In the dizzying world of baseball statistics, an All-Star hitter versus a ho-hum player is determined by a 0.1 difference in batting averages and rewarded by owners in salaries differing by millions of dollars. Your business is no different. Keep in mind that the importance of an employee’s batting average in sales is just like baseball: the difference between that seemingly-measly tenth of a point, between a .215 hitter and a .315 hitter, is, in reality, astronomical.
There are a few ways to sell more; some are more obvious than others. Most people attempt to get more at bats (by cold calling incessantly) or simply swing for the fences (in hopes for the home run, resulting in a big ticket commission, albeit less often). However, the most practical way to sell more is to up your batting average, by improving on the little things every time you step up to the plate. This approach is often forgotten, and yet its result is the biggest differentiator. One more hit out of 20 doesn’t sound like a lot, but it could be the difference between an average hitter and his superstar counterpart.
This week in Detroit, the Tigers released a longtime player, Brandon Inge, while ownership (and fans) continues to revere slugger Miguel Cabrera. Let’s take a quick look at these two players’ stats from the 2011 season: Inge’s batting average was an unfortunate .197, contrasting with Cabrera’s .344 at the plate. As percentages of the likelihood to get a hit during that plate appearance, Cabrera would have 14.7 more hits out of every 100 at bats than Inge. Closing 14 more sales out of the next 100 prospects? You’re damn right that’s a big difference. I’d want the guy hitting more consistently on my team without question. So how can you improve your sales batting average? Work on the little nuances of each interaction, no different from a batter’s stance, his grip on the bat, the angle of his swing, his eye contact or core strength.
Humanize – This should be obvious, but unfortunately it isn’t always acted upon. Pay attention to the details in your process – courtesy and impeccable service to your potential client go a long way. In meetings, be direct and up front with the group. Explain succinctly what your product does, its singular competitive advantage, and what it’s going to cost the customer. Answer obligations as they come without getting defensive, but never push anything on them.
Diagnose Before You Operate – If you walked into your doctor’s office and had him tell you that you were due for heart surgery, without having asked a question about what was bothering you, you’d think he was crazy and leave. Take the time to dive in with the potential client and figure out what they need or don’t need; really understand what their circumstance looks like before making a pitch.
Burning Urgency – If the client is agreeing with the points you’re making, that’s only the first step. You need to convince them “why you and why now.” Revisit the pain you’ve recognized in your diagnostic assessment.
Make it Easier – Make it easy for your customer to buy your product and service. By throwing a ton of convoluted options at this person, he or she will feel really overwhelmed and won’t know where to begin. Simplify the options to “A” and “B,” and make a well-informed recommendation as an expert professional in your field. By eliminating his/her guess work, you’re easing the buyer’s mind and making it easier for the company to write you a check.
Pain Sells – Stop talking about features. People are 10 times more likely to buy based on benefit than features, and 10 times more likely to buy on solutions to pain than the benefits. If you sell telephones that have sound slowing devices, skip the wiring and mechanics that make it possible for a receptionist to slow down a tape while taking notes on voicemail playbacks. Even more, recognize that their receptionist can’t understand inbound voicemails because the volume is too low and the callers speak too quickly; if the company isn’t responding appropriately to their customers, they’re losing valuable potential relationships and clients – it’s your opportunity to solve this problem with the phone.
Listen – This is covered all the time and it seems trivial, but it’s worth repeating. The more you talk, the less you sell.
It’s not rocket science but it definitely takes some time in the batting cages. Next time you’re up to bat, really focus on the best elements of your swing and I’m confident you’ll do better than just avoiding a strikeout. You’ll hit it out of the park.