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What the NFL Can Teach You about Your Inside Sales Team

Every so often, a person comes along who changes their field of study in a major way. Louis Pasteur changed the world of medicine with his introduction of the germ theory. Thomas Edison changed our world through the use of electricity. Albert Einstein changed modern physics. Steve Jobs changed the world of computing. And Paul Brown changed NFL football and turned it into the game it is today.

Before Paul Brown, the game of football resembled more of a rugby match with a tangle of big men grappling around a line of scrimmage. As the game evolved, especially with the introduction of the forward pass, the game began to get not only more interesting, but also bewilderingly complex as well. It would take a gifted visionary, with extraordinary drive and talent, to develop and exploit the possibilities of this evolving and exciting sport.

If some of you are thinking, “But what does this have to do with inside sales, Mike?” then I’ll tell you. I’ve been using the same techniques to build Multi-Million Dollar Inside Sales Teams as Paul Brown used to build championship football teams, and they work. What I’m going to do now is use some quotes from the book, “The Best Game Ever” by Mark Bowden. Mark explains some of Paul’s techniques, and, after each, I’ll show you how they apply to building your inside team as well.

First of all, Paul’s techniques were highly successful. His high school record of coaching was 80-8-2, with 7 of those losses coming in the early years. After serving in WWII, he was hired to coach Ohio State and won a national title. He then coached the Cleveland Browns of the AAFC (American Athletic Football Conference) a new pro league. The league was in existence for four years and Browns won the championship all four times!

The Cleveland Browns were so good, they out drew the Cleveland Rams of the NFL, who fled to Los Angeles. The Browns then joined the NFL, and everyone said they were from a minor league but then the Browns won the NFL title in The First Year!! They then played in the Championship Game (Super Bowl) the next 5 straight years, winning two more times.

So here’s how Paul Brown did it according to “The Best Game Ever”:

“Brown did it not just with masterful strategy, but with a ruthlessly efficient system of assessing and acquiring talent, and a level of organization and discipline entirely new to the game. He stunned his players by regimenting every aspect of their lives. They were given playbooks with descriptions and diagrams of every play, and after studying them in classrooms, were forced to spend hours at night copying them out by hand in their own notebooks, which were collected and graded.

“Some players learned by hearing it,” explained Charley Winner, who worked as a scout for Cleveland during those years and later helped implement Brown’s system in Baltimore.

“Other players learn by watching you draw it up on a blackboard. Other players learn by seeing it, so we show them the film. Others learn by walking through it on the practice field. Others learn by drawing it out themselves by hand. We covered all the learning methods, so when we were through, by God, they knew it.”.

And here’s how we translate this system into building an inside sales team: We start by identifying and scripting out a “Defined Sales Process” for your company. This includes in depth descriptions and diagrams of every selling situation your reps encounter in your sale.

Then we script out the best practice responses to these selling situations so your reps are completely prepared to succeed in them every time they are on the phone with a prospect or client. Next, we train your reps on these best practices by classroom training, recording calls, role playing and even recording the scripts on an MP3 Player and providing them to your reps to listen to over and over so we cover all the learning methods. And, by God, they will all know what to do.

Next comes the coaching, developing and evaluation of your talent. Here is what Weeb Ewbank brought over to the Baltimore Colts. Who’s Weeb? Weeb was one of Brown’s assistants who was hired away by the Baltimore Colts. Weed was a faithful disciple of the Paul Brown / Cleveland system, which he had helped run for five years. Oh, and some of you might know him as the head coach of the New York Jets – yes, the Namath, Super Bowl Champion Jets. More from, “The Best Game Ever”:

“Weeb arrived in Baltimore with a bang. He boldly promised an NFL championship in just five seasons. Putting the Cleveland grading system in place, he began assessing players on a scale numbered zero through five. Zero meant a missed assignment. If you knew what to do and didn’t do it, that was a one. If you got a lot of ones, that meant you knew what to do, you just weren’t good enough to do it.

If you got a two, it meant you knew what to do and you did an average job. Three meant you knew what to do and did it well. Once in a while a player would do something truly remarkable and earn a four. Fives were exceedingly rare. Players would earn a five maybe once or twice in a season. Those who scored zeroes and ones were soon pursuing other lines of work, and in time Weeb weeded out players who scored a lot of twos.”

Don’t you just love that grading system?? The way we apply this to building your inside sales team is that we build a “Script Grading Adherence Form,” that your managers use to measure and grade how well your reps are doing what it takes to be successful. This is one of the most important parts of the entire process, and it’s often completely lacking with most companies.

By being able to access talent and find out who has what it takes – and who should be pursuing different lines of work – you are able to very quickly build a highly successful inside sales team.

About the author

Do you have an underperforming inside sales team? Talk to Mike to see how he can help you and your team reach your revenue goals. To learn more about Mike, visit his website: