Shutterstock_147286310With Major League Baseball’s spring training now in full swing, I can’t help but notice the similarities between America’s favorite pastime and sales. Besides the obvious, like they’re both highly competitive and even cutthroat at times, I’ve rounded up five tips to get your sales team ready for the year ahead, while also helping to increase your overall sales batting average. Who’s ready to play ball?

1. Encourage Teamwork

If you don’t think teamwork is key to your company’s success, you’re kidding yourself. Take, for example, the San Francisco Giants. They sure as heck didn’t win the 2014 World Series based on pitcher Madison Bumgarner’s 95 mph fastball alone. (OK, I’m sure it helped, the MLB did name him MVP for last year’s series.) Rather, it was the teamwork between all of the players—from the infielders to the outfielders—that ultimately led them to victory. The same camaraderie should apply between members of your own sales team, too. Don’t expect record-breaking sales results if your office isn’t working as a cohesive unit. One way to build a unified workplace is with my following tip.

2. Turn Superlative Employees Into Coaches

Take a step back and look at your staff. I’m willing to bet there are a few individuals that stand out and excel in certain areas (that’s why you hired them in the first place, am I right?). For instance, maybe one of your employees is excellent at researching potential clients while another one has a sales approach that practically guarantees a resounding “yes” from customers. Recruit these staffers to become coaches so that they can share their expertise with their colleagues. Not only should this help with teambuilding, since employees will get to work in smaller groups and learn from others, but who doesn’t like being recognized for their talents? Plus, with this new knowledge don’t be surprised if you see an increase in sales in the future.

3. Set Up an MVP Program

You can set up an MVP program one of two ways (or both!). Internally, create a program that sets goals for your employees (say, a certain number of sales each quarter equals some sort of merit in return), and encourage your staff to achieve this goal. When they do, make sure there’s an adequate reward at the end. One idea is a happy hour at the local bar (and you foot the bill), or it can be more on the individual level where you give a stellar employee a bonus for going above and beyond in a certain area. This kind of award program helps build confidence with employees and give them an end goal to strive for.

And an MVP program doesn’t have to be just for employees. I’m a big fan of company loyalty programs where, if a customer purchases a certain number of items, he or she gets a similar item for free. You see this a lot at coffee shops in the form of punch cards. You do something similar or give a percentage discount every time a customer buys a certain monetary amount of merchandise, say 10 percent off for every $100 spent. Not only does this help build loyalty with customers, but it also shows that you value your customers by offering them discounts when they reach a certain tier.

4. Aim for a Home Run Every Single Time

This may sound like an obvious one, but it’s a true statement. You want every single sales pitch to end in a sale. When Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth, arguably two of the best batters in baseball history, stepped up to the plate, I’m willing to bet their goal was to hit a home run every time. Did they succeed? Obviously not (no one is perfect) but by having a definite end goal in mind, they upped their chances for success by applying the techniques they’d learned during practice every time they grabbed for a bat. As salespeople, we should strive to have the same end game in mind and swing for the fences during each sales pitch.

5. Have a Playbook (and Actually Use It)

Let’s say you’re an MLB pitcher and it’s the ninth inning (stay with me here). The score is tied and the bases are loaded. What do you do next? If you have a playbook, you should know your next move. The same goes with salespeople. If you have a sales playbook—a collection of strategies and tactics that you can use to make a sale—at your disposal, you should be prepared for just about any situation that’s thrown your way. A playbook can also help keep your entire team on the same page, because—I’ll say it again—teamwork is important if you want to succeed.

Now, tell me, what are some things you’ve done that have helped your batting average?

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