Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball

Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball

by Dave Kurlan

ISBN: 9781420895667

Publisher AuthorHouse

Published in Business & Money

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

The Four Bases

When Abner Doubleday invented baseball, he probably wasn't thinking about the sales process. But baseball sure makes a great metaphor for sales and selling.

First, it's the only major sport in which only forward progress is allowed: If you get a hit, you go from home plate to first base to second and third bases, before returning to home plate to score a run. All other major sports-football, basketball, hockey, and soccer-involve a pitched battle that moves back and forth on a field or rink. (OK, there's golf, another forward-only sport. However any sales system comprised of 18 sequential steps is probably doomed to failure from the outset.)

Second, look at the jargon of baseball and how much of it has found its way into the world of sales. Successful salespeople are "heavy hitters," and if you've failed to get an appointment with a prospect, you've "struck out." If you think about it, you're already using baseball as a metaphor for selling. (For more terms, see the sidebar Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and refer to Appendix C.)

Third, the baseball diamond is instantly recognizable, and the sales process can be likened to running the bases. The first time you hit a ball off of a batting tee and ran the wrong way, you were orientated to the concept of running the bases. Using the baseball diamond to illustrate the steps of sales and selling makes the sales process simple, understandable, executable, and powerful (see figure 2).

1st Base = Have an appointment.

2nd Base = They need what you have, there is urgency and you have shown speed on the bases (the S.O.B. Quality).

3rd Base = The prospect is completely qualified to do business with you and you are completely qualified to do business with the prospect.

Home = You have presented a perfect solution, appropriate for their budget and they have made a decision to buy from you.

The Baseball Diamond and the Four Bases

What could be easier than describing the process of getting a first appointment-whether by cold calling, referral, or networking-with a new prospect as "getting to first base?" Reaching first base means you have a confirmed face-to-face or phone appointment for a specific time and place. But like a base runner, you've still got a long way to go.

You need to reach second base-that's when the prospect has a need and a compelling reason to buy the product or service you offer. To get to second base, you also have to earn the prospect's confidence by demonstrating what I call the Speed on the Bases (S.O.B. quality). I'll define that fully in chapter 6, but in a nutshell, it means you're likeable and have shown yourself to be capable and knowledgeable, and you stand-out from your competition.

From there it's on to third base, the result of having a prospect completely qualified. That means you know about their ability to buy, from whom they will buy, and why and when they will buy. Knowing this information plus the other factors I describe later will give you confidence that you'll get the business. Additionally to reach third base, your company must meet the prospect s criteria.

You only get to home plate when you present the prospect with the winning, cost-appropriate solution and close the deal. No matter what kind of sales you are in or what kind of sales methodology you are using, to close each sale and score, you must touch all four bases, in order, at some point in the sales process.

There are differences between baseball and sales, of course. In baseball, after you've reached base, you rely primarily on your teammates to move you around the bases; whereas in sales, the burden falls squarely on your shoulders. We won't be stealing any bases; we'll be awarded bases as we execute the sales process.

See Your Sales Pipeline on the Diamond

Another advantage of the baseball analogy is that you can use the baseball diamond to represent where you are with any prospect at any given time. In this manner, you can see your entire pipeline-all of your opportunities in their various stages (shown visually, we can actually see the flow of the pipeline by observing where each opportunity is on their respective base paths) with the value, for the project/product/service/solution (see figure 3).

The pipeline must also be balanced; for instance, if you need 4 closeable opportunities at any given time, depending upon your conversion ratios, you may require 8 qualified opportunities, 12 prospects and 24 suspects in your pipeline. The pipeline also must show constant movement, with opportunities moving counter-clockwise around the diamond. And finally, your pipeline must meet a minimum financial value at all times, with enough new opportunities entering the pipeline to support your closing ratios.

Chapter Summary

Baseball is a natural metaphor for selling. The highs of closing big sales are like the highs you may have experienced as a kid when you won in baseball or any other sport. This book is about winning in sales by using the four bases on the baseball diamond to recognize, remember, use, and get results from a simple, four-step sales methodology.

