The Real Moneyball: The Importance of Analytics for Sales Team Success

Not just a great baseball movie—also a great business story

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If your sales team is struggling with finding clients or closing deals, it might be time to apply the Moneyball theory.

The 2011 movie Moneyball told about how Billy Beane, general manager of the low-budget, down-market Oakland A’s, rebuilt the team after three of their best players departed for richer teams.

It’s not just a great baseball movie, it’s also a great business story, leaving some critical lessons for sales managers to follow to improve their team success. In this article, I’ll explain how you can apply the theory of Moneyball to sales in detail.

What is Moneyball?

“Is Moneyball a true story?” The answer is yes. It was based on the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, written by Michael Lewis. In the movie, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) came up with a strategic approach to reinvent his baseball team, the Oakland A’s.

Instead of following the conventional wisdom, which pays millions for good players based on their specialized scouts’ experience, Beane used statistics like stolen bases and batting average to find undervalued players and recruit them. “If we win, on our budget, with this team, we’ll have changed the game. And that’s what I want, I want it to mean something,” Beane said.

By implementing that strategy, Beane helped the Oakland A’s achieve a 20-game winning streak in 2002, with only about $41 million for salaries. The team even competed against larger teams like the Yankees, who spent over $125 million in payroll that same season.

“The math works,” Beane says. “Over the course of a season, there’s some predictability to baseball. When you play 162 games, you eliminate a lot of random outcomes. There’s so much data that you can predict individual players’ performances and also the odds that certain strategies will pay off.”

How to Apply the Moneyball Theory to Improve Your Sales Team’s Performance

If you think about a sales team, you can see a similar pattern: Sales team success depends on some excellent members who are considered innate talents. Sales managers are often willing to pay a lot of money to have them in their teams. The more clients a salesperson brings, the more recognition and appreciation he/she receives from the management board.

It is now time to apply the Moneyball approach and change the traditional way to build a successful sales team.

1. Dig deeper into data analysis

Most sales managers rely on pipeline meetings to find out exactly what’s happening with each deal, what reps have done to move things forward, and what they plan to do next. Unfortunately, verbal reporting is both time-consuming and an unreliable source of facts about where deals really stand. Look at things from the rep’s perspective. They don’t want to tell their manager that they haven’t made any progress or that a deal is going to be lost.

Like major league baseball, it’s time for companies to leverage the power of data to make decisions for sales forecasting and pipeline management. Revenue Grid can help you do this. Unlike spreadsheets or simple forecasting tools, Revenue Grid uses complete sales communication data to give Sales Leaders a complete view of how each deal is progressing, what’s been done so far, and what’s planned next. It also uses AI to compare current deals to old won and lost deals, in order to uncover deals that are likely to go off the rails. That way, Sales Managers can understand what’s really going to close in the Committed Pipeline.

2. Embrace new perspectives and challenges

In Moneyball, Beane was challenged by his scout, “Billy, you got a kid in there that’s got a degree in Economics from Yale. You got a scout here with 29 years of baseball experience. You’re listening to the wrong one.” While experience and degree are good indicators of talents, that doesn’t hold true all the time.

A potential hire shouldn’t always be “holding a business degree, good looking, smooth-talking, extrovert, outgoing.” But introverts also have everything it takes to become effective salespeople. Similarly, conventional wisdom says you should avoid calling a prospect in the morning because they’ll feel annoyed. But some studies show that the best time for a sales call is between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

Encourage your team to bring new perspectives into the sales process, and you’ll see challenges in a new way — perhaps the right direction you’re looking for.

3. Determine the problem in the first place

There is a popular quote from Moneyball, “You’re not solving the problem. You’re not even looking at the problem!” This quote should drive all sales decisions because unless you figure out what’s wrong, everything you do is useless.

If your sales team is struggling, look at the sales funnel for each rep to identify specific areas of weakness in their sales process. Is that because they need some proper training and development? Or they have to spend so much time doing repetitive tasks that they don’t have time for closing deals? Is there any stage in the sales process, for example, campaign management or nurturing, that you can automate?

Dig deeper into data and identify the problem. Once you get it, focus on solving it before moving on to the next step.

Final Thoughts

The Moneyball story taught businesses a crucial lesson: Regardless of your business size, budget, and workforce, you can achieve sales success with everything you already have right at your fingertips. All you have to do is analyze what you did and use the insights to develop a strategic sales plan.

  • Find out which activities are really pushing wins forward and scale them
  • Use recordings of successful calls and meetings to help reps develop skills
  • Evaluate each sales rep’s performance in relation to the rest of the team
  • Use AI-powered sales tools to see which deals will really close

If you want to hear about moneyballing in sales from someone that’s done it firsthand, come check out RevGarage’s webinar with Mark Roberge who grew HubSpot’s ARR from 0 to $100M. The agenda is completely open, so you can submit your own questions about scaling and get the answers you need. See you on March 2nd!

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