I always look forward to the Olympics. It gives me the perfect excuse to remind sales leaders and their teams what it takes to excel—in sports, in life, and certainly in sales. Olympic athletes come from all over the world to compete in a myriad of events, but they all have one thing in common: They got there because they have continually invested in building their skills. They train with an unparalleled rigor. They have not just one coach, but many. And they are laser-focused on winning the gold.
Yet, while companies spend tons of money on client events, company celebrations, sales incentives, and work-life balance perks like childcare, they skimp on investing in building permanent, repeatable sales skills for their teams. They provide some “training,” but training without reinforcement, coaching, accountability, and practice is a waste of time and money.
It’s an ongoing problem in B2B sales. Leaders are in such a hurry to check the “training” box on their to-do lists that they neglect what actually makes training successful. They discount the time, energy, and investment (yes, investment) that it takes to implement a successful skills-building program. But without deliberate practice, feedback, and coaching, reps only dabble in new skills. They won’t actually change their behavior.
It takes more than a few days of practice before someone can fly a plane, play a game of golf with a 10 handicap, become a master chef, or win a gold medal in the giant slalom at the Olympics. And it takes more than a few hours of training to master new sales skills.
Some sales leaders believe that if their teams receive a little training, they’ll practice on their own time. However, most sales reps resist practice. They don’t get paid to practice. They get paid to sell.
Top-performing sales reps operate differently. They determine the critical, deal-breaking skills needed for sales success, and they take a deep dive into honing those skills. These super-sales achievers narrow their focus and relentlessly learn and apply new sales skills by committing to daily practice. Yes, daily practice.
I’ll have to wait another two years to write about the Olympics (I’m perhaps a bit late with the reference now), but while I’m waiting, Olympic hopefuls all over the world will be training, practicing, and honing their skills.
What will your team be doing? If you want this to be a game-changing year, it’s up to you as the sales leader to make practice a requirement, an integral part of your culture, and a major component of your sales strategy.