Conquering the Basics


When I was in junior high, our baseball coach constantly impressed upon us the importance of conquering the basics, or the fundamentals of the sport.

The reason was that consistently and successfully executing the basics on the field is what wins games. Here’s what he had to say about showboating or trying to be fancy, whether at the plate or while playing your position:

“Don’t try to be Candy Maldonado. You are NOT Candy Maldonado. Conquer the fundamentals, and do them right every time, and then one day maybe you can mess around and try to develop a fancy style. Not today, though.”

He was trying to teach us that you first need to be great at the basics, because that’s what really matters.

So before I stretch this analogy out of shape let’s apply it to your sales team.

The average salesperson can make an adequate living picking low-hanging fruit off the tree. But what if you want to be more than average? Then you need to get to work. When there’s not as much low-hanging fruit to choose from, it’s time to start climbing branches and shaking them. That means making the most out of what leads you have.

So what does that look like? It means paying attention to fundamentals and practicing them seriously. And there are three things to break down and focus on.

First, there’s prospecting: Identify who you’re going to approach. Make a list and do your best to identify the decision-makers. When building a prospecting list don’t forget to tap existing clients for referrals. Then diligently work that list.

Once you’re in front of new prospects, qualify them. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. You cannot learn too much about the people you want to turn into clients. That means not just learning what they think they need, but also uncovering hidden needs, and finding the hot buttons they have, and the problems they need solutions for. Be genuine and open up an honest dialogue with them.

Finally, follow up. For real. No one closes every prospect on the first meeting. Be proactive, and not only collect contact information from your prospects but follow up consistently.

Use some kind of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program to schedule your follow-ups: days later, weeks later, even months later, if necessary. Be diligent about keeping your promises to follow up.

Few salespeople ever follow up. When I’m shopping for a big-ticket item, and I’m not ready to buy, I always test salespeople by asking them to follow up with me. I’m not even leaving it up to them, I’m asking them to do it.

Consistently over the years, I’ve found that four out of five salespeople I talk to don’t do it. They’re being consistent, but consistent at not following up. That’s not really what we’re going for here.

Who do you think ends up getting that business? That’s right.

If you actually follow up, every time, all the time, that automatically puts you in the top quintile of all salespeople, everywhere.

My old coach told us we didn’t have to be perfect to win games, we just had to be consistent. By that same token, you don’t need to be perfect to sell more, you need to be consistent. That means executing the basics.