Money Ball – what rounders can teach us.

I would strongly advise anyone concerned with new business, especially those who run agencies read a book called Money Ball by Michael Lewis, the film is good too but doesn’t get into the detail of how to re-evaluate your prejudices when making decisions.

Do not be put off by it being about baseball.  You don’t need to know squat about the game.

If you want a cynical precis, it’s like rounders.

The reason the book is helpful is because it will make you look at they way you do things in your agency.

It will make you more conscious of stats what researchers call evidence.  I know that agencies are bad at keeping stats – but you should and it’s fun too. Kind of. Okay it isn’t. But it is helpful.

It may even make you recruit in a better way.  It should make you aware that some things are just habits and bear no resemblance to quality or what is needed.

In the book Billy Beane the coach of the Oakland A’s an under performing baseball team who had little cash to compete with the top teams.  He got advice from some stat geeks who worked out that the top teams were paying a lot of money for players because they had loads of good qualities.  Yet they only needed a few good qualities.  However, their prejudices wanted players that had it all.

They were over evaluating things like the player looked the part, yes the scout looked for good-looking players!  Like a baseball player has a look?!  They found a killer stat that others over looked.  And that was percentage of times a batsman got to 1st base. The higher the better.

Billy Beane has also worked with some football players including Sam Allardyce the West Ham manager, the stat they found that was under valued was percentage of passes completed.  The higher the better. Not giving the ball away in football is pretty important.  Should have reminded him about players not getting injured but I digress.

Let me tell you what I took away from Money Ball.

I wondered what assumptions agencies made about new business people and what the truth was. And what criteria was over valued.

The most common assumptions made about what makes a new business good is that need to be extroverted, hungry for money and never take no for an answer.

Extrovert sales people look and smell like….well sales people.  That puts prospects off a lot of the time.

Being hungry for money makes people miss-sell stuff.  And prospects can see the desperation in their eyes and voice as they push deal after deal on them.

New Business people who over hassle, especially after being given a firm ‘No’, do more damage than good in the long run. And you can end up with you getting on expensive pitches you will never win.  You are there so you STFU.

Agency heads also over value new business people who come from well-known agencies whether they were successful there or not.

It is NOT that some of these aren’t important they are, it’s that they are over-evaluated say as opposed to understanding design, digital or advertising, or having a systematic approach to selling or having a good track record of selling stuff or the agency’s product actually being quality.

What hiring habits does you agency have for other roles, that means you go around and around in circles?  Does everyone need a degree, do they all look the same, do they all answer certain questions the same.  All the same age?  Do they have a certain type of track record?


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