The Mental Game of Prospecting: What You Can Learn from Top Pitchers



A friend invited me to see the Phillies battle the Cardinals a few weeks ago. Although the final score was 7-1, it really was a pitchers’ duel—until the top of the 11th inning when the Phillies relievers gave up several walks and two monster homeruns.  

I don’t know whether Philadelphia’s hurlers have been introduced yet to “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching” by sports psychologist H.A. Dorfman. They need it. Midway through the season the team is mired in last place in the league and poor pitching has been one of the reasons why. Dorfman’s book, which has been read and re-read by many of the game’s top pitchers over the last ten years, might be particularly helpful for the team’s corps of young pitchers.

If I had had the book as a 12 year old Little Leaguer, I probably would have been much more successful on the mound. It wouldn’t have done much to improve the velocity of my fastball, but it would have helped me conquer the mental side of pitching.

Dorfman tells pitchers that they should only worry about the things they can control. We’ve all heard that before. But he goes on to provide a framework for disciplining a pitcher’s thoughts that is applicable to those of us without big league baseball credentials.

Let’s start with the world that a pitcher inhabits. For Dorfman, a pitcher is either on the mound or off the mound. When he’s off the mound, he can get himself ready to compete, work on developing new pitches, and plan how he is going to handle certain batters. But to be successful on the mound a pitcher has to stay focused on three things: which pitch to throw, where to throw it and the catcher’s mitt as his target. Nothing else. 

For Dorfman, it’s almost as if the batters aren’t there. A pitcher can’t control whether a batter swings or not. He can’t afford to worry about who’s batting next. His job is to select a pitch from his repertoire and throw it well. If he does that consistently, he’s going to be effective.

How does this apply to bankers who are prospecting? Here are some of the things you can control:
–Which prospects you target
–How much preparation you do before important meetings
–How you leverage your personal network to gain introductions and testimonials
–What questions you ask on calls
–How you follow-up

What you can’t control is also important: whether a prospect will return your call; whether a prospect will agree to meet; whether your prospect decides to stay with his current bank.

I was with a talented banker this week who was frustrated that she couldn’t convince one of her prospects to move. After talking with her for a few minutes, it was clear that she really had done everything possible. I encouraged the frustrated RM to think about what she’s going to do to keep the conversation alive with her prospect. In the mental game of prospecting, the prospect’s initial “No” is often “Not yet.” Rethinking how to get the next appointment, which partners to bring, and how to demonstrate value are all things she should worry about at this stage. Her Sales Manager can obviously assist in that, as can her team of product partners.

Don’t get upset about what you can’t control. Stay focused instead on those things that are up to you.

Go Phillies!

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