It's that time of year. From coast to coast, trainers are preparing NFL hopefuls for the most important race of their football career—the tests where millions of dollars are on the line. NFL agents have turned over their newest investments to NFL draft preparation facilities all over the country. As big as the NFL scouting combine is, there are only up to 345 invited players, a highly competitive niche market for training programs.

Ten years ago, NFL combine training was offered in a few select facilities across the country. Today, it's hard to find a facility without it. For the biggest facilities, this is a $500,000 addition to their revenue stream. For others, it's an opportunity to earn a name for themselves in the market. Now it's crunch time for training facilities to ensure that their players will post the numbers they've promised to deliver. A lot of action. And before that, a lot of selling.

Selling? Absolutely! Facilities all over the country have spent the end of 2010 selling players and agents on the credibility of their facility, convincing them that they will produce results. Now if your name is Nick Fairley, the defensive tackle from the national champion Auburn Tigers and expected number one selection in Mel Kiper's 2011 mock draft, chances are you can walk your 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and you'll still be a high first round selection. But if your name isn't running across the ESPN ticker, chances are you need to run the race of your life.

So how exactly do you sell a player on trusting you? How exactly do you sell a player on moving across the country to somewhere far away from friends or family? How do you build a relationship with an NFL agent to get them to promote your location to their prospects and sell them on paying thousands in training costs? What can you learn from this interesting sports sales' case study? Just take a look at the principles that have guided me to bring nearly 300 NFL draft prospects in the door.

Here are the five principles that I live by in order to pack a facility full of NFL hopefuls:

1.Squeeze the sale.

Recruiting isn't a one-dimensional sales activity. Regardless of your sales environment, it's important that you know where the decision power sits. Throughout my process of signing 24 or more players per year, I was very aware that the sale needs to be made twice—once to the agent and once to the player. It's always a key to treat both with the same respect. You never know who will sway the decision.

2.Challenge your prospect.

It's your responsibility to challenge the prospect's motivations and properly match them with your product or service. Sometimes there isn't a fit. In dealing with nearly 200 potential players every recruiting season, I know that there are at least five other facilities who will be on the phone with them at some point saying many of the things I'm saying. I need to do something different.

During the first twenty minutes in any recruiting conversation, I ask hard questions to yield great answers and information and I listen. How great of a question asker are you? Are you challenging prospects to find out their expectations? If you don t challenge them, somebody else will.

3.Build in the answers to the objections.

How well do you know your market? Do you know what the sales people down the street at your competitor are saying? Do you take the time to chart out all the objections your prospect could have during your sales presentation? If you don't, chances are you are leaving opportunities on the table.

During my time selling NFL combines, I've sold for a facility that was in New Jersey. A common objection was the cold weather. If I never brought up the positive of being in the same climate as Indianapolis (site of the combine), I would have had a real objection on my hands. By building common objections into the first conversations with players, agents, and their families, I allowed their hard questions to be answered before they were ever brought up. What are you doing to answer your prospect's objections before they become real?

4.Sales don't just happen.

In any industry, you have to work for the sale. Yet, there are many facilities, even in the combine training world, who believe that sales just somehow happen. They seem to believe that if you direct mail drop 1,000 marketing pieces to agents and then happen to have a website, sales will just come to you. I wish it was that easy. Marketing gets you on the field. Your sales effort is what gets you into the end zone. It isn't any different with the players who do the training at our

facility for the combine. Simply because they show up and work for seven weeks doesn't mean they're entitled to be drafted. Embrace this principle. Put it in front of your face in your office. Sales happen when you make them happen.


5.Get ready for rejection.

Sometimes games don't end well. Sometimes the player you have put the most time into ends up trusting their training program to another facility. What do you do when this happens? How do you respond? Are you afraid of failing? The game of sales isn't made for the easily broken hearted. I have had players show up to train only to leave after a few days for various reasons. I have had agents default on their training bill. I have had other facilities bash our program to prospective players.

You will miss sales. You will miss sales you think are locks, and you will lose sales even after they step into your facility. The important thing is that you are attuned to the possibility and prepared for that ahead of time. Sell hard enough so that you can lose some along the way. Get ready to be rejected, but don't take it personally and you'll be on the right path to hitting your sales goals.

So what kind of salesperson are you? Build out the principles, write them down, and make them the foundation of your organization's sales culture.