As a sports fan, you are familiar with the adage, “Practice like you play.” Coaches preach this mantra repeatedly, to instill a mindset of intensity and improvement among their players. Unless a player practices as if they were actually playing in a competitive game – running plays against defenders, competing like it was the championship game – that player’s lethargy, apathy and half-assed habits will carry over to games. The best athletes – LeBron James, Tom Brady, Cristiano Ronaldo – spend so much of their time not only practicing, but practicing hard. They have heeded the lessons of their coaches.
So why are Sales VPs still making this huge mistake?
We’re talking about the lack of emphasis and attention paid to practice. In the sales world, reps are thrown into the fire with limited practice time and few reps under their belt. The best coaches – Bill Belichick, Greg Popovich, Sir Alex Ferguson – would never do that…so why do Sales VPs continue making this mistake?
It starts with a commitment
Good practice habits and culture start with senior sales management – they are the ones who must empower managers and reps to focus more on practice. The biggest mistake is that most VPs aren’t dedicating any or enough time (either their own or their reps’) toward practice.
Think about how crazy that would be in sports. Tom Brady and all NFL players spend more than 90% of their time practicing (Monday to Saturday), and only the remaining 10% playing (Sunday). By contrast, sales reps do it the other way around, spending almost all their time just working the phones and selling. How can they be expected to improve their skills? Worse, with so much “doing” and so little “practicing,” these reps could be reinforcing bad habits over and over again. The more entrenched bad selling habits are, the harder they become to break.
Start by committing more time to sales coaching and practice calls. Ideally, each rep should receive at least 60 minutes of one-on-one coaching each week to work on a handful – no more than 2 or 3 – of specific skills or weaknesses. The whole sales team should also get together once or twice a week for team practices. Empower your sales managers to devote much more of their time to sales coaching and practicing.
Learn from mistakes
In sports, a huge component of practice focuses on correcting mistakes that happened in games. This means figuring out what went wrong, what went well, and implementing new “plays” that can help the team achieve success. And what is the one coaching component that can help coaches and players identify the aforementioned mistakes and come up with solutions?
Just as athletes and coaches will dissect and analyze game film to provide a perspective that the player might not have in the heat of the game, sales managers and reps should be doing the same. In the excitement of a quality phone conversation, the rep might not realize that he is making certain small and subtle mistakes. When those mistakes are eliminated and corrected, the sales call might go from a B+ to a straight A. Yet, the rep likely does not realize they are making that mistake.
It is on the sales coach, with the help of a film review or a recorded phone call, to point out that mistake. Once it has been identified, and the rep admits to making that mistake, they can then work together to correct it.
Your sales reps want to improve. They want to learn from their mistakes, maintain their strengths and become better sellers. The key to becoming a better seller isn’t necessarily to sell more; no, the key to getting better – just like in anything else – is coaching and practice. With more dedicated coaching time, and more focused practice sessions, your reps will see their sales success soar. Stop making the number one sales management mistake of ignoring practice and coaching immediately.