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Sales Solutions
Surges and Slumps vol 8, issue #10
October, 2011

The last month of the Major League Baseball season in the US featured four teams going in opposite directions. In the American League East, the Boston Red Sox squandered a nine-game lead they had going into September, going 5-17 down the stretch, while the Tampa Bay Rays surged upward in the opposite direction. On September 28th, the last day of the regular season, the Red Sox lost in spectacular fashion to the lowly Baltimore Orioles, while The Rays won in equally spectacular fashion, overcoming a seven-run deficit to beat the New York Yankees. In doing so, they capped an improbable comeback to wrest the American League Wild Card away from the Red Sox, thus advancing to the Division Playoffs. A similar scenario was playing out in the National League, where the Braves' 8½-game lead evaporated, allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to take the Wild Card in that league.

In the cities of the teams that collapsed, the sports pundits had a field day dissecting the reasons for their respective teams' demises. Across all writers and sportscasters, there emerged three consistent themes: a lack of discipline, poor execution of the fundamentals, and waning confidence. Rumors were flying, for example, that certain pitchers on the Red Sox had been drinking beer in the clubhouse on their off days. Fielding mistakes and base running gaffes plagued the team throughout the slide. And as loss after loss piled up, and their wild card lead shrank and shrank, a noticeable tightness among the players became apparent, reflecting a collective loss of confidence among the players. All this led to what became a history-making collapse.

In sales, we experience peaks and valleys just like the players on those major league baseball teams. And the valleys are usually marked by the same three afflictions the Red Sox and Braves experienced. For example, it's not uncommon for veteran sales people to slip into bad habits. They no longer maintain the discipline they once did of making those prospecting calls; of staying in touch with their customers so that a competitor doesn't pluck them away; of continuing to develop themselves professionally. They stray from the fundamentals, subconsciously taking shortcuts - short-shrifting rapport-building, sloppiness in qualifying, rustiness in presentations. As a result, performance slips, and just as lost game after lost game sapped the confidence of the ballplayers, so too does lost deal after lost deal sap the confidence of even the most seasoned sales people.


To avoid the fate of the Red Sox and Braves, periodically take your own professional pulse – a gut check, if you will (or if you currently find yourself in a slump, take it now). Ask yourself, “Am I maintaining the same standards I set for myself when I first got into this profession? Am I executing on the fundamentals I was taught? What do I need to do in both of these areas to get back on my horse? And how can I maintain the edge I used to have. Make this a regular exercise, and you’ll reduce the number and length of the types of swoons these two baseball teams experienced.

Good Selling!

PS: In addition to being a time-waster, "over-presenting" can work against you in other ways, which we'll cover in a subsequent issue of The Sales Solution. Stay tuned.

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