I run a peer group of clients called the Revenue Growth Leaders, and once a year we gather in person to discuss best practices and techniques for proactive revenue growth. Everyone in the group has done or is doing a sales growth project with me. The people in attendance are both the top executives at their organizations and their top sales leaders.

Each year, I bring in a special guest, and I keep the person a surprise until they walk into the room. The first year it was Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, my childhood hero. Last year it was former White Sox player and manager Ozzie Guillen. And this month’s guest was four-time World Series champion and former Cub Joe Girardi.

Girardi, who won the World Series three times as a player and once as manager of the Yankees talked about things like how to gain buy-in; how to help players out of a slump; what separated his winning teams from his losing teams; and how he deals with resistance from players who don’t do what he asks.

Here are some of my top takeaways from our time with Joe Girardi. As you will see, it applies directly and rather precisely to our work in the sales profession. Inside the quotes are Girardi’s words — anything outside of quotes are my thoughts and analysis.

“Our game [baseball] is hard. Your game [sales] is hard. We forget how difficult the game is.” Too often, we try to coach salespeople without acknowledging how challenging the work is. Whether we succeed or not — whether we get paid or not — is ultimately not within our control. And we fail most of the time. Shoot, we salespeople fail nearly all of the time — far more than baseball players. This work ain’t easy!

“Ask your people, ‘What were you thinking on this play?‘ Then they have to own it and think about it. Instead of telling them the right thing, ask them why did what they did, so you can gain insight into their logic (or lack thereof!).

“Focus on the process with players, not the result. ‘Everything you did was right. If you keep doing this, you will be successful.” Like baseball players, salespeople can do everything right and not succeed. That’s why it’s important to control the critical components of our behavior that tend to lead to success when it comes. These are: making proactive phone calls; asking for the business; following up on our quotes; and telling customers about what else we can help them with. That’s our process. Focus on this process. Focus on swinging the bat with the right mechanics. Because of this, we can control.

“When we win, everybody wins. When we lose, only a few people win!” First of all, this is exceptional language. (Girardi graduated from Northwestern University in four years as a baseball star with a degree in industrial engineering!) Additionally, it’s so important to build a strong team, who work for each other, and the company, and your customers — rather than simply for themselves. In baseball, there are players who care about the team winning, and those who care only about their statistics. We want as many of the former as possible!

“Baseball is up and down. That’s baseball. That’s life. That’s business. That’s sales. You’re going to do this up and down.” Another baseball man, former Cubs and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said “Progress is incremental.” You’re rarely going to go straight up. Sales is a streaky profession. I’ve written five books on sales growth, and my sales are streaky. We need to be comfortable with this. We need to expect this. And we should push the gas as hard as we can during the good times because we know that through no fault of our own, a more difficult streak is probably just around the corner.

“If you don’t hate losing, you won’t love winning. I love winning, but I hate losing more!”

If you would like to discuss adding 15-30% annual, predictable revenue growth to your organization — as my clients average — and attend next year’s client Peer Group meeting, please call me directly at 847-459-6322 to discuss.