Sales Coaching Blog

5 Coaching Fundamentals Learned From Major League Baseball

Posted by Debbie Menke

September 1, 2015

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by Debbie Menke

Director of Field Sales, US + Caribbean, Iredale Mineral Cosmetics

Recently recognized as the EcSell Institute's 2015 New Member of the Year at the 2015 Sales Coaching Summit.


Fundamental #1: Rise early. Go long. 

I grew up a bit of a “baseball brat.” My father, Denis Menke, was a professional Major League Baseball player while I was growing up. After playing, he went on to finish his 40 year career in baseball as a coach. I didn't have a traditional childhood: I watched my father play ball on TV, the Astrodome was my playground, and I hitched rides on the shoulders of big names like Pete Rose and Johnny Bench during the era of the “Big Red Machine” (World Series 1972 with the Cincinnati Reds).

I inherited much of my own coaching ability and work ethic from the man who put on that uniform every night to take the field. He got up early, was the first one to the ballpark, and was usually the last one out of the clubhouse after the game. {Of course, that was not much fun for those of us waiting to see him after the game – but we certainly came to expect it, especially after a loss!}

Fundamental #2: Build trust. Back your people. 

One of my favorite memories as a child was watching my dad tear off down the field toward an umpire, his face red and veins popping! {Sounds a bit odd, I know.} There was something in that moment that made me feel strangely safe. Years later, I now understand that my father was “going to bat” for one of his players.  He was backing him up – ensuring that he was treated fairly and cheering him on. 

Fundamental #3: Assess the mechanics. Make minor adjustments.

Every summer we had to pack up the station wagon and head to Houston. While my friends got to play all summer long, I had to go to a baseball game every night! I knew every nook and cranny of the Astrodome. {And my first date was with a bat boy.} 

Most days we went to the ballpark early with my dad and ran around while batting practice was going on. Batting practice: Dad had a way of looking at a guy's swing and assessing minor areas of needed adjustment. Minor tweaks in the mechanics of a hitter's grip on the bat, placement of his feet, and adjustment in his swing could turn an average player into a .300 hitter. 

Fundamental #4: Build a team of coachable players!

During my teenage years, I remember hearing my father express frustration over athletes who were making so much money that they didn't think they needed help from anyone. There were guys who would show up to the park and act like everyone should cater to them because of their superstar status.  {We've all had those type of salespeople in our organization at one time or another.} These were the hot heads – the guys with a poor attitude, known to regularly throw a temper tantrum {or a bat} on the field.  The attitude was toxic and had the capability to pull down the morale of the entire team.  When the player was traded, the morale of the team improved. 

Fundamental #5: Celebrate success! 

After every Astros win the fireworks would go off and the sounds of Kool and the Gang's "CELEBRATION" would fill the Dome. The team would be throwing high fives and dad would be patting his guys on the back with a look of pride. There were smiles all around and the crowd of fans danced happily out of the stadium. 

After a win, it was exciting to see the team come out of the clubhouse and enter the family waiting room. {We all waited for our hero dads together!} The mood was much lighter on those nights and we knew that just outside the doors, we would soon be fighting our way through the crowd of fans waiting for autographs. {I LOVED THAT PART!}

Those nights made such an impact on me as a young girl that I now send a YouTube link to Kool and the Gang's video "Celebration" every time we hit our monthly target as a sales team! 

Whether you're a professional athlete or coaching your own sales team, without these 5 fundamentals, the culture {community} and profitability of an organization will suffer. 

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I recently recorded a very casual but special interview with my dad that I went on to share with my own sales team. In this interview, we discussed the correlation between professional athletes and sales professionals. Our discussion on batting averages and strikeouts made a big impression on my own team. Click here to listen to our rough, unscripted, chat. 

"The best athletes are willing to grind it out!" ~ Denis Menke


Since joining EcSell Institute in 2014, the Iredale team has implemented numerous sales coaching best practices, using the One-Up Coaching Cloud to not only execute their coaching work, but also track and analyze it.  Now, the Jane Iredale Mineral Cosmetics team dedicates more than 10 hours of focused coaching time each month to each of their business consultants. This has led to an increase in business consultants regarding their manager as an excellent sales coach.

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