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Sales Lessons from the World Series
By John Barrows | October 31, 2018

One of the great things about sales is that you can practice it everywhere you go. You can also use just about every opportunity as a teachable moment, including the 2018 World Series – GO SOX!! Regardless of my personal bias, there are a number of sales lessons we can learn from this year’s run.

Analytics will Get You There

The current climate of sales is run by data. We know how many times and what times a prospect opens our email. We know that we can increase our likelihood of winning a deal 258% by bringing a manager on a call with us. We have access to more information about our prospects than ever before. If you want to be a champion, you have to use the data.

For example, if your data shows it takes a minimum of four touches to get the first meeting with a prospect, have a cadence with more than four touches. If you know Friday afternoons are the best times to make calls, schedule call blocks for Friday afternoon.

When I first started selling I was making 400 cold calls a week to set up eight meetings a month. If I had been smarter with my data and understood how to increase my conversion ratios, I could have spent less time making calls and more time meeting with existing prospects to bring in more deals.

Gut Instinct from Experience Will Win It

There is no substitute for experience, especially experience winning a championship. Alex Cora, the Red Sox manager won a World Series as a player with Boston in 2007 and as a coach with Houston in 2017. He knows what it takes to win. From staying positive and bouncing back after a bad loss, to when to ignore the data about letting your starting pitcher stay in the game.

On paper maybe it doesn’t make financial sense to jump on a plane and meet with one prospect face-to-face when you could have had 12 calls with other prospects. But experience will tell you if it is worth it to jump on a plane and get face-to-face with your prospects.

No Single Right Way to Win

Should teams bunt more and play more small ball? Should you use an opener and extend your starting pitcher? What about bringing your starting pitcher in from the bullpen? Just like there is no single formula to win every game, there is no single way to win every deal.

Maybe the phone works best, maybe it’s email, or social, or face-to-face. The best sales reps will use a mix of channels and techniques (social selling, cold calling, direct closing, soft closing, etc) to win deals.

Step Up For Your Team

David Price and Chris Sale are some of the best starting pitchers in the game. Christian Vázquez had never played first base before and Blake Swihart had only caught three games in September. That didn’t stop Price and Sale from pitching out of the bullpen, Vázquez playing first base or Swihart catching in the World Series.

When it times come to win, there is no “I” in team. You shouldn’t be competing with your teammates, and the best sales teams elevate one another. This might mean covering a teammate on vacation, running a meeting for a prospect that isn’t yours, or doing some mentoring when you have nothing to gain.

Anyone Can Be The MVP

World Series MVP Steve Pearce is a journeyman who the Blue Jays paid the Red Sox to take off their hands. He’s also the World Series MVP after going 4 for 12 with 3 home runs and 8 runs batted in. When the time comes, anyone can be a hero; the SDR who gets a meeting with a key prospect, the Account Manager who prevents churnageddon, or the manager who personally reaches out to their network.

Managers Matter

There is no easy way to say it but Dave Roberts, manager of the Dodgers, was completely out managed by Alex Cora. That isn’t to say the Dodgers would have won, but management definitely cost them a game.

The same is true in sales. When a manager gives one rep a deal over the other, doesn’t use any spiffs, doesn’t have confidence during a downturn, all of this will impact the bigger picture. Conversely, if a manager is confident, competent and knows his or her stuff, there will be a positive impact in the culture, and the number of deals brought in.

One thing Alex Cora did all season, was celebrate the wins. In 162 game season, it’s easy to say a single game doesn’t matter. After every victory, Cora printed out a photo of a key moment of the game and plastered the wall in his office with them as a reminder of the small moments that lead to victory.

Manage Expectations

The Boston Red Sox won 108 regular season games. That’s one of the top 10 regular seasons of all time. It would be easy to count them as the World Series champions, but many a team that has lead the regular season in wins has failed to win it all. The Red Sox took the postseason series by series and game by game.

Many companies have raised big rounds of funding or had a great quarter only to be blindsided. In sales, you’re only as good as your last month. Just because you had a record quarter or had a huge round of funding doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. It’s why you always have to keep prospecting and focusing on your daily and weekly activities.

Stick to Your Guns

Why was Ted Williams such a great hitter? One reason was his plate discipline. He knew where his hot zones were, where he shouldn’t swing at a pitch, and he knew his strike zone. He also refused to swing at a pitch even a quarter inch out of his zone, because the moment he started to do that, pitchers would try to get him swinging at even worse pitches.

The best reps are disciplined when it comes to prospecting and protecting their price. It takes discipline to keep prospecting when you have a fat pipeline or just hit your number with weeks to go in the quarter. It’s also hard to say no to requests for discounts, but when you have a big fat pipeline, it’s a lot easier to say no to the additional discount requests.

Give Back

Earlier this year, Sox manager Alex Cora brought supplies and relief to help his native Puerto Rico. After game 2 of the World Series, Mookie Betts and friends had way too much food. He personally took it outside and started handing it out to the homeless. Neither of these were necessary, to win or expected, but both made the world a better place.

Get out there and Make it Happen!

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