If you're eager to advance to the next stage of your sales career, turn the page and let's hit some home runs!

Chapter Two

Goals and a Game Plan

When Babe Ruth would step to the plate and point to the outfield fence, he was defining his goal: to hit a home run. And he hit quite a few. Today, most major league ballplayers define game, season, and career goals. For example, a hitter might set his season goals as: to stay healthy, hit .300, hit 30 home runs, and drive in 100 runs. A pitcher might say he would like to stay healthy, win 20 games, pitch 200 innings, and finish with an ERA under 4.00.

Successful salespeople define goals as well, typically stated in sales volume, commissions earned or in more concrete terms like a new car or a family vacation. Setting goals is only half the work. Baseball players and salespeople alike also have to define how they're going to achieve their goals.

Think of goals as your destination and the sales plan as your itinerary to get there. When setting out on a driving trip, for example, you probably wouldn't leave home without a destination in mind and a road map. You use the road map to reach your destination in a timely manner without getting lost. Similarly, you'll use your sales plan to reach your goals within the time frame you set, and without getting sidetracked or winding up on a dead-end.

I can't overstate the importance of setting clearly defined, written goals and creating a written sales plan to achieve them. Here's a shocker: Despite the clear benefit, 83 percent of salespeople lack written goals and a sales plan!

What's the big deal? Selling takes vision and tenacity. Getting to first base is no easy task. If it were easy, everyone would be able to do it and few people would make much money, given all the successful competition. But the reality is that relatively few salespeople are consistently successful at reaching base. One reason is they lack the urgency to do the less glamorous part of selling-prospecting-every single day. This lack of urgency is the direct result of not having a plan derived from personal goals that dictates exactly what must be accomplished each day.

How I Learned the Importance of Goals and a Plan

I learned the importance of goals not from selling but from sports. I played baseball, but tennis was the sport at which I excelled. There was an annual Labor Day Tournament where, heading into the event, I was the second seed and my doubles partner-now a tennis pro and the former coach to Andre Agassi-was the top seed.

Before the tournament, I had it all figured out: I would dominate the rounds leading up to the finals and then my doubles partner would probably beat me in the finals.

However, when the tournament began, I played so poorly that I barely beat my first three opponents and ended up losing in the quarterfinals. That wasn't the outcome I'd imagined!

I was upset, humiliated, and felt like I'd let myself down. Sitting in the clubhouse and acting perfectly miserable, I caught the attention of John, the new club pro. "Is something wrong?" he asked. I whined my way through the day's events, and he sprang into action. I was about to get the lesson of my life!

John was a professional tennis player, recently off the pro tour after several knee surgeries. He said that I had great form, great talent, and great expectations but that I was mentally lazy. I protested, but he offered to prove it.

"You've seen me walk. I can't bend my right leg," he said, rolling up his pant leg to show scars like zipper marks that went in two different directions. "Here's what I'm going to do: I'll play against your two good legs with my one good leg and this racket," he said after reaching for a ridiculously warped wooden racket. (This was 1973 when wooden rackets were the preferred choice over clunky metal ones.) "How much are you willing to wager that you can beat me?"

Well, I thought this was free money. Here I was, a very good player and with a good racket. He was crippled and holding a racket with which you couldn't possibly hit a tennis ball. If I was mentally lazy, surely he was mentally crazy. I had $50 to play with, and he accepted my wager immediately.

He limped and I jogged onto the freshly groomed, green clay court on which I'd spent my youth playing. I served first, a hard serve inside the service court. Imagine my surprise when John set up like a human tripod, bracing himself with the warped wooden racket positioned so that the ball would just bounce back. He didn't even swing that ridiculous racket, instead allowing the ball to bounce back to me. I approached the net and pounded the ball to the other corner of the court, but John anticipated the move and was already there in tripod position, ready to let the ball bounce back to me.

So the play went. I would pound the ball, and he'd be there already set up, as if he had some Star Trek "Beam me up, Scotty" technology. Each time, the ball would bounce back to my side, until I'd get frustrated, make a mistake, and lose the point.

