We help business owners and executives accelerate growth.

Is there a Sales Moneyball?

Is there a Sales Moneyball?

May 22, 2018

Plenty has been written about Billy Beane and his adoption of sabermetrics which lead to the Oakland Athletics’ remarkable 20-game winning streak in 2002.

But I am going to write about it again, because it is very pertinent to making money and becoming successful.

For those who don’t know the story: Beane was the A’s manager who, aided by assistant Peter Brand, eschewed the traditional metrics everyone used to recruit talent for their rosters and treated player data differently. He found that offensive success was better determined by things such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage rather than player speed and contact – and players with these qualities were cheaper to obtain.

Despite opposition from the team owner, scouts and executives, he pursued his recruiting strategy to great success. He transformed a struggling team into one as competitive as the Yankees, with a third of that superior team’s salary budget.

Lessons we can learn from this:

  • Conventional wisdom is “safe,” but limited. To really move the needle, you need to create your own secret sauce. It pays to be different to gain an edge, especially when resources are scarce.
  • When you think differently, you will be criticized by experts and laypeople alike. Screw ‘em. Even if they are successful, they are not you. You need to find your own way and your own “tribe.”
  • You might fail at first and get discouraged. Keep going. When Billy Beane implemented his new recruiting scheme, it first resulted in a 5-16 losing streak. People gave him a ton of crap. He persisted, and that lead to the 20-game winning streak.

One thing that always bothered me about the Moneyball story is that the wild success of the system never led to a Pennant or World Series title for the A’s. This suggests another lesson:

  • Your secret sauce will fail to work as powerfully as time goes on, because it will inevitably be copied by the market. Moneyball author Michael Lewis acknowledged that publishing the book hurt the A’s fortunes by diluting their edge (everyone started using the system). The same thing happens in sales and marketing: once innovative techniques become widespread and the new conventional wisdom, they become less effective. So, you must continue to evolve (and keep your trade secrets close to your chest).

The Sales Moneyball

Job interviews are a magic show. Plenty of sleight of hand and misdirection. The process is inefficient in most businesses, and prone to terrible bias. Just like in baseball, if candidate is tall, attractive, athletic, charming, blah blah our cognitive biases lead us to mistakes.

So we have the emotional blunders. But there are objective blunders as well; namely the metrics some recruiters use. Here are some of the hiring criteria someone who follows conventional wisdom might use to fill a sales position:

  • Length of time at one job. Longevity is good, but that person could have been laying eggs and making everyone miserable for 3 years.
  • Lofty title. Senior VP of Sales. Sounds nice. Did he build success, or did he inherit a great team?
  • Interviews well. Well of course this is important because the person cannot be so offbeat that it weirds you out, but too often glad-handers get the job when a more analytical person might have brought more to the company.
  • Prestigious college education. Getting a college degree can be great. But it has little to do with making a competent salesperson. Sales skills are taught by sales trainers, managers, coaches, and experience – not professors. Plus, have you ever seen anyone’s physical diploma (besides a doctor or lawyer)? I have heard of people simply making up degrees, and no one checks.

And then once these recruits are in action, we follow up with even more dubious metrics. Forecasting and lead scoring, MQLs and SQLs, website clicks and bounce rate – these are all prone to the old “conventional thinking” bias. Since everyone uses them, they must be the ones to use, right?

But remember Billy Beane and his Oakland A’s. He used his own metrics, his own formula for success. How about you? Are you struggling with KPIs which don’t really lead to more action and revenue?

I haven’t spilled the beans on our Sales Moneyball here at Volohaus, so our clients still have an edge. This is proven by our stats, including a 72 percent retention and quota-hitting rate on the salespeople we hire, plus dozens of client companies on the Inc 5000.

But you can develop your own Sales Moneyball with a blend of the right data, analytics, variables, and proven processes. More effective planning, more fruitful recruitment, and greater lead generation results in a Revenue Machine.

Call me and I will share 3 variables I believe you should be paying more attention to in your business. Yes, I mean call me and I will answer the phone and tell you, lol. I believe human interaction is important, so here’s my cell: 760.815.4464.

Phone calls? I guess some of the old-school conventional wisdom still applies, ha!