Friday, July 14, 2006

Dave Kurlan's Sales Wisdom of Baseball  

I think y'all know I make a big effort to get people thinking about great MBB examples of their own. Early this month, my buddy Talmage Boston wrote his own very insightful MBB interpretation for the Dallas Business Journal, using this year's Texas Rangers as his fodder. That was great.

Further, I had a remarkably pleasant surprise late last month when I got to speak with David Kurlan, who wrote a book last year using baseball examples and structures to help sales people sell better. It's called "Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball". Kurlan's work had nothing to do w/my encouragement -- he didn't even know I existed or MBB existed until last month. Like the Indian Pachisi and the Aztec game Patolli which are close to identical, there was no transmission of data, but independent creation.

Dave wrote an insightful and cool entry on his weblog called How to Eliminate the Effect of the 80/20 Rule on your Sales Force. The essential lesson is this: while sales pros accept the idea that on a sales staff, 20% are winners, 20% are losers, and 60% are medium, Kurlan's practice (Objective Management Group) has found after testing 250,000 salesfolk that the talent split was 6% great, 20% fine and 74% neither.

In sales, The Talent Is The Product, so it's not surprising that sales people have roughly the same ability distribution as pro ball players. The numbers that follow are from an old Baseball America study, but the numbers are fairly constant. They show of signed players what percent survive to other levels. About 75% never make it past AA, about 11% ever make it to the majors and about 6% ever have a "career", that is at least a few years of part- or full-time duty.





Class A


Class AAA




His prescription for sales people is very similar to that baseball uses for its talent. Just as baseball uses Observe, Measure & Analyse to build a plan to refine skills and to figure out who to keep and who to let go, Kurlan believes:

Next, evaluate your sales force to determine which of your salespeople can become overachievers and what it will take for them to accomplish that.

Then, hire overachievers, using a best practices sales recruiting process and an accurate assessment to predict whether the candidates will succeed in a sales position in your business.

Finally, hold everyone accountable to these loftier expectations.

Details in his article. Nose around his work; I think if you work with Sales, it'll be very enlightening. If you don't work with Sales, take a look anyway; it holds insights for most disciplines where The Talent Is The Product.

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