John Wooden: Lessons in Coaching from One of Basketball’s Greatest

Every winner has a coach, and every coach has a philosophy. Here is a deeper look inside the philosophy of one of the best.

If not for a snowstorm, John Wooden may not have become coach of UCLA basketball. He would not have led the team to a record-breaking 10 national championships, seven of them in a row.

Early in life, John Wooden and his wife actually wanted to attend the University of Minnesota, so they could live in the Midwest. Unfortunately (although fortunately for UCLA), a stint of bad weather left Wooden waiting for a phone call that never came. Thinking Minnesota had lost interest, he accepted an offer with UCLA. Even after finding out that Minnesota had tried to make an offer and failed due to the storm, he felt his word was too important to go back on.

John Wooden coached his players with the same integrity and character with which he lived his life. The “Pyramid of Success” that he developed, which advised athletes to build their athletic careers on character qualities like loyalty, industriousness, and self-control, embodied this level of integrity that was inherent. His strength of character became an integral part of everything he did, inspiring respect and admiration from his athletes and everyone else around him.


The Sales Coaching Application

As a sales coach, there is much you can do to mold and shape the people you lead. You can teach them skills that will enable them to sell more products, but if you want them to be the best, you must inspire them to build their sales career on strength of character and integrity, not on skills alone. Salespeople with integrity stand out, and people want to buy from them, work with them, and know them.

The following excerpt from the ASLAN Training & Development paper “Increase Overall Customer Satisfaction on Every Call” explains why integrity is important in successful selling:


First Thing Second 

When service organizations wake up to the opportunity to grow revenue on every call, the message can sometimes be subtly communicated that service is no longer important. When that happens, not only is rep buy-in potentially lost, but credibility is as well. The first priority of Experience+ is to not only reemphasize the importance of serving the customer, but to also stress the need to actually exceed the customer’s service expectations. Why? Because a CSR’s ability to enhance and strengthen the customer relationship will ultimately determine their ability to up-sell and cross-sell. CSRs will never be effective if they put their agenda ahead of the customer’s original purpose for calling.


Selling is the Highest Form of Service

Once reps have learned to enhance the customer relationship and experience, they have earned the right to transition the call and explore hidden needs. Now it’s time to lead, to sell, and to ensure the customer understands why it’s in their best interest to embrace the rep’s recommendation. 

During an Experience+ workshop, reps will learn a 5-step process that will provide them with the roadmap that they need in order to serve and consult with the customer – moving them beyond a focus on using the “right technique” or relying on “tag lines.” 

What will happen as a result of the training? Imagine a customer service call where:

  • The CSR embraces their role as a sales professional, whose goal is to increase overall customer satisfaction.
  • Because of the CSR’s ability to establish trust, credibility & rapport and their understanding of the customer’s buying process, customer resistance disappears and additional needs and concerns are revealed.
  • The CSR quickly grasps and analyzes the customer’s situation and offers the most relevant and beneficial solution.
  • The customer completely comprehends the value of your CSR’s recommendation and is motivated to move to the next step.
  • As a result of their interaction with the CSR, the customer’s expectations are exceeded, the loyalty to the company is strengthened, and your market share grows dramatically.


At the top of John Wooden’s pyramid sit competitive greatness and success, but without the building blocks below them, including skill, initiative and cooperation, the pyramid falls apart. 

Is your sales team ready to be successful? Let them be transformed from the inside out so they have something of worth to offer their prospects.

Download the rest of the ASLAN Training & Development paper to find out how to transform your customer service team into a successful sales force.


What Next?


As VP of Solutions, Sean’s passion is developing and creating a learning experience that emotionally taps into each learner, matches ASLAN’s commitment to excellence, and exceeds our client’s wildest expectations. Find him on: LinkedIn.

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The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.