Strategic Sweet Spot: Play to Your Strength
By: Mark Frasco
Today starts the 147th playing of The Open Championship.
Golf’s oldest championship returns to Carnoustie Golf Links for the eighth time. A bucket list experience for me was to play golf in Scotland, which I did last year. After a week of early tee times and late nights out with friends, our final round was played at Carnoustie, nicknamed “The Beast” and “Car-nasty.”
I’ll spare you the details for another day, but that day, at that place, I found my sweet spot.
Unfortunately, I don’t find it often enough, but that day I struck the ball just right…. What a feeling.
The conditions were perfect, I was relaxed, and my swing action was smooth with good rhythm and solid ball flight, which resulted in one of the best rounds of golf I ever played.
In 1941, Ted Williams, arguably baseball’s best hitter of all time, hit for an average of .406 (40 hits per 100 at bat). No hitter since has crossed the .400 mark, and it is highly unlikely it will ever happen again.
In 1970, Williams wrote “The Science of Hitting,” sharing his learnings and best practices.
He did an analysis of his sweet spot in the strike zone, depicting each spot a pitch could be thrown in the zone and how he performed in that spot.
Although you can’t see the numbers (his batting averages) in this picture, you get the idea.
The deep red spots are those pitches he hit for the highest average, and the deep blue, the lowest.
In today’s game, this would seem rudimentary, but in 1941, he was a thought leader to study and objectively determine his sweet spot at the plate.
One of the keys is that he had information that the competition (pitchers facing him) could only guess. In batting practice, he could train his eye to see the pitches that approached his sweet spot, preparing to swing, while not swinging at those outside his zone.
He also knew the speed and trajectory of certain types of pitches (curves, fastballs, and sliders) and how he needed to adjust his timing and body motion, as each type of pitch approached his zone.
Do you know your strategic sweet spot?
Are you playing to your strength?
What is the product mix, pricing strategy, commercial arrangement, ideal client profile and opportunity type that you tend to win?
Likewise, what is your competitions’ sweet spot?
How can you even pretend to differentiate your solution without this type of clarity?
In fact, you can’t.
When you struggle to clearly differentiate your solution, you tend to build an organizational belief that you don’t control outcomes in your sales system.
Learned helplessness is a “sales sickness” that when not identified and overcome can be fatal. You put your fate in the hands of the pitcher: your client.
More accurately, what it often means is that your competition is better at identifying its sweet spot – its point of differentiation – and more intentionally pursues opportunities that match what they are offering, winning the opportunities they pursue.
The marketplace in which you can sell your products is immense. Your strike zone is those market segments that best fit your solution. Your sweet spot should be those ideal clients and opportunities in those market segments that you are clearly differentiated to win, applying your competitive advantage against other competitors in the market.
Identifying your sweet spot through conversation can be accomplished, but when possible, gather, organize, analyze and leverage learning that is gained from looking at data.
The faster you learn something you didn’t previously know and apply it to your advantage, the more effectively you build your competitive advantage.
On September 18, 2017, at Carnoustie, I found my sweet spot. By the time I reached the 18th fairway, I had accomplished my lowest score of the week.
It didn’t hurt that my caddie was the best coach I’d ever walked a course with; he knew the course, he understood the risks, he learned my skill set quickly, and he positioned me for successful outcomes on each shot.
Determine your sweet spot, execute, repeat, learn… and adjust as needed. Learn how to compete and win before your competition does.