May 11, 2013--I tied my cleats and stepped out of the dugout for the very last time. For eighteen years, my life revolved around baseball, and just like that, it was over. Flash forward to now, I'm just the guy staring out his window at little league practice, and now I'm the guy getting beeped because the light turned green.
What I realized in this moment of reminicense was just how many of those lessons that I learned in all those years affect what I'm doing now. We've all heard people say athletes are well suited for sales, and I've always assumed that's because of our competitive nature, but I've realized of late that there's a lot more to it. Here are a few lessons I'd like to thank my coaches for over the years because they are currently helping me in my life as a sales professional.
1) Short memory in dealing with failure. In baseball you can fail on 7 out of 10 at bats and still be considered a damn good hitter. Sales is very similar. One thing I'm sure we can all agree on is that in sales, we fail all the time, especially in the entry level outbound role that I am in right now.
But just like hitting, it is the nature of the beast. Not everyone wants to talk to you. Not everyone has time to respond to your emails. Not everyone is going to see a mutual fit, just like not every swing will make you the walk off hero. The way that you deal with this failure is a huge determinant of your personal success.
After every loss and nearly every bad at bat, my coaches would remind me to have a short memory, which I never really understood until now. While I am in the thick of things on a call, it is imperative that I can move along after that response I just botched, or that I can recover from a voice crack or even the most dreaded name mispronunciation. We are only human and we make mistakes, years of making them on the field has taught me not to beat myself up too badly, and to learn from them as I go.
2) Coachability and making adjustments. Another similarity between sales and baseball is how good players (and good salespeople) overcome these moments of failure. Yes, failure happens, but what do you do in baseball when you are in a slump? You make an adjustment! You evaluate, figure out what isn't working, and then you change anything and everything until you find what works.
Improving as a salesperson is heavily reliant on being able to make adjustments and take constructive criticism and coaching. A great sales manager is a great sales coach, because just as a coach isn't on the field catching the fly ball, a manager isn't in on every call their reps make. To be successful, you need to be open to feedback and open to changing up what you're doing if it isn't generating success.
A big part of that is often seeking out guidance from your peers and managers. Find out what other people are doing that is generating success and then try to incorporate a little of piece of what they do in your day to day. The bottom line is you will not be successful in sales unless you can make adjustments to your strategy as fast as you can make changes to your batting stance.
3) Be scientifically consistent. MLB teams play 162 games in a season--can you name one who's won them all? No, no team has ever pulled off the perfect season, but who are the teams still playing in October? The teams who show consistency. The ones who counter their losses with more wins and are never too hot and never too cold.
This is why we've been hearing so much about scaleable, repeatable processes in sales of late. The leaders in tech have broken sales down into a science. Creating a repeatable process for sales hiring, training, and management is at the top of the priority list for these organizations, so why shouldn't it be on the mind of every rep?
Be scientific so that you can be consistent. A/B test your email templates, record when you make your calls and when you get connections, and take detailed notes on your conversations and your activity until you've developed a consistent process for managing your time that works over and over again.
4) Be a team player, who competes. I used to step up to the plate knowing I would most likely see 4 at bats per game, while also knowing how many hits, RBIs etc. I had in comparison to the rest of my team. This was a huge part of my competitiveness on the field and now, when I see other reps numbers on the board, I know it's time to execute.
This friendly competition brings out the best in our sales team. If everyone wants to be the best, they perform their best, and if everyone is performing at their best, the team will be unstoppable. Everyone has the same opportunity to contribute, and if everyone is trying to make the best of every opportunity, your team is in a position to be successful. Why do personal awards exist? For the same reason bonuses do--motivation often brings out the best in each individual.
5) Prepare like you're playing in game 7. In baseball, the easiest way to be successful is to prepare. Why do you think MLB scouts get paid thousands of dollars to watch and analyze opponents? Because it is often the difference between a win and a loss.
This similarity really drives home the difference what sales was, and what it has become. We are no longer rattling off 500 cold calls. We prepare, research, and strategize before every call or meeting. This preparation is often just as important as executing during a call and it makes everything so much easier.
Use the tools that are available to you to sound like an expert on anyone or any company, it will lead your prospects to respect you almost immediately. Ultimately, doing your research in sales is as a must. Just like I wouldn’t step into a batters box without knowing who I was facing and what to expect, I wouldn’t make a call without doing some research on who I was going to be speaking to.
While I obviously miss baseball every day, I don’t miss it as much as I once did, as I have now found something that I am just as passionate about. To anyone still playing, when your May 11th, 2013 comes along, I hope this blog comes to mind. If you are looking to fill the void quicker than I did and want to start a career that is equally as exciting, I would advise you consider a career in sales.