Do Salespeople Suffer from the Sophomore Jinx?

Anyone who knows me knows I have one really bad vice: Baseball.  I’ll watch any baseball game.  But more specifically, I’m an out of control fan (sufferer) of the San Francisco Giants and have been since 1957 when they were the New York Giants.

Baseball has something called “The Sophomore Jinx.”  Throughout its long history, baseball has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of rookies have great success in their first season only to die a horrible death in their second season in the major leagues: hence, “The Sophomore Jinx.”  Some of these players recover and go on to have great careers (Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey immediately comes to mind), while many others just fade into oblivion.

This is happening right now with one of the Giants best young hitters, Pablo Sandoval.  Last season, his 1st in the majors, he was one of the best hitters in the National League.  This year, his performance has dropped off a cliff.  Not only has his hitting died, but his fielding is worse and his conditioning, while never the best, is downright atrocious.  With the Giants in the middle of the playoffs (this could be our year!), he’s been benched.

I bring this up, because while watching the Giants whip the Braves in the 1st playoff round, I was having a discussion with my Father-in-Law, Charlie Romano, on whether or not salespeople suffer from “The Sophomore Jinx.”  To me, the answer is a resounding “YES!”

As with ballplayers, I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of salespeople have excellent 1st years only to see their production plummet in year two.  The problem is: many salespeople (and ballplayers) relax after that first taste of success, because they don’t understand that all the time, energy, effort and commitment it takes to get to the top, are the same things you have to do every day just to stay on top.

Many 1st year “sales wonders” actually believe that after one very good year they’ve “Paid their dues,” and now it gets real easy; the customers will just come to them.  Imagine their surprise when it doesn’t quite work out that way and year two turns into one HUGE bust?  At this point, they could go in one of two directions.

One, they could take the attitude that the majority of “Sophomore Busts” take and say, “You can’t make a living in this business,” totally ignoring all the successful people that are making a great living in the same business, and quit.  This attitude absolves them of all responsibility for their actions (or in the case of year two; non-action).  It’s the industry’s fault, not theirs.

Or, they could do what successful salespeople do and go back to the things they were doing every single day that worked for them as rookies; things like consistent, every day prospecting and lightning-quick follow-up.  In addition, just like great ballplayers, they’ll make adjustments.  Great salespeople look at how their market or customers may be changing and make adjustments accordingly.

They’ll look at what their competition is doing and do something different to make them stand out.  They’ll be visible and talk to prospects and customers every day while competitors hide from the “soft economy.”  Instead of worrying about the size of the sale, they’ll concentrate on how good the sale is for the customer and how it will drive repeat business and expand market share.

Instead of using the economy as an excuse, they’ll use it as a weapon, by becoming consultants to their clients and giving them ideas and solutions on how to increase THEIR business, which, in turn, means more business for them.

So, if you’re currently suffering from “The Sophomore Jinx,” or have someone on your staff who is, have faith.  This is not an incurable disease.  However, it can only be cured by action.

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