The Moneyball Effect – Adapt or Die!

I finally saw Moneyball the other day.  I’d been wanting to see it since it came out, as I loved the book (and I love baseball), but just never seemed to have the time to go. Well, I was on a flight home and it was one of the movie selections.

Besides being a great movie (of which I missed the last 10 minutes due to us landing), it reminded me of an important lesson I learned some time ago.  The premise is this.  Brad Pitt – who plays Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane at the start of the 2002 baseball season, is faced with the economic reality of trying to compete against large-market teams like the New York Yankees who spend about 6 times more on payroll than his owner will give him budget for.  So he needs to re-think the way he goes out and fields a team.

His strategy, which flies in the face of decades old conventional baseball wisdom, is not only revolutionary, but is a mighty tough sell among his support team – his scouts, his manager (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman) and even his owner.  In one classic scene wherein Brad (Billy) is having an argument with his head of scouting, he delivers the line, “Adapt or Die!”

In the end, all works out fairly well, and the team manages to have success on the field once everyone adapts to the new way of doing things.  (Yes, yes, I know – they don’t win the World Series, and no, they haven’t won it since, and yes, some would suggest that the A’s success rested more on their stellar cast of pitchers than on the Moneyball philosophy…but I digress.)

So, what does this have to do with sales training? Well, the tie-in is this.  For years we used to run our business the tried and true traditional way.  Clients asked us to come in and run training workshops for their sales teams, and we did. We’d even do a fantastic job, as measured by all of the 9’s and 10’s we receive on the feedback forms. But you know what?  Our clients didn’t sell more.  (At least, not much more, and not anything that was measured and tracked).

And so, it occurred to us, that in actuality, we were doing it all wrong.  We were training our client’s sales teams because they asked us to, they had limited time to get everyone together, and they had limited budgets.  Because we were all focused on delivering an “event” we put on the best event possible, and we focused all of our efforts on the sales people.

But in order to be truly effective, the focus of our efforts can’t be with the sales people, at least not directly.  It needs to be with the sales leaders.  At the end of the day, it’s the sales leadership team that will ensure that their sales people change behaviors, and not us.

Because behavior change doesn’t take place in a workshop.  It takes place after a workshop, after we’ve cleared out.  And, it’s hard.  So it doesn’t happen without a whole lot of work, support and game-planning.

So I decided, that in order for SalesForce to really help our clients sell more tomorrow than they do today, we needed to focus our attention of the sales managers, and show them how to get the most from their teams.  Sure – a part of our engagement will always be running sales training sales people – Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s still need to hit, run and field successfully – that part doesn’t change.  But the focus has to be on the manager and showing them how to lead change.

Adapt or die!

Discover why traditional sales training doesn’t work.

Salesforce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and registered Salesforce.com Consulting Partner based in Toronto, with offices in Boston and Chicago, providing sales leaders with the direction and support to ensure positive behavior change in their sales teams.

by   Mark Christie