By Jeff Beals
NOTE: This article is an excerpt from the author’s award-winning book: Selling Saturdays: Blue Chip Sales Tips from College Football (published in 2013), which uses stories from college football recruiting to teach sales lessons to professionals of all industries.
Miami’s Carol City High School sits in an economically disadvantaged part of town, but it has quite a reputation for producing great football players.
Back in 2003, Rivals.com’s Sean Callahan and a few of his colleagues put on a football camp at Carol City High. The Rivals guys worked out the entire team, putting the players through various tests and conditioning drills. Conditions were Spartan to say the least. The 40-yard dashes were timed on the driver’s education parking lot because the practice fields were in such poor shape. But the lack of quality facilities didn’t keep the Carol City Chiefs from making a positive impression.
“I have never seen a more impressive collection of talent and speed on one team in my entire life,” Callahan recalled. Carol City produced eleven Division 1 players that year.
If the sheer number of phenomenal athletes on that high school team wasn’t impressive enough, what would happen next is something Callahan will never forget. After the camp ended, and the players started heading home, a group of middle-school students showed up—a bunch of skinny kids wearing jeans and plain old tennis shoes. Having watched the older kids go through the drills, the youngsters wanted a shot. The Rivals guys had some extra time, so just for fun they put the kids through the same drills. Though they had probably never worked out, lifted weights or run timed 40-yard dashes in their entire lives, several of the middle schoolers ran electronically timed 40s in 4.7 seconds or faster.
That’s beyond impressive.
For perspective, Callahan was involved in a high school summer camp at Penn State University known as the Central Pennsylvania Coaches Combine. Four hundred high school players from the area participated, hoping to impress college coaches. In some cases, entire teams showed up. These kids had all the right gear, and many had parents who paid for off-season training.
Despite all those advantages, only ten of these four hundred players ran the 40-yard dash in under 5.0. Think about that. The Miami middle-school kids, wearing jeans, bad shoes and using terrible technique, outran the experienced and well-trained high school players in Pennsylvania.
What does this story teach us? That’s easy. There’s a hell of a lot of raw talent in South Florida!
But it’s not just Florida. There is simply more talent down South than there is up North. That’s not to say the North is without talent. Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey high schools produce huge numbers of outstanding college players each year, but that amount of talent is nothing compared to what college coaches find in the southeastern states plus Texas and California.
Because such a disproportionately large number of great prospects live in the South, northern coaches are forced to have southern selling strategies if they hope to win national championships. You may be able to build the core of a northern team with in-state or regional players, but you will have to supplement them with at least a few southern blue chippers. If you look at the northern teams that have won national championships over the past twenty to thirty years—Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame—most of them had quite a few southern players on their national championship rosters.
On the other hand, it typically does not make sense for southern coaches to look up North for talent unless there’s an unusually great prospect who fits a need on the team right away. With all the talent down South, it would frankly be a waste of resources for Sunbelt coaches to travel north to the Rustbelt.
In 2006–2007, CBSSports.com columnist Bruce Feldman was granted insider access and spent parts of a whole year observing the recruitment practices at the University of Mississippi under the leadership of then–head coach Ed Orgeron. The result of that experience was Feldman’s acclaimed book Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting. Recognizing the hotbed of talent in which Ole Miss was located, the bombastic Orgeron reportedly told his assistant coaches, “Planes don’t fly north!”
Just like a big-time football coach, you are constantly selling in a competitive environment. A big part of the strategy is to find a way to sell the right prospects on your “team.” You have to go where they are, develop rapport, build relationships with them, establish trust and close deals. You have to go find prospects on their home turf.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at email@example.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.