What Baseball Can Teach Us About Sales Teams


Building a winning baseball team and building a successful sales team is very similar. Baseball teams are judged based on their win rate. Similarly a critical sales team KPI is also their win rate percentage. Baseball teams hire, develop and train prospects that they think have high potential. Sales teams do the same with their sales development programs. Yet there are several things we can learn from baseball teams that can make sales teams more successful. The most successful MLB teams do certain things better than other teams. The result is more wins, championships and revenue for their franchise. 

Below we highlight some of the things that baseball can teach us about building a successful sales team.

1. Hire Sales Reps Like Baseball Teams Draft New Prospects

Baseball teams can build their team in two ways — through the draft and signing players from other teams. If a baseball team drafts players, they are making an investment in new prospects that they believe will turn into potential high performers. The hardest thing for baseball teams during the drafting process is evaluating prospective talent. It’s very hard for them to predict how well a baseball player is going to perform, so they use a combination of scouting reports, skills testing, interviews and analytics to determine if a player would be a good fit for their team. They then create an internal grade for the prospect and will only draft them if they meet that criteria.

The same can be applied to sales. Sales teams should run their hiring process rigorously and use a combination of skills testing, behavioral assessments, interviewing techniques and create a grading system to make it easier to evaluate candidates throughout the hiring process.

 2. Run Your Sales Development Program Just Like The Minor Leagues

Baseball teams have minor leagues. After prospects are drafted they spend time training in the minor league, developing and coaching them to become better players. As they hit certain milestones, they get promoted to the next level until they reach the major leagues. Baseball teams invest millions of dollars in resources to develop their prospects in the best way possible, leveraging everything from technological resources all the way to helping prospects solve their biggest weaknesses and build on their most critical strengths. 

Sales teams need to do the same. A lot of sales teams now have sales development departments that are dedicated to helping inexperienced sales reps develop the skills they need to become awesome sellers. The most successful sales teams are not just able to identify the best talent, but when they join the organization, they put time and effort into developing these new team members into amazing sales reps. They are also able to do this without having too much turnover. If you think of your sales development program in the same way that MLB teams use the minor leagues, you can generate a stream of top performers that can become major contributors on your sales team.

3. Leverage Advanced Analytics In The Same Way As Baseball Sabermetrics

Since the 1990s, baseball teams have begun to use analytics to help them gain an advantage over other teams in how they draft and sign players. Baseball analytics is called sabermetrics, which is the statistical analysis of baseball metrics to help compare the differences in performance among players and measure in-game activity more successfully. This is most commonly known as “moneyball” which is a well known book and movie. Baseball teams now use sabermetrics for a variety of different purposes — mostly to better understand what differentiates top, middle and bottom performing players beyond what just the box score is. They also use it to set in-game strategy and make more accurate predictions.

Sales teams should use advanced analytics in the same way. Not only should sales teams use tools like conversation intelligence (for training and enablement) and revenue intelligence (for pipeline mastery and forecasting), they should use employee performance intelligence as well. A lot of advanced sales analytics is focused on deal optimization, but they should also use analytics to help them hire more high performers and develop sales reps so they are able to reach their full potential. The more you understand about what differentiates top, middle and lower performers on your team, the more likely you will be able to drive more revenue and get the best results. Baseball teams don’t win games without having the best players —  the same goes for sales.