As the set progressed, about the only thing that changed was how long each point lasted. The volleys became fewer, my patience shorter, my frustration greater. By now, you can gather that this tour-hardened professional with one good leg and a warped racket beat me 6-0. I didn't even win a single point.

We returned to the clubhouse lounge, and after my embarrassment and anger subsided, he replayed the entire set-point for point and almost ball for ball-to explain everything I did mentally to get in my own way, raise my level of frustration, and eventually beat myself.

He went on to share the best lesson on goal setting that I would ever hear, and I've been teaching it ever since. "Your tournament goal was to get into the finals-nothing wrong with that," he said. "But you didn't have a more specific goal or a plan that you could execute. You have the skills, desire and good intentions; and you're a better player than the other players you met today. Without setting specific goals and making a plan to achieve them, you're being mentally lazy."

He said that before I could win a tournament, I had to win a match. Before I could win a match, I had to win a set. Before I could win a set, I had to win a game. Before I could win a game, I had to win a point. Before I could win a point, I had to return the ball one more time than my opponent did. And, most importantly, before I could return the ball one more time than my opponent could, I had to get to where the ball would be, set myself up, and be in a position to hit it before the ball arrived. He said, "And if you perfect that one thing-taking care of positioning, setting up, and executing-returning the ball where you want it to go-and do it consistently, you will beat everyone you ever play against!"

It was so simple-and it took time to get it right-but that lesson propelled my tennis game to the next level and formed the foundation of my future career in sales.

How does that lesson apply to you? Suppose your goal is to generate $1 million dollars a year in revenue. You can't generate $1 million dollars in revenue until you close a certain number of accounts. You can't close an account until you put yourself in a position to earn the account. You can't put yourself in a position to earn the account until you've been effective running the sales call. You can't effectively run the sales call until you've reached first base. You can't get to first base until you have a conversation with a decision maker, and you can't have a conversation with a decision maker until you pick up the phone and dial it.

Setting Goals

You undoubtedly have things you'd like to achieve in your personal and professional life. For example, you might want to buy a home, send your children to college, save for retirement, go on vacation, or purchase a new car. You might also like to have more free time to pursue lifelong learning, hobbies, charity work, etc. All of these are examples of goals, which Webster's defines as "The end toward which effort is directed."

Whether consciously or not, setting goals is something everyone does, every day. Usually these are short-term goals that don't require a lot of thought: Finish the sales report, turn in receipts for expenses, and remember to pick up the laundry on the way home. At most, these "to do" items might require a sticky-note on your desk, or a reminder in your calendar or PDA. Major, long-term goals are like a glorified "to do" list, but with a lot more at stake. Consequently, they need to be treated more seriously than the average "to do" list.

Write it Down

Studies show that you are more likely to accomplish something if you write it down. Writing something down makes it "official," like a memo or a directive. You can refer to it later and see exactly what you meant. Written goals can be ordered and ranked, so you know which one to tackle first. And finally, if it is written down, you can mark it "done" when it's accomplished and move on to the next goal.

Make a Plan

A plan is a methodical series of steps that, if followed in sequence, produces a desired result. In the world of sales, this is called a sales plan: It defines what you do on a daily basis to achieve a goal or a series of goals. As with goals, a sales plan needs to be written down to be effective.

In addition to giving you essential direction, a written sales plan has several other important advantages. Like a road map, it prevents you from getting lost by ensuring that you'll follow the necessary steps-in sequence and in a timely fashion-to reach your goals.

Note that a sales plan is not the same as a sales methodology. The sales plan will help you reach your goals by putting you in a position to sell. The sales methodology is your plan for selling. Baseline Selling is a method that ensures you touch all the bases before you try to close. How? By giving you a step-by-step process to follow to get in "scoring position," or ready to close the deal. You can use the plan to check your progress.

The Plan Builds Momentum

In baseball, certain teams, batters, and/or pitchers often get into a groove and excel for short periods of time. Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941 and pitcher Orel Hershiser's streak of 59 consecutive scoreless innings in 1988 are rare examples of long-lasting grooves that placed them in the record books. Of course, those streaks were built one performance at a time-each time DiMaggio swung the bat and each time Hershiser threw a pitch.

