What If The Ball Is Hit To You?

Proving Once Again that Business Imitates Baseball… or Should!

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No outs. Runner on 1st. Pop fly into shallow left field. Jack Wilson knew what to do. Would you?

You’re pretty impressionable at 12 years old. At least I was. It was my last season in Little League and I was playing for a new coach. Coach Lodovico loved baseball.

For him, it wasn’t the petty competition with other coaches (like it is often today), his passion was for the game itself. The sportsmanship. The opportunity to “throw the ball around with a buddy when you didn’t have anything else to do.” And the fundamentals. Coach was big on the fundamentals.

Every practice. Every game. Even every inning, he’d pick out one or two of us boys (like me) and yell from the foul line, “John, what are you going to do if the ball’s hit to you?” And I better know the answer.

“Coach, there’s a runner on 1st and 3rd, 2 out. If the ball’s hit on the ground, I’m going to take the easy out at 1st.”

Or a more tricky one might be: “Coach, there’s 1 out and they’ve got runners on 1st and 2nd, so if the ball’s popped up in the infield, it’s the infield-fly rule.” [even big-leaguers mess that one up]

No matter if you were playing in the infield, catching or in the outfield, we were all on our toes because we had to always be ready to answer the question, “What am I going to do if the ball’s hit to me?”

Sales is a lot like Baseball

You can pick out the top performers. They’re the ones always thinking ahead. For them, preparation doesn’t begin in the car ride to the client, it actually starts days and weeks before the meeting. They’ve done their research and are ready to answer any conceivable question the buyer may ask.

I’m sure you know sales people like this. Hopefully, you’re one of them.

2009 UMass-Dartmouth corporate blog study
2009 UMass-Dartmouth corporate blog study

The thing I don’t understand is why are so few (especially in this economy) are devoting time to improve their understanding of how their products and services solve customer problems better, more efficiently and with less manpower than their competitor’s. Certainly, customers would like to know those answers.

It would be really terrific to see sales professionals blogging on this topic, wouldn’t it? That would be a marketer’s dream, not to say anything about the contribution to Google-SEO-juiced, website content! But sadly, only 16% of the F500 and 39% of the Inc. 500 are doing so (see chart: UMass-Dartmouth research). Charities are blogging more than small business? Come on…!

At the same time, sales training classrooms go unfilled. To me, I would think they’d be at capacity. Even if it’s a lack of budget, is there a better investment than one made in your own education (i.e., dollars from your own wallet)? If there is, you’re probably in the wrong career.

Besides product (problem-solving) knowledge and selling skills training, customer-knowledge is the third area where high-potential sales people shine. While any sales rep knows enough to Google the company and read its About-Us page before the client meeting, only a handful of reps know what’s going on with their customer’s competitors. And the smart ones let Google do the work for them by setting up Google Alerts for their customers and their customer’s competitors.

Trading Places

Trade places with your prospective buyer or customer sometime and ask yourself which caller is best prepared and which one you’d prefer to meet with.

Caller #1: Hi Bob, this is William Fold and I was calling to see if I could stop by this week to show you our new product catalogs and discuss your needs for widgets this coming season.


Caller #2: Hi Bob, this is Jack Frost and I wanted to find out if you and your team have had time to develop a response to your competitor’s merger announcement yesterday. When I read the announcement, I immediately got my team together to brainstorm. If you have 15 minutes sometime this week, I’d like to share the options we came up with.

No doubt, Caller #2 wins every time.

It’s not IF, but WHEN

Do you know what to do when the ball comes to you? Are you making every second count so you have a deeper understanding for your customer’s problems and how your products and services solve them better than your competitor’s? Do your selling skills need a refresh?

Clearly, Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson knew what to do when the ball came to him. Will you?

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  • http://GenerosityMarketing.com Bryan Bliss

    The fact that charities are blogging considerably more than Big business is really indicative of a larger cultural difference in priorities.
    So many of the “small businesses’ have “big Business” and growth as a goal and a role model but we are seeing a massive failure on big business principles globally.

    Charities thrive by developing relationships, making their prospects ‘feel good’ and have emotional experiences with their brand. Big business has in far too many cases prioritized efficiency, mass appeal and a one size fits all, instead of engaging and truly KNOWING their customers.

    Big business isn’t even in the game when the ball is hit to them, they are in boardrooms figuring how to outsource their labor to Malaysia instead of planning on the custom response to the customers situation. Not asking, not knowing, not caring, all big mistakes in big Business but all are now easy, inexpensive to implement (expensive to ignore) scalable and authentic in a small business strategy playbook.

    Thanks for your insight
    Bryan Bliss

  • http://blog.bridgegroupinc.com trish bertuzzi

    Love the analogy. We recently wrote a post called “Why Prospecting is Like Baseball” based on a quote by Mickey Mantle

    “During my 18 years in baseball, I came to bat almost 9,000 times. I struck out over 1,700 times and walked over 1,800 times. That means I played seven years in the major leagues without even hitting a baseball.”

    Wow – 7 years without hitting the ball! What dedication, what a positive mental attitude, what a viewpoint that you have to put in the time to get the results you need to be an all star in sales or anything else!

  • Chris

    Reading your baseball analogy in the beginning of this article brought back memories of my own childhood playing baseball. The relationship between this team sport and business is very similar as you have described in this post. Unfortunately, I had quite a few negative experiences, primarily from my coaches either not playing me (by showing favoritism towards other players) and yelling at me for doing something wrong. We have to remember, it is just a game. Business is also a serious thing, but we shouldn’t let it get to our heads either.

    We can learn a lot from having a structured business plan (much like having a plan for what to do when a ball is hit to us). It seems like these days a lot of start up business runners seem to lack a clear goal. They just expect the money to float in, and perhaps this happens for some; but most people really need to answer the hard theoretical questions we had to answer as kids playing baseball.