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.


4 Ways Salespeople are Trained Like Puppies

Here’s a fun quiz! Below are three pieces of training advice. Read each and decide if it came from either: a popular book on training sales people, or a popular book on training puppies.

1. Invest a lot of time in the first 3 months to help your (sales rep/puppy) establish good habits.
2. Remain consistent when training your (sales rep/puppy).
3. Don’t reprimand your (sales rep/puppy) for mistakes made. Instead, quietly direct them to the proper behavior.
So, which advice is for puppies and which is for sales people? Answer: all three are for puppies!

Surprising? Not if you’re a salesperson. If you are, you’ve dealt with a mixture of treats and belt-lashings over the years. Here are 4 reasons to believe the training of sales people hasn’t progressed beyond that of puppies:

1. Like puppies, salespeople, regardless of experience, are often treated as if they know nothing. Years of selling experience can be negated by a simple change of industry. Hiring managers and trainers alike have little patience for learning the intracacies of selling anything other than their own product. Surely that information is irrelevant!

2. Because they all equally know nothing, salespeople and puppies are both given very rigid direction. Despite the recommendations popular management books like, “Leadership and The One Minute Manager“, sales training continues to use a one-size fits all approach. The problem is not that older reps can’t learn new tricks. It’s that they’re less likely to encounter anything that’s truly new to them.

3. When it comes to training, salespeople and puppies are given about an equal level of respect. Yes, humans are permitted to ask many more questions than dogs. But, no sales rep is permitted, realistically, to alter his own onboarding or training process before it’s done. Please don’t question me on this point until you’re done reading this article! (Get it?)

4. After initial training, salespeople face more negative consequences than dogs. Sure, no one is dropping their underperforming reps off at the pound. That would be expensive! Thankfully, the old tradition of negative reprimands are gone – if you’re a dog. Salespeople continue to face the pressure of quota attainment, despite the challenges of specific territories or customers. And, thanks to forced rankings, salespeople are compelled to sniff their own pile of mistakes on a regular basis.

So, what’s a lowly salesperson to do? The best response to being treated like an animal is to act like an intelligent human being. Your manager and trainer don’t want to see you fail. They may have perfect intentions, but no clue how to help you.

If possible, determine for yourself, what knowledge you need to be successful. If you’re not sure what that is, ask. Check first with other reps, then your manager, then you’re training staff. It’s important to talk to someone in the trenches first to learn how business is actually gets done. Only then should you move up the chain to learn the way things “should” work. Most importantly, you can reconcile the corporate and field points of view by asking informed questions in your training class.

Don’t be afraid to bark the loudest! When you get to the field, your leash may be long but your learning time will be limited.


Ps: The book I borrow from is, “A Member of the Family: The Ultimate Guide to Living With a Happy and Healthy Dog“, by Cesar Millan.