salesperson-up-to-bat (1)With the beginning of baseball season I find myself thinking about what those baseball players have done all winter to prepare for the season.  It is a long and grueling season with 162 games per team in MLB.  It isn’t too dissimilar from an effective sales year or career.  The best salespeople recognize that their year is like a marathon.  They have to consistently and methodically perform.

I believe that most MLB players spend their off-season preparing for the upcoming season.  They don’t sit around and eat bon-bons, expecting that they will show up for Spring Training in perfect form.  They work out to get physically stronger.  They practice their baseball specific moves and skills to hit the ball better or pitch better.  Then there is Spring Training, which is the best practice setting to actually prepare the players for the real games that are just around the corner, but they are just that, practice.

Obviously major league baseball players are paid a substantial amount with the understanding that they will prepare to perform their best.   What about your sales team?  Are they expected to perform at their best when they are in the “game”?  Or do you allow them to use game time as practice time?  Most sales teams are not disciplined about practicing enough, mainly because most sales managers are not comfortable instituting a practice discipline into the team.  This is probably because the sales manager is not comfortable with that level of discipline, or they don’t know how to respond to the salespeople’s complaints about “role playing” and how it isn’t realistic.  Guess what?  It is the closest thing to being realistic you can get without taking the risk of practicing on a prospect.

Most salespeople probably aren’t going to do enough prep and practice on their own, so it is the job of the sales manager to make sure that the salespeople are getting enough reps prior to having to step into the game.  Sales managers that aren’t preparing them for the sales conversations they will have through practice are doing their salespeople a disservice.  It would be just like major league baseball players hanging up their glove when the season ends in the fall and showing up again on opening day without any work in between.

As part of the weekly sales meeting, how about instead of just asking the salespeople to go around the room and talk about the deals they have in the pipeline, you ask them to engage in a practice session to help prepare for the next meeting they will have with one of those prospects in the pipeline?  That will be far more valuable than just talking about the deals.  Help them simulate the situation and consider possible outcomes and how they will respond.  Do that and the sales team will improve in skill, confidence and sales success.

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J Jones

4/3/2014, 2:15:54 PM

I have played Baseball and from a players position there are far more aspects to being a Sales Manager. As a player I had Managers, Coaches, Publicist, Marketing, Trainers, and Doctors to help me preform. As a Sales Manager I’m all that and have to deal with return goods, forecasting, missed deliveries, lack of team members to field the team, marketing, negotiations, travel schedule, vehicle maintenance the list is endless.
Weather would change our game schedule with Baseball but with Welding Equipment sales there are far more factors that can and do change the schedule.
I get the Article and agree most people need clear direction to stay focused until they develop their process that works for them in their territory. Some will never be disciplined enough or dedicated to put in the time necessary to be a top sales performer. There are those who just have dumb luck and win salesman of the year.
It’s been said “You are not paid on effort you are paid on results.” Well if the effort isn’t invested the results are not produced unless it’s luck.

4/3/2014, 3:57:49 PM

Thanks J. Good insight. And, you are right, that most sales managers have to be part coach, part doctor, part manager etc. It is a heavy burden that’s why those managers that can help their salespeople excel at a higher level and help them see the benefits of a disciplined approach generally soar to greater heights.