by Bob Hamer – March 2013
“We talkin’ about practice, man.” ~Allen Iverson, May 7, 2002,
Allen Iverson, 37, was out of the NBA before the time he reached 34. Kobe Bryant (34) spends his off-season making 2000 shots a day. With a rebounder and one ball Kobe can make 500 shots an hour.1
Former NFL Coach Jon Gruden said it best, “You never stay the same. You either get better or you get worse.”
The greatest athletes in the world spend hours in practice, working on perfecting their craft. Whether the driving range, the baseball diamond, the field or the gym, one thing is for sure: If you want to be the best, you have to put in the practice time to get there. If you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse. Why should it be different for those of us in sales?
Every sport has a specific skill set required to play. There may be different styles and techniques, but there are specific skills required. In basketball there’s shooting. There may be 150 different ways to shoot a basketball, but no one can dispute that shooting is a skill required to play the game. Someone first needs to show you HOW to shoot. We call that training: Where to place your hands, how to set your feet, when and where to release the ball. After someone shows you how to do it, you practice on your own until you learn how to make shots. The more practice, the better the results.
Different styles are used in sales, but just like shooting a basketball, some skills all salespeople must have in order to play the game. These include:
- Getting a prospect meeting,
- Customizing a pitch to meet needs,
- Presenting the proposal,
- Asking for the sale, and
- Getting a referral
Think of yourself as a sales athlete. Where do you need practice? How can you get better?
Barriers to Improvement
What’s ironic is we work in sports, so close to all of these athletes, and we watch them practice day after day. Yet some sales athletes don’t practice their own skills. Why?
Five barriers prevent us from practicing our skills, getting better, and achieving greater results.
1) Entitlement – Because we’re out of the “training department” we think it’s OK to stop (we feel we’re above that).
2) Complacency – We achieve some success early, get comfortable, and don’t see the need.
3) Perception – Fear of our bosses or peers seeing us struggle and thinking differently about us.
4) Self-UNawareness – We aren’t aware of skills holding us back and don’t know what to practice.
5) Pleasure v. Pain – Practice isn’t always fun and we prefer activities such as contests or real calls.
Breaking down the wall
How do you break down these barriers?
1) Attitude – It’s starts with you making a commitment to practicing your skills. Be intentional. When will you start?
2) Have fun – Find other people who like to practice and make fun games out of it. Role Play “Fight club” for prizes.
3) Be Vulnerable – Leave the title and sales numbers at the door. Be humble enough to admit you aren’t perfect and have room to grow.
4) Stay Hungry – Don’t think you’ve “arrived.”Keep extending goals so you push to be the best.
5) Get a coach/mentor – It’s tough to evaluate yourself in the game. Find someone you trust and ask them to help. Observation is the best way to identify gaps and create future practice material.
If Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan stopped practicing after their first championship, got comfortable with success and rested on laurels, we wouldn’t talk about them as two of the greatest athletes of all time. Make a commitment to practicing. If you do, years in the future we will be talking about you as one of the stars in the business of sports.