Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the sale

Filed under: Contributed Columns |

Play ball!

That’s the yell you hear from the umpire just after the national anthem, and just before the first pitch. It’s baseball season.

Seems like the Phillies just won the World Series, and now it’s time to start again. Another season means hopes of a pennant and dreams of a World Series trophy for your team.

Who is your favorite team? Ever ask yourself why you’re so loyal to them, even though they might not be winners? I wonder if your customers are as loyal to you as you are to your lousy team? I wonder if your customers are your fans? Just a thought.

Fans cheer and even sing for their favorite team.

Known as our national pastime, baseball season starts with incredible promise for all teams equally, and goes from spring, to summer, through fall, until the top teams emerge. Hopefully yours.

My team is the Phillies. Has been since 1957. I’m a loyal, diehard, devoted fan.

So what does that have to do with your sales? Plenty.

If you study the game, the teams and the players of baseball, you’ll find incredible similarities to your sales and your career.

Here are the lessons in baseball you can apply to your sales game and your business game once you understand their importance and their impact:

The baseball team is made up of individual players who know how to play together. Their individual skills contribute to the team’s success. They cannot win alone. The best team wins.

Every great ballplayer was once a beginner. They started at a young age because they loved to play. They were encouraged by their parents and coaches.

Every pro ballplayer starts in the minor leagues. In baseball, like sales, there are no shortcuts. One step at a time. Before they got to the minors, it’s probable they had already been playing some form of organized ball for 15 years.

Ballplayers are coach-able. Being coached and listening to coaches are key factors in a ballplayer’s success. Most great coaches were once players.

Ballplayers warm up and practice before every game. They get ready. Even if they’ve been playing for years, they practice before every game.

Ballplayers learn the fundamentals of the game until they’re automatic. Then they practice them every day. Fundamentals like: Keep your eye on the ball. Know the rules. Know the strategies. Execute the plays. They understand that defense is just as important as offense.

All ballplayers, even great ballplayers, suffer slumps. Coaching, watching films and practice gets them out of the slump.

All ballplayers make errors. Sometimes an error can cost you the game. Take errors seriously, not personally. Learn from them and don’t repeat them. The secret to error free: More practice.

Ballplayers love the game. They love what they do, and they play to win.

Harsh realities of sales and baseball:

• Very few players make it to the major leagues.

• Very few major league players can lead the league.

• Very few players can hit a home run, or even get a hit in the clutch.

• Small errors in judgment can cost you your career.

• All cheaters eventually get caught.

• There is no prize and no champagne for second place.

• Fans have become disenchanted because players have less of a sense of loyalty to them. Sad. But there’s still a lesson: To get loyalty, you must give loyalty.

There are the unspoken rules of the game — both in baseball and sales. You gotta believe in your team and teammates. You gotta believe your team will win. You gotta believe in your coach, your leader.

And as one of the title songs from the epic Broadway musical “Damn Yankees” says, “You’ve gotta have heart.”

Note well: Millions have played the game. Maybe even you. Thousands have played in the major leagues. But there are only 289 players in the Hall of Fame. It’s all about their ability, their devotion, their dedication and their practice. How’s yours?

Who are you playing for?

Are you a winning player?

How much do you practice every day?

How much of your heart is in the game?

Who are you giving your loyalty to?

There are 5.5 important sales skills you have to practice every day to become a major league player. To get them, visit www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first-time visitor and enter the word PRACTICE in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible” and “The Little Red Book of Selling,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts Internet training programs about selling and customer loyalty at www.trainone.com. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or salesman@gitomer.com. © 2009 All Rights Reserved