will say you can’t be motivated by fear. These guys are 100% motivated by fear. And they use it as a positive. So they’re not just scared and being cradled in the corner, they’re using that. That chip in the shoulder, bulldog, underdog mentality is huge. I know you probably hate it, but I think the best example of that is Tom Brady, right? No matter what, if you love him or hate him at 43 years old in the NFL, he is an absolute underdog that every time, every time in his head.

He wears the same shirt he got drafted in. He wakes up every day trying to prove why they made everybody made a mistake.

That’s a wrap. Join us next time

If you made it this far, you’re the best. Thanks for reading and listening to this podcast. We hope you gained a ton from it and will listen in next week too. Don’t forget to check out our recent podcast episode highlights too.

If you have some feedback for us, connect on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to share the podcast on social media.

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