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(SALES) Practice In The Office, Not On Prospects


We all know that the more you practice, the better youll become at whatever it is you are trying to accomplish sales, sports, and everything in between.

Great athletes spend hours and hours of practice time on their sports to become great and maintain their edge. The analogy is especially easy to see with athletics, but it applies for any activity you can name. Including business, sales, and even writing.

At a recent business meeting I had the opportunity to listen to a featured speaker discuss how to become a better writer. Because I believe it is critical in sales and sales management to be able to write with the purpose of gaining thought leadership and communicating your ideas, I looked forward to the insight. Not only did I learn a few handy tips on effective writing, I walked away with a profound understanding that the very best writers practice their craft all the time. Great writers write. Even when they dont need to publish an article or write a memo. They write to build their strength in writing. This speaker compared writing to a gym workout and explained that if you do it only once in a while, you never see the kind of improvement you want. You never feel strong. And, as a double whammy, that kind of sporadic practice is likely to cause frustration.

The commitment to regular practice is key to growth! Even in sales.

If you boil it down to the basics, as a salesperson, you have two choices: Become better at what you do by committing to practice, or choose to not get better at what you do by choosing not to practice. Imagine a star athlete showing up for game day after skipping every practice that season. The outcome would be obvious.

So practice is key. Now how do you do it?

Five Ways You Can Practice Your Sales Skills In The Office:

1. Roleplay an upcoming presentation you plan to give to a client or a prospect. Instruct the person playing the role of the client to really play along and ask tough questions. Ask them not to just sit there and nod their head, but rather give you some serious questions to help ensure you are prepared. Showing up to the gym is not enough. You have to challenge yourself.

2. Roleplay asking questions. I have always said that in sales, people will define you not by what you know, but by the questions that you ask. If you are not practiced in the art of asking questions, you are doing yourself a gigantic disservice. Theres an easy way to practice this: Have someone play the prospect, and ask them to come up with two or three business needs. Your job is to practice asking questions until you can figure out what those needs are.

3. Practice leaving a voicemail. Lets face it, in this day of caller ID, you have to leave a ton of voice messages. While Im sure you know that most of them dont get the attention you hope for, you still have to leave a strong message. Practice by leaving yourself a few different messages in the morning, then sit down with a colleague to review them later in the day. Force yourself to be critical of what you said and how you said it, and actively search for ways to improve.

4. Practice sending an e-mail. This might seem ridiculous. You send e-mail all the time. But how often do you take the time to practice communicating your message with strong writing? Before you send your next client e-mail, send it to yourself, and read it on your phone rather than your computer monitor. That changes everything! Is it too long? Too short? Does it look right? Does it clearly communicate what you are trying to say? Recently a business owner forwarded an e-mail from a sales rep to me and explained that the sellers inability to communicate a strong message to him made him doubt her ability to effectively communicate his message to an audience. Practice your e-mail.

5. Practice listening. People often think of a salesperson as a smooth talker, a savvy speaker. The fact is that the best salespeople are actually better at listening then talking. But that takes practice. A great way to do this is with a reverse roleplay. Find two volunteers to play the client and the salesperson. Take good notes throughout their meeting, and once its over, share your notes. Ask the seller and the client to compare what you heard to what they actually said.

Matt Sunshine is EVP of the Center for Sales Strategy. E-mail:

(10/24/2013 12:05:15 AM)
FE0TL9 Very informative blog.

- NY

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