Sales Lessons from the NFL: How to Scout Your Next Sales Rep Like a Top NFL Prospect

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Do you know the name, Phil Emery? He is the G.M. of the Chicago Bears and his rise to this prized position – there have only been five G.M.’s in Bears history – is one of the fastest in all of the NFL.

Emery started out as the strength and conditioning coach at the Naval Academy, and only 14 years later, he is running one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. How’d he do it? Much of Phil’s success comes from his seemingly uncanny ability to judge talent and to be spot on in his evaluations of top prospects.

sales lessons from the nfl

According to an interview published in Peter King’s Monday Morning QB Sports Illustrated column, when asked how he does it, Emery says that “I believe every aspect of that player is on tape.” When it comes to receivers, for instance, he believes you can glean something from how hard a player runs, whether he takes plays off, whether he’s a willing blocker, whether he’s competitive for the ball, etc.

I believe that Phil’s right, and I believe that almost everything you need to know about an inside sales rep can be culled from listening to a tape recording of their calls. When cold calling, for instance, does the rep handle the gatekeeper’s blow offs well and get through to the decision maker? When they get the DM on the phone, are they able to build relevant rapport and earn the right to present their value statement? Do they ask questions and actually listen to the DM?  Do they properly qualify or do they just want to send emails and follow up (to unqualified leads)?

The same is true when listening to recordings of rep’s closing attempts. How well do they open their calls? Do they earn the right to enter into a conversation with the prospect or do they ask closed-ended questions that allow the prospect to put them off? Do they engage the prospect and allow them to ask questions or do they simply pitch at them? Do they try to handle objections or are they easily put off?

As a business owner or sales manager, everything you need to know about your sales reps is on the recording of their last call. Everything you’ll need to do to help them succeed or to evaluate whether they are progressing once you give them the proper training is there on tape. If you’re not recording or listening to these recordings, then you are missing the most important tool you have available to you. Just imagine an NFL team that didn’t utilize game tape!

Here are three sales lessons to help you get the most out of the recordings you may have of your reps (and if you don’t have any, then make it your priority to begin recording them ASAP!).

1) Listen to all of your reps and grade them (A – F) on both their qualifying calls and their closing calls.

An easy and objective way to grade them is to assess their adherence to your scripts.  Ask yourself, “Are they using the tools you’ve provided them or aren’t they?”

After you’ve graded them, ask yourself two things: 1) What can you do to turn your B reps into A reps; 2) How quickly can you replace your D and F reps?

2)  Learn from your top-producing reps.

Take note of their techniques handling the objections and stalls the rest of your team struggles with, and script out what they say. Then give these scripts to your other team members. If you want all your reps to sound and produce like top closers, then get them to say and do what your top producers are already doing! Then grade their adherence to these new scripts (see #1).

3)  Use your better recordings in your sales meetings to help teach and reinforce the best ways of qualifying and closing sales in your company.

Again, just like in the NFL film rooms, players learn by watching themselves and others do what works. It’s the same in inside sales. By constantly studying recordings of the techniques that work your team members will improve.

What’s the easiest way to evaluate (and train and improve) your inside sales reps? Just ask Phil Emery. He’ll tell you, “It’s all on tape…”


Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Mike Brooks, founder and principle of Los Angeles-based inside sales consulting and training firm Mr. Inside Sales, on the sales lessons managers can take from NFL coaches and scouts to recruit and develop the best sales talent possible.