Giant Sales LessonsHaving been born and raised in the Bay Area, I’m a life-long San Francisco Giants fan. I remember my father taking us to games at Candlestick Park, where even in the middle of summer, cold winds would blow through the stadium and fans would huddle together for warmth.

So as you might imagine, I’ve been ecstatic over the team’s recent success—three World Series titles in the past five years, including a thrilling seven-game affair this year. Each year’s championship run has been different, and has carried different lessons that are applicable to anyone in sales.

Here are five takeaways from the 2014 champion Giants:

Everyone goes through bad times
On June 8, the Giants had 43 wins and 21 losses, the best record in baseball. Over the next 56 games, the Giants went 20-36 (the worst record in baseball during that stretch) and dropped behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the lead in the National League West division. The outlook for even making the playoffs was bleak.

But they kept playing with everything they had. “Maybe we’re not the best offensive team,” center fielder Gregor Blanco said. “Maybe we’re not the best defensive team. But we play with our heart every single night.”

Whether you’re a salesperson, business owner or CEO, you’re going to go through rough times as well. Keep going.

All you need is a slight edge
Throughout the postseason, the Giants rarely blew out their opponents. Of their twelve wins, eight were by three or fewer runs, and of those, five were by just one run.

You don’t have to be dramatically better than your competition. Just a little.

History is irrelevant
Most analysts expected San Francisco lose Game 7 because history was not on the Giants’ side—the last nine teams to play Game 7 on the road had all lost. When told this fact after the Giants’ Game 6 loss, pitcher Jake Peavy responded, “This bunch doesn’t care. We’re going to show up tomorrow and try to find any which way to win. Nobody in this clubhouse cares about what happened in the past.”

Your past does not equal your future. Just because you failed before, doesn’t mean you’ll fail now. Just because a strategy or a person or an idea didn’t work last time, doesn’t mean it won’t work next time. Every opportunity is a fresh one.

Focus on what you can control
Game 7. Bottom of the ninth inning. Two outs. A fly ball to center gets misplayed, resulting in a runner on third base. Any hit would tie the game. Pitcher Madison Bumgarner ignored the situation he couldn’t control—the runner on third—and focused on the one he could—the batter he was facing. By keeping his focus, Bumgarner was able to get Salvador Perez to pop out, sealing the win for the Giants.

There are lots of things you can’t control: the economy, your competitors, the prospect’s budget and more. Don’t dwell on those things. Focus instead on what you can control: your efforts, your skills, your immediate task at hand.

Get coaching
One of the few blemishes in the series occurred after it was over—when Chevrolet zone manager Rikk Wilde presented Bumgarner—the series MVP—with the keys to a new Chevy pickup truck. Reading from a note card, an obviously nervous Wilde stumbled through an incredibly awkward presentation. A little coaching and practice would have made a huge difference for him.

You only get one chance with a prospect. Be prepared for it. Get coaching from your boss, your colleagues, a mentor or a professional sales coach. And practice, practice, practice!

Baseball and sales have a lot in common—strategy, competition, training, resiliency, teamwork, and more. It takes a lot of effort, knowledge and passion to be successful in either. Are you willing to do what it takes to be a champion?

 

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