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Achieve Breakthrough Thinking: 4 Similarities Between Moneyball and Sales 2.0

24 February 2012

Oscar-nominated film, Moneyball, starts with this quote by superstar Mickey Mantle: “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.” Are your sales veterans saying the same thing about selling? How open are they to change in order to improve their performance?

As I watched this film (like many people, I’ve been catching up on films nominated for the Best Picture award and it didn’t hurt that this one features Brad Pitt and the writing of Aaron Sorkin) , it dawned on me that breakthrough thinking in your old guard sales force might be possible using the analogy between Billy Beane’s bold approach to baseball and Sales 2.0. If your sales team could appreciate the similarities between Moneyball (aka Baseball 2.0) and Sales 2.0, they might see the imperative of change.

Here are four similarities that struck me, as I watched the movie:

1. Quants Rule. While the hero of Moneyball is Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, who put his neck on the line to challenge traditional wisdom, his assistant general manager— an economics grad and computer nerd from Yale who uses Bill James’s statistical approach to baseball performance —is the real brains behind the innovation. Adding “science” (metrics, data analysis, process) to the sales function to not only improve results but also add the elements of predictability and scalability,  is a key breakthrough of Sales 2.0 thinking. The (hopefully) cherished quants in today’s Sales 2.0 environments could be perhaps your Sales VP or experts in Sales Operations, Inside Sales, Marketing. They are those that track and understand your sales KPIs and how to tweak them to maximize efficiency and effectiveness and proliferate the practices of best-performing reps across the organization.

2. Lowering Cost Can Improve Performance. In baseball, it was assumed that winning teams were always the ones that spent the most money on players. If that were true, the Yankees would always win the World Series. In Sales 2.0, we have proven that lower-cost sales resources and approaches often outperform the most senior sales professionals in certain sales activities: lead generation and qualification, selling in volume, selling using only the phone/Web/social media. By adding these resources to your sales team, the most costly sales people typically generate more revenue as well as you sharpen their focus on the largest, most strategic opportunities.

3. Status Quo Is Questioned. Michael Lewis wrote about a man who set out to revolutionize a sport while Brent Holloway and I wrote about business professionals challenging traditional notions about selling.  Moneyball, says the author, asks us “to rethink baseball: how it is managed, how it is played, who is best suited to play it, and why.” Sales 2.0 is about rethinking selling, considering not only the new ways buyers engage with sellers in today’s online world but also the proven results of infusing  metrics, process and technology into the sales function.

4. Some Veterans are Scared or Threatened. Billy Beane was accused of trying to reinvent a system that was working and discounting what baseball scouts had been doing for 150 years. He threatened their comfortable way of doing things. Sales 2.0 can be dismissed in a similar fashion as  jargon or a passing fad. Whatever you call it, a better way of selling is here to stay. This new sales approach recognizes that buyer preferences, the economics of global business and other factors are driving change and a combination of the art of personal relationship-building with the predictability of science, data and metrics produces superior results.

Thanks to Moneyball author, Michael Lewis, for providing the inspiration for this post. I was influenced and  inspired by his nonfiction writing while writing Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices and Technology.

Could you use the parallels between Moneyball and Sales 2.0 to achieve breakthrough thinking in your organization? How?