Dear Sales People: Please stop practicing on your clients

I can’t believe how fast the time has flown during my 18-year-long business career. Being blessed with the desire and passion to learn something new each day is something that I will never take for granted. These traits and habits were instilled early in me, not only by my parents but also by my outstanding coaches throughout my football playing days – specifically, Coach Beau Baldwin, (former Head Coach at Eastern Washington and current Offensive Coordinator at California) and Marty Osborn, Head Coach at Kentridge High School. The desire to learn and grow is a character trait that I look for in others with regards to building teams. Why is this important, you might be wondering? When you surround yourself with others who are always meticulous and never satisfied, inevitably you will put yourself and your team in a position to win.

Recently, our company went through an amazing business transformation that is changing the conversation with our customers on a daily basis. So many meetings are happening where we are hearing comments such as “Good question, no other vendor has asked me that.” We are seeing unique results due to the fact we take practice and preparation very seriously. Think about this for a second: if you are not taking the time to prepare for a meeting, then your chances of success will go down dramatically. The “wing it” approach might work for someone who considers themselves an elite seller but for the greater audience, practice and preparation will help make for a more consistent and positive business outcome.

Throughout this transformation, I began to wonder: if we don’t take time to prepare and role play certain business scenarios that might come up with our clients, then who loses? If your guess was “the customer” then you are a winner. Sorry, no free t-shirt or bowl of soup for guessing the right answer, but I will give you an air high five instead. So many sales organizations don’t take training seriously enough to ensure that their reps have thoroughly practiced their message to ensure clarity is achieved through the lens of the customer.  As you read this, you might be thinking this is common sense; However, it is not commonly practiced.

I love analogies, so let me take you down this path as a proof point.  How many NFL teams skip practice and film study all week, and then just show up and see how they stack up against the competitor? Not many. How many pilots never go into the simulator to practice different flight scenarios before jumping into the cockpit with 175 passengers? Not many. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that being a sales person is equivalent to an NFL player or an airline pilot, but I am comparing the art of practice and preparation as I believe they go hand in hand.

Value is earned and proven through preparation – the discovery questions you ask and the business problems that you solve. No matter what industry you are in, take the art of practicing seriously, so that you give yourself the confidence to be ready for any situation. If more people practice this art, then more customers will see value in their business relationships. I truly believe that if you are prepared through practice you will not feel the dreaded word – pressure.

I would love to hear from you if you have a good example of how the art of practice has helped you succeed as you have prepared for that big meeting or opportunity. Continue this conversation with me, and leave a comment below or share with your network as I would love to hear your thoughts.

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