The Closer

Mark Frasco - President


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On February 12th, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Watching the Dodgers in the 1960s, pitchers throwing complete games was a common occurrence. Over their careers with the Dodgers, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale completed more than 40% of their combined starts. Koufax completed an incredible 65% of his starts in his last two seasons, 1965-66. In contrast, Clayton Kershaw —arguably the best starting pitcher in today’s game—has completed only 9% of his starts over nine seasons.

For all but 11 years during World War II, prior to 1964, NCAA football squads played “both sides of the ball.” For the 1964 season, “one-platoon” rules were changed to allow offense, defense and special team squads, dramatically changing the way the game was played.

“All crafts, trades and arts have profited from the division of labour; for when each worker sticks to one particular kind of work that needs to be handled differently from all the others, he can do it better and more easily than when one person does everything. Where work is not thus differentiated and divided, where everyone is a jack-of-all-trades, the crafts remain at an utterly primitive level.” – Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, 1785

Specialization of task has been largely adopted across our businesses. In accounting, we have a controller, supported by a bookkeeper. In the warehouse, we have a warehouse manager, supported by a shipping clerk. As work becomes more complex, requiring various levels of expertise, organizations draw benefits from identifying areas of specialization. Optimally, specialization delivers higher quality, improved efficiency, and effectiveness, while lowering total costs.

Let’s look at the function of sales. Can our business development teams benefit from specialization of task? Requirements on the professional salesperson are intensifying. As our solutions become more customized, buying systems are gaining complexity. At various stages of the promotion and sales cycle, varying levels of experience that feature different sales specializations become apparent. (See chart below.)

Buying systems and the various buyer types vary depending on what is being purchased, how much is being purchased, or when something is being purchased—where the solution is its lifecycle (i.e., Introduction vs. Mature). Messaging and sales expertise vary depending on those variables.

For example, commodity products targeting a market segment require process-oriented selling systems that may not require human interaction, featuring high efficiency. In contrast, customized solutions being sold to technical buyers—individuals who evaluate competencies of suppliers and related risks—require a consultative sales approach, with salespeople who have high levels of expertise.

If you’re familiar with the Farmer/Hunter sales parable, Farmer sales specialists would be used to help research, pre-qualify and position higher-level opportunities for The Closer, Hunter. Typically, Farmers maintain larger target lists and have tools that help them to more efficiently create interaction and trust with a target-base. For Hunters—well, once something is in their sight, the good ones bring home the prize.

During their careers, Koufax and Drysdale had a combined win percentage of .606. Very impressive for the day. Kershaw is about to report for his tenth season. By closing 9% of his starts, he is the fourth highest in that category, of all active pitchers. His win percentage is .667 – nice to have a closer, when you need one.

Questions or comments? Please contact Mark Frasco at mfrasco@teamCOACT.com