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The Craft of B2B Sales Is Becoming Like the NFL + NHL

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The following is my adaptation of Allan Maki’s take on how the NHL is becoming like the NFL. The parallels between his observations in hockey with what we’re seeing in business-to-business sales strike me as too profound to ignore. The wisdom in these observations is his, and apply to hockey. The mistakes, in my adaptation of his observations to sales, are mine.


In a multitude of ways, [sales] is becoming more like the National Football League. More reliant on coaching. More prone to systems. More dependent on video replays.

Teams watch [video replays] to chart their tendencies and their [buyers']. They look at the game-sheet statistics to see who’s winning the most faceoff battles, where the shots are coming from and who’s taking them. It has to do with playing percentages and collecting as much information as possible, which is what the NFL-ization of [sales] is about.

As [Company X] general manager [Sally Smith] explained it: “The NFL is still ahead of us. But are we catching up? Absolutely.”

[Sales] is too free-flowing a game to ever be as tightly scripted as football, but coaches and GMs are borrowing what they feel can be applied to hockey, especially when it comes to teaching.

Today’s players are not just [better prepared + better equipped] than their predecessors; they crave data. They want to know why they’re being asked to do things and they want to see it visually.

It’s part of how younger players arrive. They’ve been weaned on structured practices and learning systems from a young age and, when it comes to the pros, they want a coach who explains what they’re doing instead of simply telling them to “Do this.”

“I think [sales] is becoming more like football because the players are changing,” former [VP Sales Jo Bob] said. “Generation Y is the age group that has come in[to sales] and for them it’s about instant feedback.

When I started coaching in [sales] in the late 1990s, you’d show too much [data] and the guys would put up their hands and say, ‘No mas.’ They wanted to go out and play.“Today’s players,” [Jo Bob] continued, “are very committed to having a clear-vision path of what you expect and where they want to go.”


Saavy firms, focused on harnessing the skills of their sales teams, will see in this take on the evolution of B2B sales and sales coaching the very things they’re instinctively now doing. They’re moving to the kind of ‘money-ball’ future that Sirius Decisions foresaw at their annual Summit last Spring. Such firms are using visuals to paint a picture of patterns of performance and, armed with that clearer picture, provoke improved performance. Just like in the NFL + NHL.

This entry was posted in Change management, Craftsmanship, Curiosity, Metrics, Sales coaching, Training and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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