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Who’s on First or Who’s “Up” Somebodies Coming in

Today’s post is a guest article from Mel Opp, a veteran of the furniture industry.  Mel has held various retail sales and retail sales management positions.  

As we move into the dog days of summer and the baseball pennant races heat up my love of baseball is at its peak. During these heated races I can’t help but notice the similarities between baseball and selling furniture. Teams posturing for the playoff push, making adjustments, trades and promoting players to find just the right pieces and combinations for success. Every year it seems that out of nowhere a team makes the playoffs, that on paper, doesn’t have the same talent level as other teams, but through hard work, positive can do attitudes and teamwork is more successful than predicted. We, as professional sales associates can learn from this to overcome adversity and strive to be the best we can be and not settle for being average.

As I watch and read about the baseball games played, I find the following similarities interesting but also something to learn from.

Both are predicated on success or failure.

There is a fine line between success and failure, getting 3 hits in 10 at bats as a baseball player means the player is probably signed to a multi year contract making millions of dollars, closing 3 out of 10 presentations means you are a successful sales consultant. This also means that both fail 7 out of 10 times. We need to look at how we can close just 1 more of those customers. Closing 1 more sale, will not get us a multi year million dollar contract, it can however increase our earning significantly. You can do the math, 1 more sale out of every 10 customers, keeping things simple, say adding 5 sales per week, average sale $1000, at 5% commission adds $250 per week to your income. Sounds simple, but you have to work at it.

One on one, pitcher versus the hitter, customer versus sales consultant.

In baseball this is a direct confrontation where there is a winner and a loser. In selling this is either a win-win or lose-lose situation. The end results of this one on one has both, customer and sales consultant winning, as when a successful sale is made, or both losing if the sale could be made and isn’t closed. One on one success equals team success as each associates’ success means success for the team or store.

Limited at bats, limited ups (opportunities).

Even our language can be taken from baseball as in the term “up”. A batter is up to bat. A sales associate is “up” waiting for the next customer. A better word should be waiting for your next opportunity. The batter and associates each will get a certain amount of opportunities within each day. In baseball, a hitter cannot afford to give up an at bat, we cannot afford to give up on an opportunity.

Controlled aggressiveness.

Being too aggressive as a hitter, many times he will get himself out as he won’t have the patience to wait for the right pitch. Most of us at some time may have been told we need to be more aggressive. Being too aggressive will scare off the opportunity. You need to be in control of the selling process, build trust, establish a connection as you find out what the true needs of the customer really are. As the process moves along there will be the natural point to ask for the sale. Too soon, you turn into the “pushy” sales person, too little or too late you turn into the “he/she was such a nice salesperson”. Nice to hear but you both lose as the result is no order. You need to earn the right to ask for the order.

What we can learn from baseball.

Practice, practice, practice

Professional players play 162 games per season. They also play about 25 to 30 pre-season games just to get ready for the season. What do they do before a game? They practice. They take batting practice, fielding practice, the pitchers also have a certain amount of work they do each day. How much do we practice? Once we get through the training program stores offer, there is a good chance most of us stop training and learning. We just wait for our next “up”.

Use of coaching and training

Each team has coaches for various areas: pitching, hitting, bullpen coaches, base running coaches, first and third base coaches, all this for players who have been playing baseball since they were little boys. Do we look for coaching? Does your store offer coaching? I find that in most cases, the answer is no. What holds you back from asking for help to strengthen your weak areas?

Game strategy

As each game unfolds, different strategies take place. Different situations will dictate what a manager will do. Do you change your selling strategies as customers change, seasons of the year change, store promotions change, or the competition makes changes? Selling today is very different from years ago. First of all the internet was not even a thought. The economy today has customers thinking differently than they did even a few years ago. Are you keeping up with these changes?

Teams analyze weaknesses

Every off-season teams analyze their strengths as well as their weaknesses. They try to improve themselves with trades, free agent signings and the draft. Have you analyzed your strengths and weaknesses? Ask yourself a brutally honest question. “Where are my weak areas?” Have you found a way to improve? When you fail to close a sale, do you analyze why, what happened, what could I have done differently or do you lay the blame on the customer?

For me, baseball is just a game. Selling is our job, a means to support our families. We need to know that we are professionals. My personal gut check when I am working is, if my kids were watching me am I setting an example for them that would make them proud? Showing them the work ethics we want them to have.

One thing that I hear players say, especially when they are winning, “we are having fun”. Yes it is work, but when we have fun doing it, then it is not a job.

Written by: Mel Opp – August 9, 2012

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Comments (12)

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  1. Pete says:

    Great Article Mel!

  2. For batters, there is a new pitcher with each new game. In sales there is a new customer with every opportunity. Practice helps you connect with each type of customer.

    Practice & coaching helps you understand HOW to ask questions of customers to put yourself in their shoes. When you begin to understand what he/she wants, connecting with the customer and making the sale becomes easier and sales become bigger. Whether sales or baseball, practice is critical.

  3. Marina Klima says:

    very nice article, thank you

  4. James Tapp says:

    Great article,having a positive mental attitude has always helped me win the game and have fun making sales.I agree timing is everything to close and working as a team will help us all grow.Thanks for the positive flow.

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