Sales Coaching Lessons from the Baseball Files
As evidenced by one of my book titles, Baseline Selling, I have frequently borrowed from baseball when the analogy is more useful than the sales message. Although the following stories may appear to be about my son and/or his baseball team, they are actually about coaching and adapting.
Baseball - I brought my son to the batting cage to work out a swing flaw after his line drives had become weak ground balls. He was bailing out (stepping toward third base instead of the pitcher), causing him to take weak swings at the ball. After I got him to stop bailing, he began leaning away from the pitch with his upper body, causing him to take an off-balance swing. When we fixed that, his front shoulder began opening too quickly, the head of the bat moving through the strike zone too slowly for solid contact. When we finally fixed that, line drives began zipping off his bat again and he was able to carry that into the next game for 2 doubles and 3 RBI's.
Sales -This sequence of analysis and tweaking works in exactly the same way when coaching salespeople. You should be able to immediately identify what went wrong, when it went wrong, how it went wrong and demonstrate how to prevent and fix it. The last two steps must take place through role-play. Are you doing that effectively?
Baseball - I took some swings for the first time in 20 years. I immediately realized that I couldn't track the ball with bifocals, so I removed them. Without the glasses, I could barely see the ball at all! My son said, "Dad, you don't have it any more." That's all I needed to hear. I wasn't going to let my 10-year-old get away with that, so I adapted. I accepted that I couldn't see the stiches or the spin of the ball anymore, but I could see the fuzzy little round thing heading in my direction and resolved to just see that and hit that. He said, "I guess you still have it after all."
Sales - Your salespeople must adapt when the existing approach isn't effective with a prospect. Instead, most salespeople take one of two actions. They either continue to do what isn't working (stupid human trick) or they give up (typical human behavior).
Baseball - As their coach, I offer 1-2 minutes of one-on-one pre-game or in-game coaching to each boy on the team. They get more from their one-on-one time than they could ever get from a 90-minute practice and we see immediate results in that very game.
Sales - Sales Managers must provide their salespeople with one-on-one time before upcoming calls and debrief calls that have already taken place. There is no area that will have more impact on sales than coaching.
Sales and baseball are nearly the same except that far fewer ball players make it to the major leagues, but those who do so get paid a lot more money.