Are your salespeople still pitching the entire game?

I’m sure that some of you are old enough to remember Dennis Eckersely, the closer for the Oakland A’s in the 70s who was a mediocre pitcher and then excelled as a closer when repositioned by manager Tony La Russa — the game was forever changed. Before that, pitchers pitched an entire game and relieved only when their arms went to jelly. (Cy Young holds the record for pitching 749 complete games. The only current pitcher to rank with complete games is CC Sabathia with the New York Yankees who has 38 complete games) 

Similarly, the game of sales and marketing has changed as well. Salespeople will have great difficulty pitching the entire game (where they find all of their own leads, diagnose pain, nurture prospects through the sales process and close.) Sure, they may have some success, but ultimately most will have difficulty making their quotas, and the company will continue to miss revenue projections. 

Which is why many companies are experiencing the following problems with sales:

  • General frustration because they can’t control this process and get in front of as many prospects as they used to.
  • Difficulty getting in front of prospects with tactics that worked great 10 years ago
  • Missed quotas and missed opportunities
  • A revolving door of new salespeople in and out of the company

Let’s face it, every call is disruptive, and disruptive is out. That’s why I get pissed when a pop-up ad comes up on my phone when I’m trying to read an article. We skim through commercials and we ignore banner ads.

And the same is true for sales calls. I don’t want to talk to you, and I’m in sales! You’d think I’d be sympathetic—but I’m not. And I’ll bet you’re not either. 

Do you remember the old sales adage that says that it takes 7 touches to get to a sale? Our metrics show that this is now 20, 40, even 100 touches before someone decides that they’ll have a conversation. So the question is, do you really want your commission-based, highly experienced closers spending time to find and nurture prospects?

A much better use of time and money is to focus your closers’ efforts on only those activities that give you your best shot in winning the deal. So how do you do that?

Back to modern baseball pitching. 

In modern baseball pitching staffs, the starters and the closers get the most money, and the middle relievers the least. The starting pitcher is designed to get you through the 6th or 7th inning, where you then bring in a middle reliever to get you to the 9th where you can close out for the win. 

In our analogy, your starting pitcher is a marketing engine that drives demand. Once those leads start coming in the form of digital behavior (clicking on links, viewing pages, downloading gated content, registering for webinars, etc) a middle reliever in the form of business development reps or inside sales people follow up on on those leads to turn them into appointments for closers. (You need the middle relievers to determine what is real and what is not—otherwise you sill have sales saying that marketing doesn’t do anything for me and marketing saying we provide a lot of leads and sales can’t close them.)

Theres good news and bad news here. First the bad news: Content marketing demand generation engines take time and resources to build correctly. It’s not easy, and it falls apart all over the place. The organization must be committed to the process and resources and gain the experience of a content marketing agency that knows what this is supposed to look like. (Hint)

But the good news is that business development resources are much less expensive, and you’ll probably find that you need fewer closers. In fact, many companies have as many as 2 or 3 business development reps for every closer. And you don’t bring in more closers until you’re generating so many leads and appointments that the closer is exhausted and can’t keep up.

Editor's note: The picture used above was taken at a Kansas City Royals game who made it to the World Series in 2014 in large part because of their mastery of this pitching structure. In fact, there was a statistic in post play that said that if the Royals had a lead by the 6th inning, they were going to win 11 out of 12 times. How's that for a closing percentage?