Time To Root, Root, Root for the Home Team.
Sales Team development in quite a few dealerships across the country still strains the boundaries of obsessive research unveiling the drastic need for “individual” salesperson’s development. Attrition is up, sales lagging a bit, hard to find quality sales professionals and we still think advertising dollars will be the fix. Sure “strategically placed” advertising is very important but your greatest asset is your people and the investment in their individual development typically in most dealerships is non-existent. So, we sit back, pour money into advertising to get customers into the store then wonder why our numbers are not climbing. It is probably because your people are not aware of the new techniques for holding gross and the art of negotiations, properly developing the richly anointed customer relationship, owner base strategy and follow-up strategies.
I love this time of year. Baseball is back and as a consequence, I felt the urge to use the following spin to hopefully enlighten you into understanding more clearly the importance of individual employee development. As you read it, take notice of the words and apply them to your dealership’s team, individuals and how you choose to operate your business.
It has been said that few things have greater impact on corporate and sales performance than organizational design: literally, the way a company is put together. To understand design options, and the strengths and weaknesses of each, we need concrete models, and there are none better than sports teams. Not only is it concrete, it is also accessible to everyone, and deeply meaningful to many. Using sports teams can reduce the complex issue of organizational design to a simple question: What kind of teamwork is required?
Every company is a lot like a baseball, football, or basketball team. The automobile dealership happens to be like a baseball team, whereby the players are using their own initiative, pretty much independently of each other and the manager. The Manager (GM) sees the game developing, and the coaches (Sales Managers) support team members, ensuring they are well trained and prepared to play the game to the best of their abilities.
“Toughest job in baseball is the general manager. Second toughest is the hitting coach.” – Ken Harrelson
Baseball, like auto sales, is a highly individualistic sport that calls for only occasional or situational teamwork. Scoring plays are not hierarchically planned, and players interact only minimally. Coordination is achieved through the design of the game. Football demands systematic teamwork….Plays are crafted ahead of time and players interact according to the script. Basketball requires spontaneous teamwork with a lot of passing and set-ups.
“make sure your players are “individually” well trained and prepared to take advantage of every somewhat diminishing sales opportunity.”
In baseball, team-member contributions are relatively independent of each other. In the words of Pete Rose, “Baseball is a team game, but nine men who reach their individual goals make a nice team.” Player interaction is minimal. When it does occur, usually only two or three players (on the same team) are involved–for example, pitcher–catcher, short-stop–second baseman–first baseman, batter–base runner. Rarely are more than a few of the players on the field involved directly in a given play–outside of making adjustments in fielding positions in anticipation of a play, cut offs or to back up a play.
Baseball is also the least dense of the three sports; the players are widely dispersed geographically. Nine (defensive) players are spread across a wide playing area, especially the three outfielders. Defense and offense are totally separate. The contest is stopped while one team leaves the field and the other takes over. Of the three sports, only baseball is without a game clock; in the words of Yogi Berra: “the game’s not over until it’s over.”
The basic important unit in baseball is the individual. Overall performance in baseball approximates the summation of the team member’s performances. This is vividly demonstrated by the way offense works: Player comes up to bat one at a time. In this respect, baseball is the only sport where players “take turns.” Although runs can be scored using various combinations–hits, walks, errors, steals and sacrifices, the most crucial method is the HOME RUN. This is the supreme individual act; one powerful hitter does it alone. We all have at least one of these players in the store. The home run underlines the importance of individual offensive contribution in this sport, just as pitching does with respect to defense.
“In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.” – Tom Seaver
Coordination in baseball is achieved through the design of the sport itself. Because the sport is so deliberately paced–take turns at bat, turns playing offense and defense–there isn’t a whole lot of coordination left for the manager to do. His primary game task is to “fill out the lineup card,” that is, to determine who will play when and where and make very certain they are trained properly by his coaches and they are prepared to play.
One of the most familiar examples of a baseball-like organization in business is the dealership’s sales force made up of high-performing soloists who require basic direction, good coaching, practice time and only occasionally need to work together. The individuals comprising this force pursue their own lines of success independently. The players are essentially independent operators. But regardless of size or nature, all organizations that resemble baseball teams have this common feature: Their players enjoy considerable autonomy with respect both to supervision and to their relations with each other.
