As a life-long San Francisco Giants fan (having grown up in the Bay Area), I was thrilled by the team’s dramatic victory over the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series.
After being down two games to none against Cincinnati in the Division Series and then down three games to one against St. Louis in the League Championship Series, nobody expected the Giants to even make the World Series, much less win it in four straight games. (The hotel in Detroit cancelled the team’s hotel reservations when they were down 3-1 versus the Cardinals.)
And yet, they prevailed. And whether you’re a sports fan or not, there are valuable sales lessons to be gleaned from the Giants’ improbable victory. Here are seven:
1. Be confident
“We didn’t let doubt creep in,” said Giants right fielder Hunter Pence. Confidence is as essential in sales as it is on the baseball field. Confidence affects your thoughts, your words and your actions. Doubt and fear are success killers.
2. Be resilient
No team had ever come back from a two-game deficit to win three straight games on the road. And few teams have rebounded after trailing a series 3-1. The Giants did both. Largely by treating each elimination game as a fresh opportunity to succeed. Nobody ever said success—in sales, in baseball or in any other aspect of life—was going to be easy. Steel yourself for the bumps in the road and be prepared to bounce back when you encounter setbacks.
3. Take it one day at a time
You don’t win a championship in a single game. And you don’t close a huge deal in a single sales call. It’s a process. Focus and be present. What can you do today to set up your success tomorrow?
4. Work as a team
Baseball is a team sport. And many analysts commented on how well the Giants played together. “Unselfish” was a word frequently used to described the players. In fact, Game 4’s winning run was scored by Ryan Theriot, whose job as the everyday second baseman was taken by Marco Scutaro—the guy who delivered the hit that drove him in. How can you improve your team? How can you work more effectively with your team?
5. Value your support staff
The Giants took 600 people to Detroit: Not just players and coaches, but also scouts, equipment managers, front-office personnel, families, friends…even minor-league trainers. Because they all had a hand in the team’s success. How well do you support the people who support you? Are you hiring the right people? Training them continually? Appreciating them sufficiently?
6. Get coached to get better
After an impressive 2010 postseason, pitcher Madison Bumgarner struggled in two playoff starts this year, giving up four runs against Cincinnati and six runs against St. Louis, losing both games. Bumgarner responded by watching video of himself and working with coaches to find the problem and correct it. The result of the self-described “tweak” to his mechanics? Bumgarner pitched seven scoreless innings to win Game 2 of the World Series. Whether you’re a salesperson, small business owner or CEO, a coach can help you get better results.
7. Relax and have fun
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle made the point that, “You can’t get to the top playing tight.” He noted the Giants made deliberate efforts to have fun and stay loose, starting in their dugout before games, “tossing sunflower seeds and other junk into the air and jumping around like sixth-graders on a Kool-Aid buzz.” A survey conducted by Britt Beemer for American Demographics found that 70.1% of respondents would switch to a different vendor if the company was more fun to do business with. How can you incorporate more fun into your business?
Like baseball, success in sales requires planning, strategy, practice, training, consistent effort and the occasional sacrifice. And when you put everything together, you’ll celebrate more wins!