What Do The Best Teams In The NFL & CPG Sector Have in Common? A Lot!

Three Key Takeaways from The Best Teams in the NFL

The NFL Playoffs are upon us and with football on the brain we recognize three takeaways from this NFL season that can be applied to strengthen your CPG field sales strategy and achieve your sales goals in 2017.

1. Preparation is More Than Just Reps

In football, practice makes perfect. But it does little good just to practice runs, passes, and tackles. You need to know your players’ and team’s strengths and develop a strategy around them. You need effective coaching and tools that let you evaluate how you’re developing, making adjustments and allow you to finish strong game after game. This season we saw teams that seemed to be set up for success only to fall apart after a strong first half of the season (Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings), or lose their composer after a big swing in momentum costing them the game(San Diego Chargers). For those teams that could not get it together, they are conducting exit interviews and closing up shop. However, the teams that had a plan in place (New England Patriots) and adjusted accordingly to adversity (Seattle Seahawks and Earl Thomas) are preparing for the playoffs.

The same is true of CPG field sales and merchandising teams. Your team needs to be trained and evaluated for its strengths and weaknesses. They need to know everything about your products, terms, core offerings and brand promise so they can make successful plays. Field teams work best with realistic expectations and goals they can achieve, along with the tools to help them achieve them. They need to know what constitutes a successful store call and how to execute the various tasks required. Then, it’s a matter of improving incrementally. Surveys help ensure field reps are equipped to handle all their jobs require. Then use reports to analyze what’s working well and allow for adjustments in sales from Q1 to Q4.

In both cases, prepare for the long game. Establish a foundation of good practices and build from there.

2. Know Your Competitors

You’re not playing on the field alone. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, have to evaluate the Miami Dolphins with and without Jay Ajayi, as their game plan revolves around him. Are you playing on the home field with the 12th man? Do the other team’s strengths play to your weaknesses? No competitive venture is won just by being good, you have to be better than the competition in key areas and know how to take advantage of their weaknesses. You have to have a comprehensive knowledge of who you’re facing and how you’re going to win.

In the CPG world, your competitors might compete against you in price, branding to specific consumers, relationships with retailers, and a host of other strategies. Take distribution for example, your product might be great, but it has to establish that by taking on your competitors where they’re strong and exploiting areas where you’re better to allow yo to capture more market share. Or incorporate new sales and marketing strategies that include flexible and transparent pricing or offer custom deals on the retailer’s mobile app. It might also include finding a sales window for a specific product that hasn’t been exploited by your competitors. And it might mean building strong relationships that benefit both you and the retailers you’re working with. Find out where your openings are and make sure your passes are aimed there.

3. Invest in the Best

The reason draft picks are so exciting is that the best players and coaches can transform a team from a solid performer to a winner. These days we know that it’s not just the beefiest players or most experienced coaches that lead to championships. People and teams are more complicated than that. If you lean too hard on your quarterback and he gets hurt, your season’s gone. Instead, you need a strategic coach who can also create the right chemistry and a team of people with complementary skills who work well together. You also need the right kind of practice facility to prepare for various games and the technology to capture incremental improvements and small mistakes that could lead to big consequences. When you’ve got the right technology, there’s no room for excuses. Everyone is empowered to play their best.

In field sales, the same holds. Everyone has to share the goal and aim for a successful outcome not just for one rep, but for the whole team. You can’t lean on your top sales rep, everyone has to be working to be their best, no excuses. Technology makes that possible. With the right technology you can track exactly what happened in the store call—as well as before and after. If someone drops the ball, you can see what happened and plan to avoid it happening next time. Of course, that means the tech has to be user-friendly. Every rep needs to know how to use it as surely as they know how to use their own phones. And every manager needs to know how to use the data to make fast, actionable decisions.

The NFL has long been a great metaphor for how teams work. Today’s high-tech, high-performance teams are no different. The only thing that’s changed is how precise, knowledgeable and disciplined you have to be today to get that touchdown.


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Seth Nagle, Senior Marketing Manager at RW3 Technologies understands the power of innovation but also its limitations. Attending Salve Regina in New England, starting his career in Silicon Valley, and now living in Austin, Texas; Seth provides a unique tech perspective to a complex CPG and Retail Grocery Industry that is in constant disruption.

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