Baseball, The Toad and Coaching Unresponsive Salespeople

I walked into the house with Dinger and a baby toad hopped in with us, snuck under the closet door and disappeared.  When I first spotted the toad, I thought it was a tiny piece of mulch and didn’t give it a second thought.  When it disappeared into the closet, I thought about it a lot!

Eventually, I found it and reintroduced it to the great outdoors.

A couple of hours later, Dinger and I were walking back into the house and I spotted it again, waiting to hop into the house with us!  The baby toad was strategic, persistent and committed.

Salespeople could learn a lot from the baby toad.

The goal is to do whatever it takes to get in and reach your target.  Period. There shouldn’t be any qualifiers on that. Do I care if the company wants salespeople to contact procurement first?  Should I adhere to a policy designed to snag sucky salespeople who waste people’s time, and keep them away from decision makers?  I do not. You should not either. Pick up the phone and call the person you need to be talking with.  They didn’t answer?  Call again.  The data shows it may require you to make up to fifteen attempts before you reach that person but most salespeople give up after four attempts.  If all of the other salespeople give up, and you’re like the toad and don’t give up, then you’ll be the only one talking with the decision maker.  It’s not rocket science.  If it was, baby toads wouldn’t get in.  Hold that thought about being strategic, persistent and committed.

We were at our son’s college baseball game yesterday and since it was raining, we started watching from the car which put us right in front of the bullpen.  The pitcher warming up has been wild all season, and has walked an average of three batters per inning.  For those who don’t know baseball, saying that three walks per inning is bad would be a disservice to the word bad.  It’s atrocious on a scale never before seen!  He would fare better if he tossed the ball underhand and took his chances.  For those of you who know what pitching statistics are, take a gander at this.

pitching stats

I used to coach, not as a dad who was the baseball equivalent of a boy scout troop leader, but I actually coached.  I immediately saw what he was doing wrong, hopped out of the car, walked over to the bullpen and asked if I could help him.  “With what?” he asked.  “With your control!”

He walked away.  The other catcher is one of my son’s best friends and knows that over the past four years I have helped other pitchers on the team.  He said, “Go back and listen to him.”

I calmly explained and demonstrated the simple thing that was causing him to be wild. The two catchers in the bullpen were excitedly nodding their heads up and down, had giant smiles on their faces, and the pitcher said, “Cool. I’ll think about it!”

The pitcher’s response to my coaching was consistent with salespeople who only APPEAR to be responsive to coaching.  They agree with the coaching but fail to execute. Let me be clear about what I just said.  They don’t fail WHEN executing; they fail TO execute.  They don’t even try.  The pitcher walked away without throwing another pitch.

This pitcher started out resistant, but he became unresponsive.  Someone who is resistant won’t even listen.

Now let’s combine the analogies of the toad and the pitcher.

Suppose you have a salesperson that chooses the path of least resistance, and calls on procurement instead of decision makers.  Although their win rate is less than 10%, we know they are 341% more likely to win the business when they meet with decision makers. Procurement will go out of their way to make sure the salesperson NEVER gets to the decision maker.

Coaching salespeople is challenging.  When they aren’t responsive to coaching it’s not only more difficult, it is downright frustrating. When you’re attempting to coach unresponsive salespeople to use the phone to directly talk with a decision maker, there isn’t much upside.  Whether you’ve made this coaching attempt one time or one hundred times, the outcome will be the same, so the question we should be asking is, should this salesperson still be working for you?

Sales Leadership hesitates to terminate salespeople because they see potential.  They hope for improvement.  They wish for a change in attitude.  It’s difficult to find and hire good salespeople and they believe the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

The simple solution is to have your sales team evaluated!  Let the data validate your suspicions and hunches:

  • How they scored in all 21 Sales Core Competencies
  • What is holding them back
  • Where their skill gaps are
  • What their hidden sales weaknesses are
  • If they are they truly coachable
  • If they have the incentive to change
  • If they have room for improvement
  • The degree to which they can improve
  • What it will take to achieve that improvement
  • How long it will take to achieve that improvement

These are all important data points for making strategic decisions to significantly growing revenue.  You can get started for free here.

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