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By Paul Shapiro

This weekend in the NFL, almost half of the games played were significantly impacted by fumbles.

And this week was not an anomaly.  In fact, every NFL game was recently analyzed over a 10 year period* and the results painted a vivid and consistent picture of what happens when the ball is dropped.  I’ll spare you the scatter plot of the data, the Chi-squared Test of Independence and the Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient (see them for yourself at the link below).

But here’s the plus delta:  The teams that didn’t protect the ball lost more games.  Not so shocking in a league where the competition is brutal and the smallest advantage can make the biggest differences.

There are some clear analogies that can be drawn about sales excellence and how fumbles impact performance with clients.

Over the last year, the team at vie asked several senior leaders of some of the most powerful companies and organizations out there to share the biggest fumbles that they are seeing on the sales field.  Here’s the top 3 that were mentioned the most.

1.     They don’t understand our business

2.     Their solutions don’t tie back to my business needs

3.     They aren’t focused on results

In the NFL, intense preparation and practice is part of the ongoing discipline of minimizing fumbles. That has to happen in our business too.  Here are a few things that you can do to make sure you and your team drop fewer balls:

The Sales Excellence Anti-Fumble Checklist:

  • Go the extra-mile in preparation.  This means on-line research about the business and their current performance and objectives.  Read their quarterly reports.  Visit the business and have insight meetings when possible to get an insider perspective.  During this fact-finding phase, be curious and ask strategic and relevant questions about the business and their current performance.
  • Find a business need to be your lighthouse for solutions.  To be successful in the long run, you have to clearly identify at least one business need – that means something that’s either broken or that they need to do better or differently.  Once that need is identified, it’s all about developing solutions that solve for the need. This has to be simple and clear and powerful.  Ask yourself if your last proposal was laser targeted to solve a real business need.  If the answer was no or if you can’t clearly articulate the most pressing business need, then it probably makes sense to go back and have another discussion.
  • Measurement, setting expectations for results and ROI must be as important to you as it is to them. Clients care more about ROI than ever before.  And that means that effective sales consultants must be able to discuss how their business makes money and how your solution will help them be more successful.  It also means that it’s more important than ever to be able to share success stories and make them come alive when helping your client’s visualize the possibilities of your proposed solution.

There are lots of things that we can do to prevent fumbles when it comes to sales excellence and this list is a great start to keeping your customers in safe, competent and “non-fumbling” hands.


Paul Shapiro is a Managing Partner at vie™. Visit or email  To start a discussion about how vie can make a remarkable difference for your sales organization.


*Hank Koebler, IV, The Correlation Between Turnover Differential and Winning in the National Football League