Today’s guest post is by Garcia Glover, managing partner at Axle Sales Partners LLC, a sales-training company that helps organizations build high-performing sales teams by arming their salespeople with the proprietary Axle 60/20/20 Sales Approach™.
As a 20-year, business-to-business, outside sales practitioner, and now as managing partner for a sales-training company, I often find myself using baseball analogies in my sales “pitches.”
That’s probably because sales and baseball are what I know most. A baseball scholarship paid my way through college, and I was a college coach for a number of years. I started in professional sales selling copiers door-to-door before everyone had a cell phone – hell, before everyone had a pager. (You may be asking, “What’s a pager?”) But before you dismiss me as old and out of touch with today’s selling environment, let it be known that my last full-time sales job was in 2011, selling for a large multimedia company.
I’ve used many baseball analogies in sales over the years, and my favorite is this: selling, like baseball, is a team sport played by individuals. In baseball, an opposing batter hits the ball to the fence, then the outfielder picks up the ball and throws it to a teammate. That player in turn throws it to another teammate standing at a base. Now that’s great teamwork! When that same outfielder goes up to bat one-on-one with the pitcher, however, the team can’t help.
Selling is the same: the sales team can be supportive in many ways, but when a rep is one-on-one with a buyer, the team can’t help.
Recently, my thinking about sales and baseball has gone deeper than analogies when I started looking deeply at the parallels between my baseball experiences and selling. My new thought process began when a sales prospect asked, “Your sales training isn’t elementary, is it?” My immediate response was no. Later, I began to wonder what she meant by “elementary” and what would be wrong if it were. I thought back to my coaching days and remembered that players had to constantly work on the “elementary” fundamentals to become better ballplayers.
So why are salespeople (and managers) reluctant to work on the so-called elementary aspects that are fundamental to their sales game?
Maybe it’s because we in sales have become so enamored with 50,000-foot views, technology, big data, complex processes, and systems that we’ve lost focus and don’t have time to work on the simple stuff that really makes and keeps us successful. In baseball, we used an acronym, ACES, which we recited at practice to remind the ballplayers about what it takes to get better. ACES is simple and straightforward and proved to be effective:
Attitude: Your attitude is what you bring to everything. Maintain a positive attitude, because it’s what enables you to get up (no matter how many times you’ve been knocked down).
Confidence: This isn’t swagger. It’s the silent, inner confidence you build by knowing that you’ve done everything possible to prepare for and win the game.
Execution: This is the planned approach you take to achieve peak performance. The key is to set goals and have an executable plan to reach those goals.
Skill: Skill has nothing to do with talent. Skill refers to the acknowledgement of your strengths and weaknesses. Exploit your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses until they become strengths through learning and dedicated work.
ACES can apply to any vocation, especially sales. I had no idea that my experience as a baseball coach and player would make me a better seller. So my advice for anybody in sales is this: Don’t lose focus on the elementary stuff, no matter where it comes from, because it could possibly make you better.