Football and Selling – a contact sport!

I’m not a football coach, or an ex-jock, but I do enjoy watching my favorite college team’s play. One of my favorites is Georgia Tech (who are playing in tonight’s Orange Bowl).  A few years ago, on opening day while many other teams were playing their easiest opponents on their schedule, to increase their odds of winning their opening game and being undefeated for at least one week in a row, Tech’s opening day opponent was Notre Dame.

If the game had ended after the first half Georgia Tech would have upset Notre Dame  and most likely would have been elevated to the top ten teams list on Monday morning.  But unfortunately for Tech, the game didn’t end at the half, and Notre Dame went on to win the second half, and the game by a score of 14-10.

I don’t remember who said this first, or I would give them credit; but someone once said that; “everything’s been said, it’s just that everybody hasn’t said it yet.” I suspect that they might have been referring to a politician at the time.

If you are in sales, you’ve probably heard many comparisons between selling and football, but I’d like to offer a few of my own if you will indulge me.

Planning & Prospecting:
In college football, planning never stops. Long before the season begins, members of the coaching staff, including the head coaches, travel all over the country to recruit high school stars for next year’s team. But coaches just don’t just hop on a plane, go to a city, rent a stadium, and invite every football player in the area to come and audition for the team . . . like American Idol does.

Coaches only travel to places that have been scouted, where prospective players have already been identified, and have agreed to meet with the head coach to explain the benefits of attending their school and playing on their team.

My point: Don’t use your head coaches (sales people) to scout for prospective recruits. Find some scouts (sales support, telemarketing, etc.)people to do their scouting for them, so your coaches can invest their valuable time meeting with pre-qualified talent.

Football and selling are both “contact sports”. If you don’t make contact, follow up, sell your program, build trusting relationships, and be in the right place at the right time, when needs are realized and decisions are made, you’ll lose to competition.

If you don’t recruit well, you won’t play well. And the reverse is also true; if you don’t play well, you won’t recruit well, because high school heroes like being college heroes, and they’re going to favor a college where they have the best chance of playing and success. Successful teams with winning seasons, and the best coaches almost always have the best chance at signing the best players in the following years.
My point: Success breeds success (no pun intended). Recruit and coach your sales people to be successful and their success will help you recruit other successful people.

Spring training and tryouts separate the good from the best players. The coaches observe and identify their best players for each position, and begin to form and coach these individual standouts into a team. 

Each college football team starts out the season undefeated, and they have 12 games in the regular season to remain that way. If your schedule only includes 6 games instead of 12 like the other teams, you have no chance at being undefeated at 12-0 at the end of the season. And even if you win all your games, you’ll only have a .500 season and watch the bowl games from home like the rest of us.

My point: No matter how good a sales team and product line you have, you won’t have a winning season if you don’t play enough games.

Once the schedule is set, and the coaching staff knows who their opponents will be, they can forget about every other team and focus solely on the 12 teams standing between them and a 12-0 season.

My point: All prospects are not created equal. Focus on the markets and businesses that you’ve been most successful, and profitable selling to in the past, and go after them.

Now it’s time to see if all the planning, scouting, recruiting, practicing, and coaching pay off before an enthusiastic crowd of fans. Both teams have worked hard on their game plans, and they have the same number of players on a level playing field. That is until the game starts.

Experienced military leaders say that a battle plan lasts only as long as the first assault. Successful coaches, like military leaders and sales managers all have a complete plan going into battle. After each play or series of plays, they analyze what went right, and what went wrong and adjust their game plan to maximize their resources for future battles. All other things being equal, the team that executes their game plan best, usually comes away the winner. 

My point: It doesn’t matter how good your game plan is, or how great your players are, or how wonderful your products are. If you don’t execute your marketing plan well, or worse yet you don’t have an annual, four-quarter game plan, you most likely won’t have a winning season either.

 Go Team!

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