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Sales Models, Metrics, and Motions Blog

How to Treat Your Sales Hiring Like the NFL Draft

by Janet Stucchi on Wed, Sep 12, 2012

Now that football season is upon us, I was thinking back to 3 days in April: the 2012 NFL Draft.

My husband is a huge football fan, former player and current fantasy team ‘owner.’ As you can imagine, the NFL draft is an event that is revered (by him) and dreaded (by me).

I'm no huge fan of football, but I do love the game of sales. So I thought I'd have a little fun by drawing some parallels.

The Scouting Combine

This is like a job fair on steroids. Team execs, coaches & medical staff evaluate and assess top prospects. When you think about it, it closely mirrors the hiring process.

Players present their athletic & medical history (think resumes), then participate in physical, psychological & IQ tests (think role plays, behavioral & skill assessments), then interview with the teams and complete a medical exam (think background check).

The best teams have a collaborative, rigorous, numbers-backed process for finding their ideal players. These organizations believe you get back what you put in to this process. Can you say the same about hiring at your organization?

Pre-Draft Strategy

Before heading to the Combine, coaches, GM & owners must lay out a strategy. Step 1 is identifying gaps in the existing team. Do they need offensive players (think new customer acquisition) or defensive (think protecting & preserving the customer base).  Do they need special teams (think named accounts, strategic partnerships, etc.), or generalists with a broad range of skills?

If the team already has strength in key positions, they may want to look for raw talent that is coachable and has future potential. Or, they may want to look for locker room leaders who can mentor & keep rookies in check.

The key point here is that teams aren’t looking for just the single best player – they are looking for individuals who best address a need and fill a gap. Sales Managers should understand how the role to be hired fits into their overall strategy before beginning the hiring process.

Plan For Turnover

Unfortunately, hiring managers don’t have crystal balls to tell them whether a hire will be the right fit. NFL teams have the same problem. In fact, many teams will draft more players than needed so they can ‘test drive’ them and eliminate those that don’t show promise in the pre-season (think bench strength). This helps minimize the need to hold onto C-players just to keep the roster full.

Now I understand almost no one has the go-ahead to hire 3 reps to ultimately fill 2 slots. But keep in mind that bench strength may exist in other areas of the organization (think lead gen, customer support). And what about that killer candidate who accepted another offer? Have you called them to ask how the new position is working out? 

In the NFL, player management starts with scouting, goes through the Combine, continues from pre into regular season, and persists up to & beyond a certain Sunday in February.

Similarly in sales, successful hiring is a continuous process – not an event.

As sales leaders, we need to know our culture, gaps and strategy, we must assess the available talent, and we must put candidates through a measureable process to be successful.

That's no mean feat.

But this 2012-13 NFL season, how many of us will spend more time managing our fantasy teams than managing our hiring process? 

So, what do you say? Are you ready for some football?

(Photo credit: mjpeacecorps & play4brew)

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