In football every player is directly involved in every play as does the game of basketball. In football, a team is not guaranteed a certain number of offensive tries. And offense can become defense, and vice versa, at any time as a result of a turnover. Not the same in baseball.
In baseball, team outcome–a win or a loss– is the aggregate of individual efforts. It is predominantly the sum of individual versus individual (pitcher versus batter or sales professional vs. customer) confrontations. In football and basketball, team outcome is a function of large and small group performances. Team vs. team.
Another way to summarize the differences among baseball, football, and basketball is to contrast scoring patterns. Scoring in baseball is concentrated; scoring in football is sequential; and scoring in basketball is continuous.
The individual player in baseball can have a more significant offensive impact at any point in the game than his counterparts in either football or basketball because he can produce more than one run at a time given the proper training. The most dramatic example of this is the grand-slam home run, which is worth four runs or four grand gross. In the other sports, a player can score only one goal–a touchdown, a field goal, or a basket–at a time.
On top of this, scoring in baseball does not have to stop once it has started. In football and basketball, after a team has scored, it surrenders the ball to its opponent and goes on the defensive. Only in baseball can a team continue to score–until it accumulates three outs. It is for both these reasons–individual leverage and the opportunity to score in cluster–that the Big Bang theory of scoring makes sense for baseball. This theory argues that concentrated burst of scoring are critical, because in a large percentage of cases, the winning team scores more runs in one inning than the loser does in the entire nine-inning contest.
“A baseball swing is a very finely tuned instrument. It is repetition, and more repetition, then a little more after that.” – Reggie Jackson
In baseball, the name of the offensive game is power through individual sluggers. Why do teams with high batting averages do poorly in World Series play? Because it takes them too many hits to score. To get a three-run inning, it might take five or six hits. Every one of those hits gets harder to come by because they are playing against a great defense. If each one of them becomes 10% more difficult to get, how much more difficult to get are all five of them? You’ve got five chances to stop that inning.
Baseball is less controllable by the manager. The defense puts the ball into play, and the probability of a hit is roughly one in four to one in three. Extended sequences cannot be counted on, much less scripted, under such conditions.
“The thing I like about baseball is that it’s one-on-one. You stand up there alone, and if you make a mistake, it’s your mistake. If you hit a home run, it’s your home run.” – Hank Aaron
To succeed, in any game (or business), a team must effectively carry out four related sets of tasks: staffing, planning, developing/training and operating. Staffing is deciding which players will be on the team and in the game; planning is specifying in advance how the game should be played, developing/training determines the quality level of players and operating has to do with influencing the processes or flow of the game.
So, real life dealership has to have:
Staffing; An effective hiring/ interview and on-boarding process,
Planning; Development of a solid “business plan” for every profit centered area and department,
Developing/training; Investing in your greatest assets (team members) provides greatest outcomes.
Operating: Run the business properly through strong leadership and processes.
Of course, all these challenges are important in each of the sports, but the number-one priority differs. The best teams understand their dominant challenge and organize to meet it. Using this baseball model really tells us one very important thing; make sure your players are “individually” well trained and prepared to take advantage of every somewhat diminishing sales opportunity. The individual will be alone holding the bat at the plate attempting to get a hit or in some cases a home run so get him/her into the batting cage and work on solid mechanics. You must recognize that every “individual” on the team has different learning requirements and needs different batting instructions so we as leaders must identify where they require our help and then spend time developing their skill sets. Email me if you would like some strategies to identify strengths and weaknesses of your team members and a few tips of batting mechanics. Root, root, root for your home team.
Author: Chuck Barker
CHUCK BARKER is President & Founder of Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, located in Virginia. He has assisted Dealers & Corporations across the country in Sales & Service Development training programs, Management Leadership Workshops and Business Improvement/Analysis Consulting. He is a pioneer in BDC, CRM, Best Processes and Team Member Development since the early ‘90’s. Chuck has held Automobile, Corporate and International Executive positions for over 27 years. Chuck has been a monthly author/contributor for Dealer Magazine for over 11 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.