The title alone should be sufficient. The phrase sounds like something you would hear from Mr. Obvious and I suspect some of my readers are sarcastically mimicking Homer Simpson?s, ?D?oh!? Of course practice makes perfect ? everybody knows that!
Yes, they do. Everybody knows it and yet almost nobody does it. How about you? How often do you actually practice your sales techniques?
As a sales manager, I could predict the collective groan from my sellers when I announced that a meeting would be devoted to role-playing. I always invited my staff to rehearse their client presentations with me but I got very few RSVPs. Practicing takes time ? a valuable commodity to busy account executives ? so most sellers prefer to hone their techniques by testing the results with actual customers. While this approach may (slowly) improve performance, it hardly qualifies as practice. (One hopes our surgeons follow a different path.)
This conundrum ? recognizing the value of practice but refusing to do so ? is thoughtfully addressed in The Knowing-Doing Gap written by Pfeffer and Sutton (2000). The book offers many examples of intellectual failures and its subtitle ? How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action ? invites substitution of ?Sellers? for ?Companies.? Perhaps I can encourage my readers to add a practice regimen with some impressive name-dropping.
Besides being famous and wealthy, Tiger Woods, Lebron James, and Roger Federer share two other significant traits. First, their arduous practice habits are the stuff of legend. Although naturally gifted, these men outwork their competition with relentless rehearsals. Second, they are elite performers in their respective fields.
And these characteristics are not unique to athletes. I worked alongside billionaire Mark Cuban in a Bloomington bar while we both attended Indiana University ? I was the deejay spinning records, he was the manager. Mark wasn?t particularly interested in the club business but he seized the opportunity to perfect his entrepreneurial marketing ideas. Supported by a cadre of his rugby pals, Cuban managed the hottest bar in this college town. So, how did that ?practice thing? work out for him?
I?m not going to suggest that forcing yourself to practice will add nine 0?s to your net worth. But I will argue that structured rehearsal of your techniques can put ?elite? performance within your grasp. If achieving that lofty status is of interest to you, use the following guidelines to shape your efforts.
What to practice? Virtually everything you do. The Client Needs Analysis questionnaire, face-to-face presentations, and closing techniques are prime examples of selling-process functions that will undoubtedly benefit from rehearsals.
How to practice? Critique your own style (facial expressions, hand gestures) in front of a full-length mirror. Because they share your industry knowledge, rehearsing for your peers can identify content gaps or errors. Practicing in front of family and friends will test your ability to hold audience attention. For better or worse, those closest to you are likely to be your harshest critics.
I recognize that sellers are (or should be) really busy and they are understandably reluctant to add tasks that don?t offer a direct revenue-producing component. But part of establishing priorities includes incorporating long-term versus short-term values. Attaining elite level status really is a marathon, not a sprint. And that route will be measurably shorter for account executives who carve out the time for practice, practice, practice.
Jon E. Horton is the author of The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling available in both paperback and Kindle versions from Amazon.com. For more of his blogs, please visit www.JonEHorton.com. Comments to Jon@JonEHorton.com.
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