“I need an edge.”
A group of sales representatives in the wholesale travel industry left me reflecting on the 1998 Major League Baseball season last week. These representatives were expressing the difficulty in separating themselves from each other and more importantly their competition. The parallels between selling and baseball were made apparent when one rep exclaimed: “I just need an edge.”
Think back to the 1998 baseball season, it was one of MLB’s most thrilling. SportsCenter highlights were overwhelmed by performances of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The 37 year record of most-home-runs-in-a-season, previously held by Roger Maris (61), was going to be broken, the only questions were: who would be the new king and what would be the new number? The media loved it, the fans loved it, and even the politicians loved it: Senator Edward Kennedy referred to McGwire and Sosa as the “home-run kings for working families.”
It wasn’t just the hitters either. The deteriorating-less pitcher, Roger Clemens, for the third time in his career, struck out 18 or more batters — an MLB record. Rookie pitcher sensation, Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters in one outing, tying an MLB record. Yankee pitcher David Wells‘ perfect game was described by SI’s Jon Wertheim as “a timely tonic for the common man.” Money was flowing in. Two new teams joined the league producing $260 million in expansion fees, and an additional 324 games significantly increased MLB’s moneymaking arsenal. Attendance increased 12% with nearly seven and a half million more people paying their way into ball parks and the ratings for game televised by Fox improved 11%.
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The inexplicable (at the time) was happening. What was making this aging crop of big leaguers so good? Were they just that much more superior than their counterparts? Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home-runs in a single season stood for 34 years until Roger Maris belted 61.
“Pressure to do it”
For the next 35 years, no player hit more than 52 home-runs in one season. However, between 1998 and 2006, players hit more than 60 home runs in a season six times capped off by Barry Bonds in 2001 when he mind-boggling blasted 73 – twenty percent higher than Maris’ record. The same year Sammy and Mark slugged it out for the single season record, a little known 27-year-old pitcher from the Texas Rangers by the name of Rick Helling addressed the Executive Board of Major League Baseball Players Association to the make the following announcement:
“There is this problem with steroids. It’s happening. It’s real. And it’s so prevalent that guys who aren’t doing it are feeling pressure to do it because they’re falling behind. It’s not a level playing field. What really bothers me is that it’s gotten so out of hand that guys are feeling pressure to do it”
Business to business sales is entering an age where sizable increases in productivity are occurring as a result of performance enhancing
drugs data. Science Daily produced a report stating “a change of only a few percent in the average speed of the batted ball, which can reasonably be expected from steroid use, is enough to increase home run production by at least 50 percent.” The disproportionate effect is a result of the “long tail of the range distribution.”
Closing deals with sales
Like sales, closing deals is similar to hitting a home-run: they can be rare events and likely occur on the longer tail. Right now, in the very early evolution of sales intelligence, there have already been reports showing the average sales rep is spending 17 percent of their time on simply preparing for customer interaction.
Using similar statistical analysis of Science Daily, cutting down a sales rep’s preparation time, resulting in more time spent on selling to the right prospects, could lead to significant closed deals (home-runs). Fast forward nearly a decade: hundreds of MLB baseball players have been accused, admitted to, and found guilty of steroid use. Joe Posnanski of SI, described the phenomenon best when trying to explain the reason for the heralded All-Star, Alex Rodriguez and his decision to used performance enhancing drugs: “Players can give reasons, but I suspect that there is a two-word explanation for the steroid era: human nature. There was no testing. Authority figures winked. Money was flowing, home runs were flying. Many fans were enthralled; media too.”
Fortunately for us (sales representatives), next time one of the unlikeliest sales reps destroys his average monthly numbers, he won’t have to hide behind his decision to use performance enhancing
drugs data, because at the end of the day and sales cycle, we all “need an edge.” To get an “edge”, check out our white paper on Removing Revenue Bottlenecks with Sales Intelligence.