During our first of its kind Independence Day weekend, I thought about a lot of things that loosely tied into sales effectiveness and while they could all be articles in their own right, I decided to write one article tying them all together.
I've been writing articles for my Blog for fifteen years - since 2006 - so not only was I an early adopter, I've written close to 2,000 articles. The five topics I have written most about are:
- The 21 Sales Core Competencies and the data from evaluating 1,988,673 salespeople.
- Sales Process and the importance of having one that is customized, customer-focused, milestone-centric, staged, and optimized
- Consultative Selling and why that approach will net better results than any other approach
- Sales Coaching and its impact on revenue
- Baseball and it's ties, connections, similarities and place in sales
Baseball? There are lots of reasons for baseball being in the top 5 but in 2005, I wrote my best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.
Baseline Selling uses baseball as a metaphor and includes a complete sales process and methodology rolled into one. My son was two when I started writing that book. He became an outstanding baseball player and next month he leaves for college where he'll be continuing to play baseball at the next level. During the past 15 years more than 100 of my articles had a baseball analogy somewhere in them and more than half of those had a mention of my son. In a way, my Blog chronicled his journey - both his successes and failures - from the first time he swung a Wiffle bat, through Little League, Travel Teams, High School, College Showcases and finally, college.
My Son's Baseball Journey is the same as any person's journey through a sales career - it involves constant improvement, practice, drills, role-playing, reinforcement, coaching, and at every level along the way, some level of proficiency and mastery. While baseball players rise through the levels and a very small, but hugely talented group play beyond college, sales offers similar growth opportunities as salespeople rise from an assortment of sales roles with varying levels of difficulty up through sales management, sales leadership, and sometimes, for the very ambitious and talented, all the way to the C Suite.
As my mind drifted I recalled my son's most memorable baseball moments. This is my favorite memory ( video clip ) from last summer when he delivered the walk-off game-winning hit in the quarter-final game of a big tournament in Virginia.
That brought me to memorable salespeople. While I have worked with and trained many salespeople who were quite memorable, I focused in on salespeople who were indispensable to my businesses. After all, what would you rather be, a vendor/supplier, a resource, a partner, a trusted advisor, or totally freakin' indispensable? I remembered 45 years ago when, at age 20, I opened the doors to my music business. Yes, I was a musician but no, I didn't know enough about the other musical instruments and accessories I would be selling. There were plenty of salespeople who wanted me to stock and sell their products, but there were two who taught me about which products there would be demand for, the distribution of products I would need to have on hand, the inventory levels that would be required, and even what I needed to know and ask so that I could be knowledgeable. In the early years, they helped me profitably run, grow and finance my business. They were indispensable salespeople.
Moving back to baseball, my son actually played in four games this weekend. Baseball is back! Sort of. Home plate umpires were calling balls and strikes from well behind the pitcher's mound. They didn't have a supply of balls - new balls were thrown to the pitcher from a coach. Umps and coaches wore masks for the traditional pre-game meeting at home plate, and parents were socially distanced and could not watch from behind the backstop. But it was baseball and it gave us a sense of normalcy. The game of summer adapted its rules to prevent (we hope) the virus from spreading. That brings me to my next thoughts regarding the importance of adapting, being flexible and change.
While baseball is still baseball, sales is still sales. How we connect today has changed dramatically and will become the new standard. We must adapt, be flexible and change with the times. But once we have connected, we must still follow our customer-focused, milestone-centric sales process, take a consultative approach, sell value and thoroughly qualify. That.Will.Not.Change. You must still develop a relationship, build trust, find a compelling reason for them to do business with you, create urgency and differentiate yourself, recommend the ideal solutions and get them to buy from you. That.Will.Not.Change. However, the tools you have at your disposal have changed:
- Prospects and customers can click a link to schedule time in your digital calendar which syncs across all your devices to save you a ton of time like youcanbook.me.
- The new crop of CRM applications with built-in playbooks to guide you through your sales process with an emphasis on opportunities and pipeline instead of contacts and companies like Membrain.
- Digital document signing to replace the part of the closing process where documents requiring signatures go to die like Docusign and Adobesign.
- Social Selling applications like LinkedIn, Twitter, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Hubspot to help you get inbound leads and make connections through Blogging, posts and shares.
- Video Conferencing like Zoom.
- File Sharing applications like AWS, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive and Egnyte.
- Content Sharing applications like OneMob.
- Collaboration tools like Evernote and Onenote
- Organizational tools like ToDo.
- Email like Outlook, Gmail and Spark.
- If/Then/Next tools like Zapier.
These tools, if used effectively and integrated efficiently, will make your life easier. None of these tools will do the selling for you, but it will make the ancillary tasks around selling easier for you to get done. For instance, I can send out my newsletter in MailChimp, link to my Blog, get an inbound lead, connect over LinkedIn, give an interested prospect the link to my calendar to schedule our first video call over Zoom, move to the next stage of the sales process in my CRM, import collateral from Dropbox and share over OneMob, note the appropriate follow up work in ToDo, close, and have an agreement signed with AdobeSign. This is how the right tools support and even streamline our selling efforts. But you still have to do the selling!
I've been in the sales development space since 1985. I could have very easily become old and out of touch, but instead I have chosen to stay young and at the forefront of all things sales. From my work at Objective Management Group (OMG), I preside over the largest collection of performance data about salespeople on the planet. As of July 5, 2020, we have nearly 2 million rows of data, each with around 180 findings or 360 million data points! You can see some of that data here.
Finally, sales mastery takes more than a decade to develop - just like baseball. You don't show up for your first day in sales, attend orientation, go to a sales training class and declare yourself a professional salesperson. While product knowledge is crucial, that knowledge does not contribute to being an effective salesperson. Forgetting what you know so that you can ask good questions helps a lot more than telling people what you know. Baseball players show up for their first day and have to learn to catch and throw and hit off a tee. They progress from there.
Embrace the journey and the tools, hop on the train, and dedicate yourself to developing the mastery required to be an elite salesperson. The top 5% of all salespeople are exponentially more effective than the bottom half of all salespeople. What do you want to be when you grow up?
Image Copyright Megan Ellis on Unsplash