3 Lessons From College Football About Building Sales Relationships

business lessons from football

September is the start of college football season and millions of fans and proud alumni are cheering on their favorite teams at stadiums and sports bars throughout the country.

College football is a symbol of youthful fun and enthusiasm, a connection between university graduates and their alma maters and for many die-hard fans, a way of life. But did you know that there are business lessons from football that can also teach us some worthwhile lessons about sales?

Here are a few of the big business lessons from football that sales professionals and business leaders can learn.

Consistency is Key

Many of the best college football programs have a long tradition of success. They tend to have the same coach in charge for multiple years. They have a proven system for how their team likes to play. And they have a strong sense of identity in terms of knowing their strengths as a team and their preferred style of play. That could be tough defense, a smash-mouth running game, or a high-flying passing attack.

In contrast, weaker college football teams often lack tradition. They tend to fire and hire new coaches, not allowing any one coach to create continuity and establish a style of play.

What does this mean for your sales efforts?

Look to create a consistent system to manage your sales leads. Just like every great college football program emphasizes the program — with its own reliable ways of doing things — your sales team needs to have a dependable process to evaluate sales leads and work them through your sales funnel. Know your preferred style for working with sales leads, whether it’s follow-up phone calls or an automated system, or both.

You need to do what works best for your company.

Play the Game “Your” Way

College football is a game of momentum and passion.

Any college football game could lead to surprising results, even between two mismatched teams, as long as the players believe in their system, follow their game plan, and execute with enthusiasm.

Every college football coach devises a comprehensive strategy and “game plan” for each game, where they try to plan defensive schemes and offensive plays that can counteract the opponent and reinforce their own team’s strengths. Teams might try to “establish the run” early, or achieve early success with the passing game, or “make a statement” on defense depending on their game plan. The overall goal however, is to play the type of game that your team wants to play. Don’t allow your style of play to be driven by the opponent’s choices.

In the same way, your company must not let your competitors dictate the terms of the sales game.

Just because a competitor is moving into a certain market or using certain sales tactics, that doesn’t mean your company has to do the same.

Stick to the strategy and “game plan” that makes the most sense for your company based on your strengths and what you know about your target market.

Stay Focused on the Customer Experience

College football is big business and gets huge TV ratings, but in recent years, fewer fans have been attending college football games. In fact, 7.1 percent fewer college students went to football games nationwide between 2009 and 2013.

There are many factors contributing to this decline in student attendance but one of the biggest is that the in-person fan experience at football games is not always compelling enough to get people off the couch. Young people tend to prefer to multi-task when watching sports, and it’s often just as fun to stay home and watch the game on a big-screen TV while flipping channels and checking social media for updates on your phone and laptop.

The lesson for sales leaders? Stay relentlessly focused on your customer experience.

College football fans aren’t about to abandon the live in-game experience anytime soon but the decline in attendance is worrisome enough for athletics department directors that many are looking for new ways to enhance the in-game experience for fans.

In the same way, you need to constantly stay “worried” about your customer’s experience with your product. Are there signs of dissatisfaction that might not be immediately apparent?

Are there things you could do to make your sales process easier and more pain-free for your customer? Are they getting the follow-up and implementation support that they need? Are your customers your biggest fans, or are they open to being wooed by a rival company? All of these are the questions that you need to ask – and be able to answer – to keep your customer “fan base” strong.

College football is all about creating a strong relationship between the university and its fans. Sales is the same type of game.

You need to apply consistent effort, create a coherent “program” that suits your preferred style and strengths, and then relentlessly deliver an exceptional customer experience, time after time, season after season.

That’s how winning football programs – and successful sales teams – are made.

Army Football Photo via Shutterstock

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Al Davidson Al Davidson founded Strategic Sales & Marketing, Inc. in 1989, where he helps deliver B2B lead generation and appointment setting solutions for clients around the world. Under his leadership, the company has generated over 7 million sales leads, resulting in millions of dollars to his clients.

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