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Practice Makes Permanent

Expertise isn’t just handed to you. Commitment to a daily routine and practice separates you from every other salesperson out there. Commit and succeed.

Malcolm Gladwell, (Canadian journalist and author) said, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he references a study by Ericsson (K. Anders Ericsson, Florida State University) “The thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. The work much, much harder… .”

“The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.” Yikes!

Reality check: Mastery, becoming a world-class expert, takes 10,000 hours of practice–because it takes the brain that long to assimilate everything it needs to know for mastery. The rest of us (real people) don’t need 10,000 hours of practice to be top of our sales game. But we do need practice. And I’m willing to bet that you need more practice than you’re currently committing to.

Salespeople Want It N-O-W

I sell. You sell. Real salespeople are focused. We are energized by our business, driven to provide top-notch products and services to our clients, and we are always moving. Learning, developing expertise, and asking questions. We are on the move.

We are not a patient people, sales pros. We want information-relevant information-now, not tomorrow or the next day. We want it quickly and magically. We’d prefer to put the iPod (loaded with critical sales training and wisdom) under the pillow and awaken with the essential sales content embedded in our brain. Osmosis would be such a low-impact, low-energy, easy way to master new sales skills…

…Snap out of it. That’s not how it works, and we know it. The only way to increase essential sales skills and impact our sales productivity is to practice. Yes, I mean hands-on, upright, out-loud practice. I know what you’re thinking, “No. Don’t want to do it.”

Commit to Mastery

Children practice all the time–without fear. Remember learning to ride a bike? You watched other kids. You may have started with a tricycle (very safe), then got your two-wheeler with training wheels (safe), and then dropped the training wheels for a solo free ride (not so safe). You fell, skinned your knees and got back on. You fell off again and got back on. You were committed to learning how to ride that bike. Your confidence improved, and you rode downhill and over and around bumps and obstacles. You got good, really good. But it didn’t happen overnight.

The Proof Is In the Practice

But we resist practice, even with proof right in front of us. Why? I believe that salespeople resist practice because adults and contributing employees don’t get paid to practice. You get paid to sell. You receive compensation to do your job correctly the first time. Practice time is on your dime. And who has extra time just floating around?

I took piano lessons as a young girl. Many times I forgot to practice, and I thought my teacher wouldn’t notice. She always noticed. I never got away without practicing. As adults, we can’t get away without practicing, either. Believe it, your clients and prospects notice.

Practice Makes Permanent

Salespeople in the top 10 percent operate differently. They determine the critical, deal-breaking, skills they need for their sales success, and they deep dive into those skills. These supersales achievers narrow their focus and relentlessly learn and apply new sales skills by committing to daily practice. Yes, daily practice.

I use the example of the gym: If you just walk by, look at people in the window, and watch them working out, not much changes for you, but lots changes for them. Daily workouts build muscles, improve physical wellbeing, and strengthen the most critical muscle in our bodies-the heart.

Where is the heart of your sales career? Commitment to a daily routine and practice separates you from every other salesperson out there. Many anecdotes and quotes exist about practice. I grew up hearing “Practice makes perfect.” I don’t believe in perfection. Perfection is boring. I believe in striving for the best. One of my clients says: “Practice makes permanent.” Yes!

So much sales information bombards us today, and we struggle to quickly locate relevant data to boost our sales. We find information fast, but we frequently lack the discipline to apply what we learn effectively. Why? We neglect practice.

The Practice Payoff

Success isn’t handed to us. Fortune magazine’s senior-editor-at-large, Geoffrey Colvin wrote an article on this topic (October 19, 2006), What It Takes to Be Great: Research now shows that the lack of natural talent is irrelevant to great success. The secret? Painful and demanding practice and hard work.

Colvin states that the best do what researchers call “deliberate practice.” He quotes Ericsson: “Deliberate practice is activity explicitly intended to improve performance, reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results, and involves high levels of repetition.

Example from the sports world: Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80% of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours everyday, that is deliberate practice. Consistency is crucial.”

Everyone can access greatness. Focus on specific selling skills and practice, practice, practice. Practice becomes your game-changing, compelling, sales event. Practice is your future. You don’t need 10,000 hours of practice. Just practice one sales skill every day. Practice makes permanent.

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