BEHIND YOUR BACK: Go “Around the Horn” with Your Team

How this baseball basic (and ESPN show) can prepare sales reps for purchasing managers.

Coaching a baseball team full of eight-year-olds, I’ve learned you can’t take anything for granted. Baseball concepts must be taught, tested and revisited often.

For example, I recently asked my team to throw the ball “around the horn.” They all just stared at me. I explained it’s a quick exercise where the infielders throw the ball to one another after an out is made.

We practiced it a few times. The ball was inevitably airmailed into the outfield. A dog pile ensued as my team raced after it. That was the end of “around the horn.”

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Until I got home, that is. There I stumbled upon the ESPN show Around the Horn. As I watched, I saw ATH could be used in business too.

In Around the Horn, a group of four sports writers provide perspective and commentary on a variety of relevant topics. The host, Tony Reali, awards points to the most insightful and/or humorous responses.

Reali explains, “The thing I love most about hosting this show is that it mirrors my personality: sports, games, jokes, pop culture—and none of it taken too seriously. I mean, we have a mute button and a scoring system no one understands. I like that.”

Being a purchasing manager was a lot like hosting Around the Horn. We awarded points for insightfulness. We had a mute button. And most sales reps didn’t understand our scoring system.

So how can sales reps prepare for purchasing managers like this? Play Around the Horn.

Here’s how it works: At your weekly sales meeting, select four team members to be participants. Then select a host. Everyone else takes notes to share later.

The host introduces a relevant question to the group—one that a purchasing manager might ask—and calls on a participant to begin speaking. For example:

• What’s your profit margin on our current window package?
• What do you think of the price stability of Southern Pine?
• How will the BFS—ProBuild deal impact our business?
• Can you believe Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA chief?