Deliberate Practice Will Make You a Better Salesperson

I often tell my coaching clients there’s only one way to get over call reluctance or master their sales pitch: you have to write it down and put some deliberate practice into it. If you want to get good at something – anything – you have to do it over and over again. Makes perfect sense, right?

Woman Playing Violin - Deliberate practice will make you a better salesperson

Pretty much everyone agrees with all of this. Until I ask them to practice, right now… on me.

“But, Dew… I hate role-playing!” Or, “It feels like such a waste of time when I’ve got so many other things to do.”

Here’s my standard response:

”Really?! How’s that working out for you? Are you closing more business? Overcoming more objections? Getting in front of more prospects? Feeling awesome at your wow statement?”

Of course not—because they’re falling for their own lame excuses instead of just sucking it up and doing the actual hard work of deliberately practicing.

Deliberate Practice

There’s only one way to become an expert at anything. It’s called practice. “Practice, drill, rehearse” is a common phrase on how to get better at something and it applies to the sales world, too. K. Anders Ericsson described the term deliberate practice (and Malcolm Gladwell later made it world-famous in his book Outliers) when he published a study showing the primary difference between those who are merely talented and those who are true experts: 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Think about that: 10,000 hours. That calculates to 20 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 10 years.

What have you given 20 hours a week to for 10 years?

In the years since Outliers, people have been debating the 10,000 hours number. But the point is a good one. It takes a lot of practice to become an expert. And it has to be the right kind of practice. Deliberate practice. Meaning practice in an environment where you can analyze your delivery and fine-tune it until you’ve mastered it.

Back to my example, the salesperson who wants better results, but doesn’t want to role-play because it’s awkward or hard.

Of course, it’s hard! It’s easy (and fun!) to practice the tasks you’re already good at, the stuff that comes naturally. But the world’s best athletes and musicians (and yes, salespeople) got that way because they push themselves outside their comfort zone; they deliberately practice the things that are most difficult for them.

Selling is Like Kissing?

Let me ask you this: do you remember your first kiss? Was it in middle school, high school? Were you nervous? Did you know the day was coming? And then once it happened was it not as bad (or good) as you thought it would be? Was the second and third time even easier? How long was it before you really started looking forward to it (and perhaps, even, be good at it)?

OK, I know that for most of us, giving a sales presentation or cold calling isn’t as fun as making out. But you get the point – I guarantee you that just like kissing; the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

How to Deliberately Practice Selling

So what does practice look like for a sales professional? Here’s a 3 step process that works for just about any kind of sales presentation. I’ve found this same, simple formula works for cold calling, presentations, overcoming objections, closing statements, or just about any phase of the sales delivery.

Practicing for Sales Professionals: A 3-Step Process

  1. Create the script. Scripting dates back to the beginning of (salespeople) time because scripts work! If you want to be a professional, then you have to practice like the big dogs. Creating a simple script (talk track, verbiage, outline) will help you to organize your thoughts. Don’t stress over the exact wording yet, just get something down on paper (or typed up on your computer).
  1. Read your script out loud. Reading out loud allows you to hear what others are going to hear. It will help you find grammatical errors and words or phrases you may have missed. This is also where you can see how the words feel coming out of your mouth. Does it flow well and sound like words you would normally say? If not, change the phrasing to make it more “you”. After you make your changes, read it out loud again. Repeat reading it aloud alone and making changes until it feels natural. Then role-play with a friend, colleague, coach, or mentor.
  1. Record your next presentation and then listen to it. Experts record their performances so they can watch themselves later – and so should you. World-class athletes watch game film and break it down with their coaches. You may find you need a coach to help you analyze and tweak your delivery. Regardless, the first few times you’ll probably want to make more changes and circle back to step 2.

If practicing out loud—or recording and watching your sales pitch—feels awkward or painful, it’s because you aren’t as good at it as you know you should be. As painful as it feels the first time, the easier and more beneficial it becomes in the future (big surprise, right?).

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

“Fake it ’til you make it” means that you have to see yourself in that role until you achieve it. If you want to be successful, then you have to see yourself being successful until you’ve actually achieved it. Picture yourself as a master salesperson – what would you say, how would you say it? Now practice doing that until it’s the new reality.

This works in just about every phase of your life. If you want to lose 50 pounds then you have to see yourself 50 lighter. Put yourself in that mind frame and then eat, exercise, and live your life accordingly. When Shane and I were on our journey to become debt-free, we deliberately practiced money decisions daily based on what being debt-free would feel like. We “spent” all of our money on paper (or a spreadsheet) and practiced making tough spending decisions before we had to do them in real life.

So do it! Practice. Practice every day at becoming better than you are today. Leap over those lame excuses, deliberately practice and become the bad-ass mama jama that you know you can be.

Until next time—go sell some stuff!


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