The Blue Angels as a Selling Model

Watching a video recently of the Blue Angels, the Navy’s extraordinary flight demonstration team, reminded me of what it takes to be successful in selling, what it takes to be the best. Their preparation, attention to detail, dedication, and following procedures are amazing. Salespeople can learn a lot from these incredible professionals. Let’s look at the similarities to selling.

(By the way, I’ve written this from the sales manager’s perspective, but the message certainly applies to every salesperson carrying a quota or trying to feed his or her family.)

It’s a “show.” The audience at Miramar goes “wow” when they watch the Blues execute their intricate maneuvers. Think of every sales call being opening night on Broadway. The critics (your prospects) are watching…looking to be wowed. How many salespeople have you personally met that create a “wow” factor on sales calls? Do yours?

Practice is critical. The Blues practice their maneuvers until they’re second nature…automatic. They can react instinctively and correctly to every difficult situation. Salespeople seldom practice. (“That’s for the rookies. I’m experienced.” They say.) They think going on sales calls is all the “practice” they need. They’re wrong. A sales call is not practice…it’s the “show.” How much practice are your salespeople doing to get better?

Preparation. The Blues meet for one hour before every flight, whether it’s a real show or just a practice. They essentially do a walkthrough of all the maneuvers in the show with the “boss” giving the commands. They use visualization techniques…they see each maneuver before they do it. Most salespeople take little time to adequately prepare for the “show.” How about yours?

Process & Procedures. The Blues follow the same process and procedures for every show. That’s what makes it work. Most salespeople are winging it (no pun intended). Just ask them to describe their sales process. (You might be shocked.) Does your company have a repeatable process for selling that ensures success?

blue angels

Debriefing. The Blues do a lengthy debrief after each show. Although most of their air shows are virtually perfect, they still take an hour to examine what went right and what could be improved. Salespeople rarely debrief their calls. As a result, they learn very little from their mistakes. Is debriefing a regular part of your sales team’s procedures?

Finally, Life & Death. Every air show is a deadly serious situation. One mistake can mean a crash. Sales calls are very serious as well, especially in this economy. One bad call and somebody else gets the business. (You “crash.”) How often are your salespeople crashing, and what’s that costing you?

Okay, selling ‘s NOT life and death. Unless it’s your company’s sales revenues. Then maybe it IS life and death.

So take a tip from the pros, implement some of the things the Blues do and I’m pretty confident your sales will start soaring.

If any of this makes any sense to you, I’d love to hear your feedback. Do you have a best practice that you’d like to share with your colleagues?

Jim Dunn is a sales process expert who has been selling and training sales professionals and professional service providers for over 40 years. He and his partner, John Schumann, are the creators of Common Sense Selling®, a counterintuitive sales process that’s been deployed successfully in hundreds of companies around the world. Jim can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 858-627-0726. And be sure to check out our breakthrough online training program at