Baseball and Selling Revisited - A Powerful Analogy

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 @ 10:06 AM

260 swinging at high pitchHow many times has this happened to you?

A salesperson tells you about a great-looking opportunity that has been forecast to close this month.  "We're definitely getting this and it's an awesome opportunity for us.  We're going to knock this one out of the park!"

At the end of the month, the deal hasn't closed and you question your salesperson about it.  You are told that the decision-maker has been away on vacation, but as soon as he returns, the deal is sure to get done.

A month later, nothing has changed.  This time, the salesperson admits that he has had a little difficulty reaching the decision-maker, but he is sure that nothing has changed.  You are assured that everything is good.

Six months later, when the deal still hasn't closed, you force the salesperson to archive the opportunity with the salesperson still not understanding what went wrong.

The exact same thing happens in baseball - especially with Little Leaguers.  

When the pitcher throws the ball toward the plate, no pitch looks more enticing, easier to hit or simpler to track than the one thrown at eye-level to the hitter.  The hitter has an extremely short time to react and decide whether or not to swing and the pitch is simply irresistable.  So time after time, the undisciplined batter swings - and misses - every single time.

We know why they swing - the pitch looks so, so good.  But why do they miss?

A ball thrown at eye-level is much too high to hit and out of the strike zone.  When thrown fast, it is pretty much impossible to hit.  The high fastball - a Little Leaguer will swing underneath it and be late swinging every single time.  So, rather than teaching them how to hit that pitch, it's important to teach them how to not swing at that pitch.

Back to your salespeople.  The very opportunities that look so good to them - the high fastballs of opportunities where they hear what they want to hear - cause them to skip steps and milestones.  Along the way, they fail to question things like competition, decision-makers, timelines, compelling reasons, things that can go wrong, incumbents, preferences, pricing and more.  Just like with the Little Leaguers, your salespeople must learn to lay off of those great sounding opportunities - until they are completely qualified.  It's not a matter of helping your salespeople hit these opportunities out of the park as much as it's a need to disqualify these opportunities so that your salespeople don't swing and miss.

Salespeople are just like Little Leaguers, only they should know better.  Why don't they?  They share a weakness where they both get excited or emotional, and when that happens, their judgement can be faulty.  It takes discipline to lay off the high fastball and ask the necessary questions when the prospect is saying that they are ready to buy.

Discipline and consistency - two qualities that great salespeople share.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, selling tips

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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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