How Pitchers Fielding Practice is Exactly the Same as Salespeople Role-Playing

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 @ 06:02 AM

It's short article Friday.  Less is more.

My Twitter feed had the funniest 1-minute baseball video I have ever seen.  It was pitcher fielding practice (PFP) and the coach was miked up. It illustrated just how bad most professional major league pitchers are at fielding their position and how a coach can keep it light - even make it funny - when the pitchers are struggling so badly.

Watch the video here.  It's only 1-minute and you don't have to like or even understand baseball to enjoy this.  Even cricket fans from across the pond, soccer enthusiasts from around the world and hockey nuts from up north of the border will understand and love this video.

When professional salespeople are asked to role-play the salesperson's part of a sales conversation they sound every bit as awful as these pitchers look when attempting to field their position.  Role-playing is the sales equivalent of fielding practice in baseball. 

When salespeople role play they skip ahead, think only of the next question they want to ask; miss openings to ask questions because they aren't actively listening; talk only about what's on their own agenda; make it all about themselves; and they rush in an attempt to get it over with.  PFP provides a sneak preview of how a pitcher is likely to field a ball hit to him (yes, HIM is the correct reference) during a game, and role-playing provides a preview of how a salesperson is likely to perform on an actual face-to-face or virtual sales call.

Here's an example of a salesperson being coached (by me) in a 26-minute role-play.  Yes, it's 26 minutes but it's worth it because you'll learn SO MUCH!

It's OK when salespeople are not good when they role-play.  They will improve but only if they continue to role-play.  Pitchers don't stop taking batted balls in practice; they take more and they do it again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.  Salespeople can't stop role-playing either!  They must role-play again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.  But the other thing that is so important is that their sales managers must keep it light.  It is so easy for constructive criticism to be taken personally when sales managers aren't careful to make sure that their salespeople are OK throughout the process.  It's OK to offer lots of constructive criticism but when it's all over they must be sure to put their salespeople back together again.

Don't avoid role-playing.  Seek it out!

Tom Schaff, a big baseball guy who is also a sales expert, shared this about the pitchers in the video: "A big point of this exercise is no matter how good you are, there's a need to work on your fundamentals. When you look closer, the guys in the clip aren't just ordinary pitchers who fell off a truck. #50, the second guy in the video, is Adam Wainwright, a TWO TIME Golden Glove pitcher, 3x All Star and multiple time top 3 Cy Young Finalist, #22 is Jack Flaherty, and finally, 2x All Star and AL Reliever of the Year, #21 Andrew Miller, not to be confused with OMG's Andy Miller. If that's what happens with All Stars, imagine what it would be like for average major league roster pitchers, college pitchers or high school pitchers!"

I teach sales leaders to coach their salespeople using role-plays like this as well as when they must role-play the sales part.  My next Sales Leadership Intensive is virtual so you can participate on May 19-21.  Learn more here.  It's $1,495 to attend but as a regular reader you can save $100 when you register using this special link.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, role play, Baseball

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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