In both football and sales, the stars get all the credit. Individual contributors sometimes perform legendary feats that carry their team to victory (or to their bookings goal), but the reality is that the only teams that enjoy long term success are the ones that put a consistent, robust system in place to support their stars.

No two teams exemplify this fact better than this year’s Super Bowl contenders: the New England Patriots and the reigning champs, the Seattle Seahawks. The matchup is a great one for any football fan – these are both powerhouse franchises with plenty of explosive playmakers on both sides of the ball.

One area you should pay close attention to during the game is how each team conducts its running attack. The ground game will be a deciding factor on the outcome of the game, and holds an important lesson for sales teams as well.

Seattle comes in with the top ranked running offense in the league, led by star back Marshawn Lynch, and will likely lean on him to shoulder much of the burden on offense.

Lynch is one of those rare players with the ability to put the team on his back and run with it straight to victory – who can forget the stunning “Beast Mode” run from the Seahawks’ 2011 victory over the New Orleans Saints?

The Patriots will likely rely more on their withering passing attack, led by quarterback Tom Brady and star tight end Rob Gronkowski. However, given head coach Bill Bilicheck’s penchant for keeping opposing teams off balance, don’t be surprised if the Patriots do some damage on the ground as well.

As awe-inspiring as Lynch’s runs can be, he is one of a tiny handful of players in the world who can pull them off. The majority of running backs are more similar to New England’s breakout star, Jonas Gray.

Gray was pulled up from the Patriots practice squad in October to bolster their depth at running back following an injury to starting back Stevan Ridley. He ended up breaking out for a historic 199 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Colts on November 16th. Take a look at his performance here:

What’s remarkable about Gray’s breakout performance is that, as a runner, he’s pretty unremarkable. Compare the video of Lynch with Gray’s approach, and the difference immediately becomes clear.

By all rights, Lynch should have been stopped cold at the line of scrimmage, but instead he uses some mysterious Skittles-powered strength to shrug off defenders and break into the open field. Gray, on the other hand, benefits from truck sized holes the offensive line creates for him.

The crux of the issue is, however, that the result is the same. Both of them can take control of the game and score touchdowns.

The Marshawns of the sales world are just as rare as they are in football – you can’t afford (or even find) a whole team of reps who can perform superhuman feats to get to their number (even when they’re incentivized with Skittles).

The best sales organizations in the world don’t need Marshawns – they have all-star offensive lines (in the form of their sales operations teams) that do most of the heavy lifting instead. For these companies, the superstar rep is a nice to have, not a need to have.

A strong sales ops team has the capability to arm run of the mill reps with the tools, content, and data that enables them to deliver the perfect message to the right prospects at the right time. With a strong sales ops team in place, you can plug in Jonas Gray (or LaGarrette Blount, or Stevan Ridley, or Shane Vereen, or Joe Schmoe off the street) and smash right through your bookings goals.

Whoever you root for on Sunday, remember to pay attention to the work of the unsung heroes on the field and in your sales team- the o-line and sales ops.

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