One of my all-time favorite sports movies is Above the Rim. In the scene above, without a ball, Shep, played by the actor Leon, is practicing his game. It's definitely a little different when you first see it, but the visualization he uses, to him, is just as good as it would be with a ball.
In sales, we tend to think well inside the box when it comes to getting better at sales. Reps believe if they make the calls, attend and attempt to apply the training their teams do for them, and read a book or article here or there, they're good. That's good enough to be good...but it's not good enough to be great. The great ones, like Shep, think outside the box. You can't just be good and win the Shoot Out Tournament in corduroys.
So what can sales reps do, on their own, to get better:
Open-Ended Question Training: The best sales reps are the ones who focus on asking open-ended questions so they get the buyer to commit to speaking. The more the buyer speaks, the more invested they get in the process. Tell your parents/friends/significant others/roommates/etc. that they are NOT allowed to answer any of your questions if you ask them closed-ended. I did this with my roommates in DC...and it quickly solved this problem for me.
Agenda Training: I talked about the importance of being intentional in a previous blog, but it doesn't just come naturally over the phone. Practice, every time you walk into a new conversation, stating your desired outcome from that interaction. I worked with an MLS team whose Director had each of his reps set the agenda on their way into his office, and the team got MUCH better at their agenda statements.
Improv: No question I am a better salesperson today because of the improv training I did with the Brave New Workshop as part of my time as Director of MLS' National Sales Center. The improv worked allows me to trust myself in each situation, which allows me to clearly listen to my potential client, as opposed to talking through or over them. A rep for a team that I did training signed up to do improv classes and has not only gone from bottom of the board to top 5 on his team...but he also made three sales from the class he entered!
Would You Buy Your Sales Pitch?: Spend some time, on your own, thinking critically about this question. If you called you to sell you tickets...would you buy? If the answer is no, how are your potential clients going to want to? Do you talk too much? Are you just passing along information? Are you not committing to strong or emotional phrasing?
Sell the Pen: Ask your parents/sibling/friends/etc. to think of a SPECIFIC reason that they would buy a $250 pen right now. Tell them that it can be for themselves for any specific reason, or for anybody else. Then, through appropriate questioning and recommendations, sell them that pen. Tickets are something that people already want...pens are not. Forcing us to sell something that doesn't have inherent emotion behind it forces us to sell to a need...which is ALWAYS a more effective way of selling.
Etc.: Make up your own exercise...make it fun...have it have practical application...and enjoy getting better at sales.
It's always important to remember that sales is our job. Regardless of how much (or how little) training our team provides us, it is our job to find ways to make ourselves better salespeople. The responsibility is on you to take advantage of every opportunity you get...so #getafterit and make yourself the best salesperson you can possibly be!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!