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Mark Healy (Jim Ross/Jim Ross)
Mark Healy (Jim Ross/Jim Ross)


Tackling sales with training-camp zeal Add to ...

It's one of my favourite times of year. It's the start of NFL training camps. The only on-field time all year when every team believes it can win the Superbowl. Except Detroit – let's be serious here, people. They lost every game last year. Ticket sales are slow. Go figure.

Brett Favre decided today – maybe – to not un-retire again. Last year I called the whole thing “Favrever – like forever, only longer.” I told a guy named Mike Florio, who writes a killer blog called profootballtalk.com, which he just sold to NBC, he could use it. He did. I was very proud. And I'm sure my coined term increased his valuation by 50-to-60 per cent, although I haven't gotten a cheque yet.

This year I've been calling the Favre saga “Faux Brettirement.” And this time I'm not giving it away – Mike, if you are reading this, I will sell the rights to NBC for (pinky finger at side of mouth) $1M.

If you have not been dazzled (as opposed to bedazzled – that's different) by my NFL observations above, you'll see that I have cleverly tied football stories to sales. Which is exactly what I'm going to do with this column.

I've learned many lessons about selling professional services over the past several years. Most of them the hard way. Some themes have emerged when it comes to selling. Just as some themes have surfaced at the start of this NFL season.

Theme #1:

Rookie NFL Head Coaches

Have a teachable point of view There are seven rookie head football coaches in the league coming into this season. Seven. There are only 32 teams. Seven. Good luck. But then again, last year two rookie coaches got to the playoffs, which is very rare. John Harbaugh and Mike Smith. They also both coach teams with bird names – the Ravens and the Falcons (although they claim that is “just a coincidence”).

What Harbaugh and Smith were renowned for is one of the great lessons in sales: have a teachable point of view. They had/still have a discernible and compelling opinion on their business, the business of football.

Jack Welch (you may have heard of him) used to preach having a teachable point of view at GE. He fundamentally believed you had to stand for something in order to a) get ahead, and b) get people to follow you. And that something was a relevant stance on your industry or your line of work – a “this is how things should be done, and why” attitude.

In professional services sales, having a teachable point of view can be a real weapon. Sure you can show up and say “we could tackle it this way, or we could go about it that way,” trying to morph to every situation. But you'll be more successful if you develop a strong orientation one way or the other – on your industry or on your particular function in the industry – and stick to your guns.

For example, I know a consultant who is ardent about the correct hierarchy of market research approaches, and their appropriate application, depending on the nature of the problem to solve. Clients gravitate to him because they see his confidence, and because they learn from him along the way.

Theme #2:

Felons Getting Punished

Listen more than you talk. Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, is not fooling around. If you are an NFL player and you run afoul of the law, you will be suspended. Period. Since bringing in a personal conduct policy, Goodell has suspended six players and one coach. The latest is Donte Stallworth who is under indefinite suspension after a DUI fatality.

The other side of Goodell, though, is he will take you back. If you listen. Suspended players, hoping to sell the commissioner on a return to the field, learn quickly to listen more than talk if they hope to be reinstated.

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