For many winters I've ventured south, leaving cold and snowy Boston behind for a much-anticipated guys weekend. And where do I go, you ask? The warm golf courses of sunny Hilton Head, SC? No thanks. The sun and fun of Miami’s South Beach? Pass. Then surely you must go to that adult playland known as Las Vegas, right? Nope - Vegas is for suckers. I prefer to do something completely different when I want to escape. For me, nothing says “spring break” more than going to Atlantic City in the dead of winter.
Yes, many months before extras from the "Jersey Shore" descend on its famed boardwalk, you will find yours truly landing at the Philadelphia airport, driving a rental car to the last stop on the Atlantic City Parkway, passing the Borgata and the Taj Majal, crossing the lonely and shuttered Brigantine highway, and finally rolling up the driveway of the same vacant, summer rental triple-decker that I have enjoyed for many years. No golf. No beach. That's right friends, it's my long anticipated, annual Fantasy Baseball draft weekend.
You all know I love sales. But you see, I also love baseball. And numbers. So it shouldn't be surprising to learn that fantasy baseball is my holy trifecta of awesomeness. (Nor is it surprising that I am a complete nerd.) But I really do love it. It allows me the freedom to indulge in the belief that, if not for life’s cruel twist of fate, I would have certainly become one of baseball’s premier GMs. So once a year, I gather with the same group of 11 other nerds (made up of friends, relatives, friends of friends, friends of relatives…you get the idea) from all over the country to enjoy a weekend of gambling, drinking, childish competition, and ultimate bragging rights. One friend comes every year and doesn't even draft a team! He can’t: he is our auctioneer. Hell, we even give out trophies.
Upon my return home, anxious to share the spotless execution of my brilliant strategy, I boasted my conquests to my wife. She listened for a bit, then suddenly said, with only the slightest hint of sarcasm, “Glad to hear you are putting your innate selling skills to good use.”
Point taken. But it got me thinking. In a curious way, fantasy baseball is a lot like sales. So here are six strategies that have served me well in both fantasy baseball and sales. Humor me.
1. Have a plan
Our league is of the “auction” variety, which means that any player in major league baseball is available to the highest bidder. But just as a sales rep is limited to the finite selling days of the quarter and year to make quota, our league is also limited by a $260 salary cap. Not every opportunity, lead, and market should demand equal attention. Build upon your strengths first to insure that you have a proper foundation to weather the entire year. And make sure it’s an actionable one that you can quantify. “Network more” is not a plan. “Network for 3 referral leads per partner, per quarter” is.
Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Spend at least 75% of my efforts on attracting new business within markets where I A) have industry experience and B) have proximity to existing clients.
Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Middle infield is thin; so don’t waste time on 2B and SS. Strengthen my team with speed and power throughout my OF.
Result: Jay Bruce ($32,) Desmond Jennings ($22,) Starling Marte ($9.)
2. Be flexible
Things change. What you believe in March may look different in June, and is probably unrecognizable in September. Start with a thoughtful plan, then adapt accordingly. As a rule your revenue goals shouldn't change. But a good plan should be able to accomodate real world challenges along the way. Rigid plans are bound to snap under pressure.
Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Pay attention to what is trending in the news and on Twitter, and adapt my Public Workshop series to reflect current topics and curiosities.
Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Early on, I lost out on many of the starting pitchers I was targeting. So mid-auction, I changed course and bid more aggressively than I had planned on some of the high-upside players that were still left.
Results: Yovani Gallardo ($14,) Lance Lynn ($9.)
3. Always be closing
At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters in sales is closing. From the first call, to the signed contract, our job demands that we always bring the best closing techniques to bear. Those who possess them will prosper. Everything else is simply window dressing.
Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Focus on shrinking the gap between touches after initial meetings. Create mini-events (ie – executive interviews) that I can ask for post-meeting to accelerate the deal toward closure.
Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy… I hate players that can’t “finish.” For my required staff of 9 pitchers, I will target 3 really good closers. And I also want the best closer, regardless of cost.
Result: Craig Kimbrel ($15.)
4. Stay away from “fool's gold”
I know many reps believe that the best lead sources can be found within financial reports and recent announcements of management changes. Although this may appear promising on its surface, it doesn't always work. The truth is, the author of that financial data (namely the CFO,) will rarely meet with a salesperson. And as for management changes, when a new manager comes onboard, they often invite the vendors that they already know and trust. Sometimes, its simply too good to be true.
Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Avoid engaging with prospects that have never previously invested in outside sales and marketing consultants. I’d rather deal head-to-head with a competitor than be all alone in an account that needs to be sold on both the service in general, as well as my specific offering.
Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Sometimes it is the players you don’t bid on that make your team. I get nervous with guys coming off their “career” year, and I don’t want to pay a premium for the privilege.
Results: I didn’t draft Josh Hamilton ($28,) R.A. Dickey ($17,) or Mike Moustakas ($8.)
5. Value the undervalued
The road to greatness includes a lot of singles and doubles. And all hits count. Spend considerable time on the blocking and tackling aspects of your pipeline.
Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Continue to communicate daily through social media, and launch a free newsletter subscription as a way to stay engaged with my entire client and student database.
Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Look for those players that can quietly get me great stats with little investment required.
Results: Coco Crisp ($6,) Grant Balfour ($4.)
6. Go big or go home
There is a time to play it safe, and there is a time to roll the dice. At some point, you have to take some chances, and zig where others zag. It’s not about risk-taking. It’s about demonstrating courage. Doing things better may get you to quota, but doing things different may get you to President’s Club.
Jeff’s 2013 sales strategy…Each Quarter, target 2 high-profile enterprise accounts where I have little presence. Works those accounts for a minimum of six months, regardless of success.
Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Trust the leading indicators, and find a young power hitter on the verge of their breakout season. No one will remember that you overpaid a few bucks early if it’s on next year’s superstar.
Result: Chris Davis ($20.)
Much like my fantasy team, my sales approach reflects my personality. I value power, speed, and predictability. I like to build a trusted core of business and activity, which then affords me the freedom to take a chance or two. Fortunately for my family, I have enjoyed far more success in my sales career than the lone fantasy championship I hoisted back in 2008. But every year we start anew. And as they say, hope springs eternal.
Play ball! (And of course, Happy Selling!)>
Want more? Join Jeff for the next Your SalesMBA™ workshop in your area.
--M. Jeffrey Hoffman is an educator, consultant, and trainer on all things sales. Go to www.mjhoffman.com for program and contact information. At the time of writing this piece, his beloved fantasy team is in 4th place.