Motivate Your Sales Team to Crush the Tomato
By Lee B. Salz
Motivation is one of the biggest keys to developing successful
teams. Every day strong skilled teams are beaten by lesser skilled
ones loaded with heart and desire. But who creates the motivation
for that to happen?
my favorite hobbies is playing baseball with my kids. I'm very
involved with their Little League teams and volunteer to help teach
baseball skills to the kids. My 7-year old son, Steven, is playing
his first year of coach-pitch baseball. Prior to that, he played
T-ball which is a very different game.
at practice, I was pitching to the team of 7-year olds. Boy after
boy came up to home plate and swung the bat as if it were a wet
noodle. They picked up the bat, barely swung, and, as soon as they
made contact with the ball, stopped swinging altogether. The ball
dribbled a few feet in front of home plate and then the process
began all over again. It wasn't fun for the kids to play, and even
more painful for parents to watch.
watched a few kids swing the bat like a piece of cooked linguini, I
got an idea. I picked up the ball, walked over to the hitter, and
asked what I was holding in my hand. The boy, looking puzzled, said,
"It's a ball, Coach!" He resisted all temptation to finish that
statement with, "you dummy." I contradicted, "No, it's not! It's a
tomato. And the next time I throw the tomato over home plate, I want
you to crush it with the bat. Crush the tomato!" A dastardly smile
appeared on the boy's face. He went back to home plate to hit again.
Ball after ball sailed into the outfield as the boy crushed the
tomato. And it wasn't one boy. It was hitter after hitter crushing
the tomato with a big grin on their face.
changed? We didn't teach hitting technique so they were not
better-skilled hitters. We didn't change their stance, nor did we
alter their swing. It was the same group of kids with the same
skill-level using the same old bat and ball. All of these factors
were the same, but the results were drastically different.
changed was a shift in the player's mindset. That shift changed
their performance. For one, the kids had a visual in mind when they
were hitting. And, that visual was something fun. It also had a
little naughty in it. Wouldn't these kids get into trouble if they
were crushing real tomatoes? Mom wouldn't like the mess! This
real-life story was really Motivation 101 at its core.
same issue happens on sales teams every day. Sales people show up to
work without really being there. They are there in body, but not in
mind or spirit. They work the hours, collect a paycheck, and begin
the process all over again. Whose fault is it that this culture
exists in your company? In my mind, a leader is responsible for
inspiring their team to perform. Their job is to inspire success!
How many sales people on your team stop their swing as soon as they
make contact with the ball? How many balls are sitting in the dirt a
few feet from home plate?
are three reasons why the strategy with the Little Leaguers worked.
The motivation was fun. Sure, technique is important, but
that's not the only ingredient of the success recipe. Successful
teams have leaders that motivate the group to want to excel. The
team relies on its leader to make work fun.
inspiration leads to frustration. Inspired teams don't even notice
that they perspire.
They could visualize the metaphor. When I spoke with the
kids, I didn't toss out meaningless, trite expressions. "Win one for
the Gipper" would not have worked with these kids. The tomato was a
metaphor that created an image in their minds. I probably could have
use a piñata and had the same effect. In either case, a picture was
created in their mind that they could replicate.
They had a focus for their energy.
As you can imagine,
many of the fathers were bellowing at the kids; "Lift your elbow!"
"Turn your foot." "Move your hands." None of those worked, just like
yelling at workers to work harder doesn't yield productivity
improvement. The "crush the tomato" expression gave them one thing
on which to focus. We just wanted them to swing the bat as hard as
they could without directly telling them to do it. We wanted them to
swing the bat because they wanted to, not because they were told to
same three ingredients can be used as a motivation recipe in the
specific area of the business in which you desire an improvement
in the results the sales team is producing.
a fun program to inspire the team and create awareness of the
Develop visuals to promote the program.
the most rote sales functions is prospecting. Sales people,
fundamentally, despise it, but every sales person needs to do it to
be successful. Sales managers have an opportunity to reduce this
pain and make the exercise fun. For example, create a team
prospecting time where everyone makes calls at the same time. Have
prizes for, not only the best results, but also the funniest story
about a prospecting experience. Every sales person has one of those,
if not a bunch of them.
ago, I managed a lead creation channel that was underperforming.
Yelling at the partners was not a prudent strategy. So, to get them
up to snuff, I created a mock, fantasy football league where the
channel partners played against one another each week. Points were
awarded for different lead types and standings were kept for the
season, and more importantly shared amongst the channel partners.
They quickly forgot about lead generation and became focused on
winning the championship. Needless to say, very quickly, we were
drowning in qualified leads.
Leadership, at its core, is about motivating a team to perform at
levels they never dreamed possible. You see it in sports every day.
The team that wins the championship isn't necessarily as skilled as
the others, but they are driven to achieve. Get creative and inspire
your team to crush the tomato!
Read other articles and learn more about
[Contact the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]