How Closing a Tough Sale is Nearly Identical to Hitting a Home Run

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 25, 2022 @ 18:08 PM

home run

While you don't need to know a single thing about Baseball to read this, it is another article with a baseball analogy. If you don't enjoy reading my baseball analogies, you can ignore this but I must warn you that today's analogy will reveal the two underlying causes for sales opportunities getting stuck in the pipeline and not reaching a close.  If you don't care about that then bye-bye until the next article.

You're watching a baseball game on television and the announcer says, "And here's the pitch and there's a long drive hit deep to left field and it's deep, it's up, it's way back and GONE!!!!!  Home Run Dave Kurlan!"  OK, the announcer never said the Dave Kurlan part. Not even close. I was a singles hitter.  And I never played at a level that had announcers.  So there's that.  For entertainment sake, watch this classic 2-minute clip of Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs hitting the magical home run at the end of the movie, The Natural, one of my all-time favorite baseball movies right up there with The Sandlot and Field of Dreams.

Back to the home run.  A home run is the outcome of a perfect swing but what led to that swing being so perfect?  If we conduct a backwards looking analysis, an upper cut connected with the baseball and drove it at a speed of 110 MPH with a 30 degree launch angle.  The swing was perfectly timed.  The batter waited and exploded, getting every bit of torque into his rotation while using the full power of his legs.  He stayed back and had a nice, short, swing. Those moving parts working to perfection were important to the outcome but the most important thing was that he recognized the pitch, saw the ball and hit it.  All of the mechanics I just described were the result of practice.  He recognized the pitch, made the split-second decision to swing, his mechanics fired up on-demand, and he crushed the ball.

Pivot to selling.  If salespeople had announcers - and that would be so cool - the announcer would say, "And here's the pitch, it's a good one, it's both needs and cost appropriate, and the prospect had already agreed in principal to the price. It's been emailed and reviewed, the prospect liked it, it's signed it and it's SOLD!!! Half a Million dollar sale for Dave Kurlan!"  Like I said, I never had a play-by-play announcer but there is always one talking in my head...

Back to the sale.  The sale was the outcome of that particular opportunity but what led to that opportunity closing so easily?  Deconstructing the sale, we recognized that there was a real opportunity there, quickly built a relationship, uncovered a compelling reason for them to buy from us, developed credibility, created urgency, fully qualified the opportunity and developed a needs and cost appropriate solution.  As with baseball, those were the mechanics of the sales process but the key was creating urgency.

Urgency is the torque that moves an opportunity from nice-to-have to must-have and finally to taking action.  But urgency is also an outcome.  It requires advanced listening and questioning skills, something most salespeople struggle to develop.  But even listening and questioning skills require 2 supporting Sales DNA competencies.

1) You must be able to Stay in the Moment in order to truly listen and formulate the next question.  Staying in the moment or being fully present requires that we do not become emotional.  According to Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on 2,244,094 assessments of salespeople, only 37% of all salespeople have "Able to Stay in the Moment" as a strength and only 19% of the bottom half of all salespeople are able to do this. 

Last week, Dan Millman, author of more than a dozen spiritual self-help books and novels and best known for his book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, wrote this message in his latest newsletter:

"In this brief newsletter we return to a core life skill — how we perceive and process our emotions. Having previously explored how small changes in the words we use can change our attitudes,  let’s now observe a nearly universal tendency to identify with our emotions when we say (or think or feel) “I’m angry;I’m sad; I’m afraid…”
Instead, given the reality that emotions arise and pass like the weather, and that we have no more control over arising emotions than we do over passing weather, what if we replaced the “I am” with the observation, “Angry weather, sad weather, fearful weather passing through…” 
Noting our changing emotional weather patterns (as we might in meditation) enables us to observe them from a distance. We can acknowledge, even accept and embrace emotional weather without clinging to it.
This emotional skill — this wording and thinking change — is simple but not easy. Old habits die hard until we replace them with new habits as this practice becomes natural. Try it and see."

2) If staying in the moment is crucial for listening, then equally critical for asking questions is  not NEEDING to be liked.  It's OK and even desirable to be likable, but you shouldn't NEED people to like you.  When you need to be liked it will make you uncomfortable or even fearful of asking a lot of questions, asking tough question, or having the difficult conversation with your prospect that nobody else has had with them.  According to OMG, only 40% of all salespeople have "Doesn't Need Approval" and only 15% of the bottom half have this as a strength.

Staying in the Moment and Not Needing to be Liked are 2 out of the 21 Sales Core Competencies required for Sales Success.  If we look at the data differently, and filter on just the top 5% of all salespeople,  the results are quite different. The best salespeople (the top 5%) don't usually have nearly this much difficulty as 65% of them are able to stay in the moment making the top salespeople 342% better at this than the bottom half!  And when it comes to not needing to be liked, 79% of the best salespeople have this as a strength making the top salespeople 527% better at this than the bottom half.

Do you want to hit more home runs and close more sales?  Work to overcome your need to be liked and become more effective staying in the moment.  The Sales DNA Modifier is an inexpensive online course that uses powerful affirmations to help you make dramatic changes and overcome a sales weakness in just 3 weeks. Start with the lesson on Need to be Liked, spend 5-minutes with it twice per day for 3 weeks and then move on to the other weaknesses as needed.

The Sales DNA Modifier is a home run for salespeople.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales core competencies, Sales DNA, closing tips, objective management group

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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