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

10 Reasons Why Parents of Toddlers Make Better Sales Coaches Than Sales Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 24, 2018 @ 18:05 PM

toddler

Toddlers watch Sesame Street, play with blocks, take baby steps, constantly ask 'why', eat food that has been cut into tiny bite size pieces, love to start with dessert, and love to have fun.  Their parents make sure they are comfortable, help them overcome their fears, work to prevent resistance and emotional meltdowns, and teach them as they go about their business.

What does any of this have to do with sales and sales leadership?  Read a bit more and I'll explain.

This week I hosted my annual Sales Leadership Intensive where CEOs, COOs, Sales VPs and Directors, Regional Sales Managers, Field Sales Managers, Front Line Sales Managers and Inside Sales Managers come to become great at coaching salespeople.

They learned some of these concepts:

  • Baby Steps - instead of going from A directly to Z, go from A, to B, to C, and so on until you eventually, and easily get to Z - your desired outcome.  This pertains to the actual coaching, the role plays that are part of every coaching conversation, and actual sales calls.
  • Sesame Street - based on the segment with 4 pictures and one of them doesn't belong, you learn to recognize what's missing from the debriefs of your salespeople, in sales role plays and in actual sales calls.
  • Red Blocks - the few words and phrases out of many stated by salespeople in coaching, in role plays and by prospects that are candidates for follow up questions.
  • Why - the thought process that drives every question in sales coaching debriefs, sales role plays and actual sales calls.
  • Bite-Sized Pieces - instead of trying to get your salespeople to eat the entire elephant, have them eat it one bite at a time.  They can't work on all of their weaknesses and skill gaps at once so help them identify one they agree with and have them go to work on that.
  • Comfortable - keeping your salespeople comfortable, or recognizing and managing resistance during coaching and sales conversations, are the best examples of sales as an art form.  There are no successful coaching or selling outcomes when resistance is high.
  • Start with Dessert - the key to successful sales coaching debriefs is to begin at the end and work backwards.
  • Fears - These self-limiting beliefs are responsible for salespeople who self-sabotage their outcomes because they are afraid that their prospects will get upset with them. 
  • Fun - making sure that sales coaching conversations are fun will keep your salespeople coming back for more.

Parents of toddlers do these things all day long while sales managers, most of whom struggle mightily with coaching, do not.  Only 7% of all sales managers are effective at coaching.  They don't do it often enough, don't do it with all of their salespeople, don't do it effectively, don't achieve memorable outcomes, don't make it fun, don't provide tactical and strategic coaching, don't debrief,  and don't role play. So what do they do?  When it comes to their coaching, mostly they waste everyone's time.

Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, role play, effective sales leadership

Improve Your Win Rate and Shorten Your Sales Cycle by Doing This

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 @ 12:04 PM

improve-win-rates

In September I wrote this article on the difference between asking good, tough and great questions.

I included examples all three types of question in the article.

There is also a proper sequence:  Good question.  Tough Question.  Great question.

You will get immediate feedback on how effective your questions are:  Your prospects will say, "Good question" when you ask one.  They will say, "Great question" when you ask one.  And they will stop and struggle before answering one of your tough questions.

Many salespeople make the mistake of preparing questions in advance. Salespeople who do that might be able to stumble onto one good question.  But great questions and tough questions must be spontaneous and in response to something your prospect already said when they answered prior questions.  

I'll share a role-play from a training program that wonderfully demonstrates what I'm talking about as well as the kind of listening skills required in order to ask good, tough and great questions. 

The role-play sheds much needed light on what salespeople tend to do on their calls, even when they have been trained to use a consultative approach to selling.  Instead of listening, they skip ahead, and rush to the close.  Ironically, the proper approach is counter intuitive. You will shorten your sales cycle, improve your win rate and gain traction by slowing down, while speeding up leads to longer sales cycles and lower win rates.

The role-play runs for about 26-minutes but please don't let that discourage you from listening.  You'll learn so much about listening and asking questions, you'll learn just how impactful role-plays can be, and you'll better understand the the most useful approach to training salespeople; powerful, interactive role-plays.

You can watch and listen to the role-play here.  The actual role-play begins at around 50 seconds in.  Early on I reference developing SOB Quality.  You can learn more about what SOB Quality means by watching this 3-minute video.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, role play, asking questions, effective sales coaching, listening and questioning, active listening

Crucial Selling Take Aways from the 2017 Home Run Derby Lead to Sales Greatness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 @ 09:07 AM

hrchampion.jpg

Did you watch the Home Run Derby on Monday night?  I've never seen anything like it. You could see thunder and lightening through the glass wall in left field as thunderstorms raged while all the home runs were being launched.  Wow, what a show!  Of course, my mind always looks for a correlation to selling and there are some good ones here.  

The sales equivalent to the Home Run Derby wouldn't really work - buyers lining up to place orders with the greatest salespeople on the planet.  That's stupid.  But there's another way to correlate the derby to selling greatness and that is in the area of preparation.  Consider this:

I did some research and found that MLB hitters take as many as 500 swings per day - and they are already among the 750 greatest baseball players in the world.  Resource. What would that look like if we compared it to selling preparation?  Let's consider the following:

  • Each "at bat" (AB) is equal to a sales phone call or sales meeting.
  • Each "dry swing" is equal to a mental review of an upcoming conversation.
  • Each session of batting practice or cage work is equal to a role-play.
  • A swing takes about 3 seconds, so 500 swings is equal to a 25-minute role play.

What if you aren't already one of the greatest salespeople but want to become one?  This article tells the story of a 45-year-old writer with nothing but Little League experience.  He embarked on a quest to become a home run hitter and in doing so it took:

  • 100 swings per day
  • 15 months
  • 28 broken bats
  • a total of 38,400 swings

The key ingredient here is practice and in the area of practice, role playing.   Most salespeople not only hate to practice (read role-playing), but don’t believe it is necessary.  But it's crucial to practice every possible scenario that could come up so that we are completely prepared - for anything. How many salespeople are so thoroughly prepared that it wouldn’t matter what their prospect said, did, or asked and the competition would be irrelevant?

"The only difference between successful salespeople and the other 77% is that the successful salespeople actually do the very things they don't like doing."  

Here is a great movie clip from Hitch that demonstrates how difficult it is to role-play.

 

 

As Aaron Judge became the greatest home run hitter on the planet Monday night, it's important to understand how much practice and preparation was required to get there.  It has taken him his entire short lifetime!

If you want to become a great salesperson - one of the top 7% - then you need to put in the equivalent of your 500 swings every day and practice through role play.  Those who commit to this and make it all consuming will experience financial rewards and personal gratification that will make it all worthwhile.

If you like the baseball/sales analogy, there is none better than the one found in the best-selling book, Baseline Selling - How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, Sales Coaching, role play, sales effectiveness, aaron Judge, HR Derby

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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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