Ominous Signs for Sales Teams and Baseball Can Help


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The Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra is known for his many “Yogisms.” The one we are most familiar with is, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”  He is also known for saying, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Based on the conversations I have been having with sales experts, CEOs and CROs over the past two weeks, the common themes are:

  • The first quarter sucked
  • Way more delayed closings than we’ve ever seen
  • Budgets being slashed
  • It’s harder to book meetings

It does seem like déjà vu all over again as the memories of  late 2008 and early 2009 come to mind.  The stock market has lost nearly all of its gains and the only thing we haven’t yet seen is massive layoffs.

Whether or not it’s an economic crisis like 2008-2009, the four things I shared tell us that selling is quickly becoming much more difficult.  The Covid crisis was short lived as most selling transitioned to virtual and most companies that weren’t directly impacted continued to buy.  More importantly, it was short lived.  On the other hand, the effects of the 2008-2009 economic crisis lasted for years.

Although the media has not announced anything yet, it seems like a recession is on our doorstep. Most salespeople haven’t experienced selling in a recession since 2009, fifteen years ago.  That means there are few experienced recession-proof salespeople, but there are plenty who didn’t figure out how to succeed at recessionary selling back then.

What are the twelve biggest challenges?

  1. Convincing people with no money to spend to meet anyway
  2. Getting to the only people who can override a spending freeze – decision makers in the C Suite
  3. Uncovering their compelling reasons to buy and finding urgency for them to take action which requires a strong, consultative approach
  4. Selling the value of you, and not discounting your way through difficult times
  5. Significantly more thorough qualifying
  6. Mutually agreed upon expectations
  7. Helping people instead of selling people
  8. Incredible Resilience
  9. Positive Outlook
  10. Remaining Committed
  11. Being Disciplined
  12. Being Consistent

Back to baseball for a moment.

Suppose your team’s best players get injured, making it difficult to compete.  Teams and players don’t hang their heads, give up or end their season early.  The front office (except the Red Sox) finds help!  They make trades, call up talent from their minor league team, move people around, and take a “next man up” philosophy.

This is a great time to upgrade your sales team.  A sales team evaluation shows who will and won’t be able to develop the necessary skills to succeed in this worsening selling environment.  It will become less difficult to to replace the weakest people on your existing team with good, recession-proof salespeople, who have these selling capabilities and succeeded in 2009.  You should spend money on training and development for the twelve challenges I listed above.  Not just any sales training, but results-focused sales training with role-plays, and with your sales leaders becoming effective coaches.  It is not only a good time to train now, it is absolutely necessary as it always takes at least the length of your sales cycle to realize a sizable ROI from sales training.

While every company, sales team and salesperson will be subject to the exact same conditions, you have a choice as to which of the following three approaches you will take:

  • Wait it out (you are cash rich and can withstand a 10-33% drop in revenue)
  • Go on defense (hope your salespeople will continue to find opportunities and discount to win)
  • Go on offense (evaluate, hire, train, coach, and drill, drill, drill)

In these times, the first move is usually a lay-off, spending freeze and slashing of expenses.  Weak sales leaders tend to be timid about pushing back on a CEO/CFO mandate to cut expenses. The sales team is the economic engine of a company. Why would you feed a horse less hay and water, or put a smaller amount of gasoline in a car, if you need to travel a greater distance? That is what selling is about to become. Sales cycles will be longer, sales will be harder to come by and it will require harder, longer but smarter effort. Feed the sales team more. Give it what is required to succeed in this environment.

Back to baseball again.

Our son’s college season nears the end under continuing horrible, rainy, windy and cold conditions. Every player is playing under the same conditions but despite being so unfavorable, our son remains committed, resilient, disciplined and positive.  Yesterday, he hit this pitch over the fence in left-center.

Our son has become more selective, is taking better swings, and making sure those swings count.

Just like our son’s approach to baseball, salespeople need to be more selective, use a better approach, and make sure their conversations and meetings count.

Image copyright 123RF

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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