What Sales Coaches Can Learn from Baseball Coaches Part One


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In The Journey to Sales Transformation, crafty old messenger Benjamin Delaney directs Chief Sales Officer Phillip Evan Hawthorne’s sales transformation journey. Ben reveals truths of becoming a trusted advisor and partner to his customers through observations and stories. In this first of a series of excerpts Ben is discussing setting goals to drive numbers.

“So you or your managers meet with your folks before a new sales year begins. When it comes to a discussion of numbers, what do you guys talk about?”

“You know how tough that is. Our numbers get more aggressive every year, so rolling out revenue objectives keeps gettin’ harder. It’s not a very happy occasion. It is, though, a pretty simple conversation. We break the numbers down by the month, and figure each rep has to keep a minimum of four times that monthly revenue target in their proposal pipeline. Then we ask them to submit a plan as to how they’re going to get it done. We review and approve it, then we’re all off and running.”

“Got it. So what types of things do you see in their plans?” Ben asked.

“The usual,” Phillip admitted. “They tell us what they plan to close in the short term, stuff they’re already working on. Then what customers they plan to approach with what products and services in the longer term and talk about what they plan to close. They’ll bring a list of customers coming up for service contract renewal and give us the revenue they expect from that. We’ll talk about what they believe is coming up for bid in the next six to 12 months and the revenue they expect to get from RFPs. That’s about it.”

“Interesting,” Ben said without looking at Phillip. “So it’s like a baseball coach saying to his players ‘We need to score 14 runs to win this game’ and his players responding ‘OK, we’ll plan to score two runs in the first inning, two runs in the second. Then longer term, we’re planning to score four in the third and then six in the fourth inning.” Ben slowly turned his head toward Phillip and deadpanned, “That about right?”

Phillip let out a hardy laugh. “I swear, I have never thought of it that way, but that’s exactly what it’s like. It’s so funny when you say it like that.”

“So what happens if your team doesn’t hit one of their commitments to score? What happens if they fall short of a revenue target?” Ben asked, turning back to watch the game.

“We tell them they have to score more, close more, in the next inning, the next month,” Phillip said as he put his chin back in its resting place on the palms of his hands.

And there, my friend, is the problem,” Ben said as he patted Phillip’s knee. “You begin to realize how impossible it is to hold someone accountable for a sales number. A good coach has to hold people accountable for doing the things that produce the number. The end result of runs for Jimmy’s team or revenue for yours becomes a byproduct of people doing the right things in the right way.”

So remember this Sales Coaches: You aren’t managing numbers.

You are defining, managing, and coaching the behaviors that produce results.

Excerpt from ‘The Journey to Sales Transformation: 25 AXIOMS for becoming a trusted partner to your customers.’ Available at AMAZON.com.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bob Nicols
Bob Nicols serves as Founder and CEO of AXIOM. He has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN.


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