Why Building a Great Sales Team Is Like Building a Winning Baseball Roster


Players in Dugout

Spring is here and another baseball season is underway! Baseball is known as America’s national pastime because there’s something uniquely American about it—it’s a game of teamwork, discipline, attention to detail, and perseverance in the face of failure.

In the same way, baseball is a lot like sales! And if you’re trying to build a better sales team for your business, you can take some lessons from the way Major League Baseball teams assemble their rosters. Just like every baseball team has a “manager” and every team has players who fill specific roles, your sales team needs to have a good mix of veterans, starters, and closers!

Here are a few tips on how to build a better sales team, based on lessons from baseball:

Get your “reps” in

Baseball is a game of repetitive work: batting practice, pitching and catching, many hours spent at the batting cage taking swings, and in the field chasing grounders and shagging flies. It takes thousands of hours of dedication for even the most talented baseball players to get good enough at their craft to be ready for the big leagues.

In the same way, the best salespeople are disciplined at doing the steady, unglamorous work of preparing their sales. To be a successful salesperson means doing the small, repetitive tasks of prospecting, cold calling, setting appointments, and asking for the sale. And the best way to get better at sales is to keep working at it!

Hire a mix of veterans and young talent

The most successful baseball teams tend to have a blend of players of all levels of experience—from talented young prospects who are just in from the minors, all the way to more experienced veterans. Ideally, everyone on your team should learn from each other. The best baseball teams often have “clubhouse guys,” savvy older veterans who might not have the biggest stats, but who serve as mentors and the “glue” that holds the team together—keeping everyone focused, and providing good energy.

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Who do you have on your sales team who can be the “clubhouse person?”

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Look for specialists and utility players

Baseball has become more specialized in recent years. Some teams have started devoting roster space to players who have skills that are useful in special situations in games, such as stealing bases, bunting, or situational hitting. Others pride themselves on knowing how to get good results from utility players who can cover multiple positions on the field.

When you’re assembling and managing your sales team, pay attention to which people have unique situational skills and strengths. For example, some people might be excellent at cold calls, others might be highly effective at trade show booths, and others might be really good at delivering sales presentations to customers who have already agreed to meet for an ROI demo appointment.

Or maybe you have some “utility players” on your sales team, who are not the best on your team at any one skill, but who can do a little bit of everything. Each stage of your sales process is an opportunity for different sales stars to shine.

Don’t for get starters and closers

MLB pitching is one of the most complex and highly-paid professions in sports. Every team tries to assemble a rotation of starting pitchers who are the workhorses of the team—good starting pitching can make a massive difference in whether a team wins or loses, and teams pay accordingly for the most reliable starting pitchers.

However, some teams have discovered in recent years they can get better value for their money by investing in a bullpen of relief pitchers and closers. They’ve found it’s sometimes easier to find quality pitching talent at a lower cost by investing in relief pitchers, even if their starting pitchers are not as good. In the same way, your sales team needs a good mix of starters and closers—people who are great at prospecting and doing the legwork of cold calling and setting appointments, and also people who can come in and close the deal when it’s needed most.

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Even if you’re not a baseball fan, there are things that your business can learn from MLB teams as you assemble your roster of sales talent. With a good blend of savvy veterans and promising young talent, a mix of utility players and specialists, and a good lineup of “starters” and “closers,” all of whom are working together and putting in reps, you will see sales success becoming a more common “pastime” for your company.

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