The most incredible streak, a record set quite recently, was Cal Ripken's 2,131 consecutive games played. Ripken's streak represents activity-the sales equivalent of making the calls. Momentum is an understatement in these cases.

Unlike most ballplayers, who are usually able to stay on a roll for only short periods of time, salespeople are often able to maintain that momentum for extended periods.

In sales, success generates momentum, and momentum keeps the success coming. Having a written sales plan helps you build and keep momentum by giving you a series of actions to take to keep your sales pipeline full. When you're committed to following your plan, the discipline of taking consistent action builds momentum for you.

Don't undervalue the importance of positive momentum in selling. I have witnessed many salespeople turn their careers around by developing behavioral momentum, i.e., consistently making the calls they have to make. When the wins finally come, their momentum is carrying them in two areas-finding and closing opportunities. If you fail to follow your plan you will find yourself without commission checks for several months while you regroup and literally begin rebuilding your pipeline from scratch.

Here's a useful book on the topic: Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, by Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. She says that from the simplest ball games to the most complicated business and political situations, the common element in winning is a basic truth about people: They rise to the occasion when leaders help them gain the confidence to do it.

Turn Around a Slump

Reverse momentum is even more powerful than positive momentum, as evidenced by the slumps that batters, pitchers, fielders, and teams all go through at one time or the other. It isn't uncommon for slumps to last several weeks. Salespeople are susceptible to both types of momentum, with one major difference: Salespeople who get on a roll seldom lose it overnight like ball players. A written plan, when followed, prevents slumps and, in case of a sales slump is the perfect medicine for slump-busting. It can be a reminder to get back to basics, keep it simple, do what has historically worked, use the law of averages, and refocus on the bigger goal.

In 1988 Al Williams wrote a book called All You Can Do Is All You Can Do and All You Can Do is Enough. The chapter entitled "You Can Do Anything for 30 Days" is a home run for any salesperson who is struggling. Williams discusses the things you can do for short periods of time, especially those you may not like or be comfortable with, knowing you don't have to do them forever. Then he identifies the little things that make a big difference in helping you pick up some quick wins, change your attitude, and feel better about yourself. Finally, he provides encouragement to salespeople who are failing, helping them to know that they aren't alone and that it doesn't have to be so painful.

How to Set a Goal and Write a Plan

So, how do you go about this magical step of pointing to the outfield fence and then stepping to the plate to knock the ball out of the park? The following five-step example builds on some powerful sales specific goal-setting principles taught by Paul J. Meyer. One of the first motivators to create a sales-specific goal-setting program, his 1960's recording, The Power of Goal Setting, is still available on CD. Follow these five steps and you will be well on your way.

#1. What would you like that you don't have now? Bigger house? Vacation home? Timeshare? Boat? Plane? Sports car? Country club membership? Home theater? New wardrobe? Special vacation? Private school for your children? Prestige? Career advancement? Promotion? The key is not to limit your thinking.

#2. Determine when you would like to achieve this goal and how much it will cost. Add this amount to your expenses to determine your required income.

#3. Figure out how much you must sell to earn your required income. Break this down into how many new accounts or sales are required each month.

#4. Determine, based on experience, what is required for you to close one new account or sale. How many proposals must you create in order to close one? How many new opportunities must you find in order to propose one? How many conversations must you have with decision makers in order to book one opportunity? How many times must you pick up the phone and dial it in order to have one conversation? Multiply these numbers by the number of new accounts or sales needed for the month.

#5. Figure out how many selling days you have available each month and divide the numbers in the previous section by the number of days available for selling. The results become your daily action plan.

Suppose you have 18 days per month available for selling. After doing the math, you might come up with the following daily action plan: dial the phone 47 times, speak with 13 decision makers and book two quality opportunities. You'll eventually propose to one of those opportunities and close one of every two proposals.


Excerpted from "Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know about the Game of Baseball" by Dave Kurlan. Copyright © 2005 by Dave Kurlan. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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