Stop Repeating and Start Reading – How to Practice Selling Like a Pro

Can you sink a put like Brooks Koepka or Tiger Woods? Why not? Many salespeople play golf multiple times a week. In some sales jobs, it’s a crucial way to connect with customers. Why then, aren’t more salespeople graduating to the PGA Tour? Surely, if time was an issue, retired people, golfing everyday, would make the Senior Circuit. Perhaps there’s something in the way pros practice that sets them apart? If so, how can we in sales benefit?

Can Salespeople Truly Practice?

Seriously, is there a driving range equivalent to what we do? Is there a place where we can work on specific parts of our approach? The best we’ve come up with is sales training, sales meetings, and actual sales calls. Given the brevity of the first two, salespeople typically have to practice in real sales calls, with real business at risk. And often, in the moment, developing a skill is the last thing on our minds; we want to make the sale.

According to Dan Coyle, author the bestselling book, The Talent Code, expert performers in a variety of fields, grow into greatness with focused-practice, not talent. Sure, we’ll likely focus on skill development at our next meeting (when our manager is looking), but not in the regular practice of our job. For the busy salesperson, the drive for results supersedes the need for growth.

For salespeople, what does growth even mean?

One might suggest the abilities to listen, speak, make decisions, and read non-verbal cues as crucial to sales. These, however, are only manifestations of our skill. If we dug deeper we’d find one skill driving all the others: the ability to think. Grow this skill, and all the others benefit.

It’s been said there are 70-90 variables one can change in a golf swing – a grip change here, a stance change there. A salesperson’s variables, (their skills), are internal. What we say or do in front of customers is a mere byproduct of the beliefs we hold and decisions we make. For people like us, thought hopefully precedes all communication.

How on Earth does one practice the mental skills needed to sell?

One important practice method is what you’re doing right now. Reading is one of the best workouts for the mind. At its base level, reading forces us to make a choice; think about the information presented or go away. The minute we focus on the words and their meaning, the workout starts. In doing so, we build the mental strength to understand, analyze, and solve our customer’s problems. And in sales, the bigger the problem we solve, the more we and our customer stand to gain!

Do hard-working salespeople have the time to read?

Absolutely not, most have administrative work and activity metrics to worry about. Sadly, our bosses may be right, we may have more free time than we realize. For example, many of us fill the gaps between sales calls with things like talk radio, social media, or idle phone chatter. Why not forego ONE conversation or radio program a day and listen to an audiobook in the car? Some of us, while stuck waiting for our next appointment or flight, can read books or articles instead of vegging on People Magazine or cable news. The time is there if we truly want it.

Good news! You’ve already started!

You’ve made it this far. Why not read another article or pick up a book on sales? Then read another. Read until you have opinions on your profession you’ve never had before. Heck, you may even find yourself inspired to write!

The real challenge of our jobs is not how much we can sell, but how much we can learn about selling with the limited time we have. Therefore, the endless loop of call after call is not enough to sharpen our skills.

Agree or disagree you’ve made the right step in reading this. Why not continuing growing your mental muscle by reading more? Who knows? Your competition may be doing that right now.


Being Realistic About Sales Success: A Lesson From Gamblers

One step up to the roulette table and we can imagine our winnings. Who doesn’t want extra cash when on vacation?  Still, do we expect to win?  Do we decide that nothing less than a fistful of cash?  Of course not.  That’s not realistic.  Nobody likes losing but, instead of raging at its unfairness, we accept it. Otherwise, casinos couldn’t stay in business. We knew walking in the casino door that we could, and probably would, lose money.

We’re Not Factory Workers

As salespeople, our mind is often on where we deserve to be, not on where we are.  We see the hard labor we put into selling, and therefore, think we deserve success. We imagine we work an assembly line where one’s work translates into tangible pieces.  We forget that, in sales, there’s no guarantee that anything comes out the other end of our effort.  Therefore, if it’s not us at the top of the year-end rankings, we think a crime has been committed.  Someone has cheated.  These results can’t be true!

We’re All Playing the Odds

Consider a random salesperson, (we’ll call her Mary), and put her in a company that compensates its top 10% of performers highly, and the rest modestly. Not knowing anything about her, what realistic chance should we give Mary to make it into the uppermost group? A statistician would tell us 10%. Still, would knowing her skills, experience, and work ethic change her chances? Based on this information alone, no.  After all, we know nothing about her co-workers!

If that’s the case, why do we expect our own chances to be any different? There are many moving parts to a sales organization: each rep and their motivations, each manager, and hundreds or thousands of customers. Even so, having observed our own work and no one else’s, we expect to top the rankings. Why else are we angry when someone, other than us, achieves success?  That success should be ours!

It’s Time to Get Realistic

Humility is important, but so are realistic expectations.  Unfortunately, the term realism is often looked upon as an excuse for negative people. Ironically, in the place of stress, realism gives us practical ways to move forward and avoid further losses. No, it’s not giving up or admitting defeat. Instead, when we’re realistic about success, we finally open ourselves up to finding it.

All that we can do is hope for the best possible return in exchange for our finest work. Lamenting the luck of others only closes us off to how lucky we are. Many of us leave casinos feeling unhappy about losing. Few of us leave feeling cheated or wronged in some way.

Why?  We walked in the door with a realistic outlook;  we wanted to win, but were willing to lose.