Is Your Sales Team Practicing 6.5 Times?

Build a Sales Practice Environment

Rehearsing makes sales conversations far more effective, yet few sales reps ever get the chance to do it. Here’s how to use the latest principles in social learning technology to make them want to learn.

Practice Payoff

Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote about “The 10,000 Rule,” which states that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at anything to achieve mastery in sports, business, or anything requiring skill-building (expertly debated by S. Anthony Iannarino here). We’ve all heard of Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods’ relentless practice routines, and the reason that they practice is that it absolutely makes you better. Malcolm Gladwell famously said it best in his Outliers:“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Does that also hold true in the world of sales? Absolutely.

Consider what happened when a medical technology company implemented a sales training program that included deliberate practice. Prior to the rehearsed presentation certification, about 1 in 4 customers were converting to the new product when it was presented. After they practiced? It jumped to a 95% conversion rate.

Sales conversion rates went from 25% before to 95% after presentation rehearsals.

How did they do it? The company executed what would be considered today to be an unconventional approach to sales practice and training:

  1. Sales reps attended a training session to introduce the new product…nothing unusual here.
  2. Reps then prepared presentations to teach back what they had learned…most wouldn’t go this far.
  3. Reps practiced those presentations repeatedly in front of video cameras and then in front of managers, getting feedback and then refining…now this is really different!
  4. Reps practiced using the new product itself…I would hope so!

The Sales Kickoff Conundrum

Now think about what that means for the traditional way we’ve taught reps.

The Sales Kickoff: the one time in the year when you can really get the sales team fired up and trained on all those new products you want them to sell. You’ve brought the entire sales organization together for three-days in a tropical hotspot and they’re excited. You’ve got great speakers and great content. You’ve even organized facilitated role-plays.

The live role-play has been the sales leader’s answer to practice for a very long time. But let’s be honest: role-play may be a rep’s least favorite part of any training event. Half of the team is disengaged, just watching the clock for the time to be over, while the other half, taking it seriously, doesn’t really get enough time in the batting cage to make a meaningful difference.

Before you can blink, the kick-off is over. Most of your reps go back to using the same old tactics. You could bring every rep in to present in front of senior leadership, but that just wastes not only more resources, but their valuable time.

There has to be a better way.

Practice Accountability

Few would argue that most sales teams do not need more practice. The question is how to do it: wishful thinking does not always translate over to time and resources. The answer is to stop asking reps to practice on your terms and start allowing them to practice on theirs.

Today’s practice environment for sales should leverage what many millennial sales reps like to do on their own time: use social technology and online video.
Here are the principles that you need to put in place to create a culture of Practice Accountability.

  1. Give reps model examples from leading peers and subject matter experts on video so they can see what good looks and sounds like. This way if they’re unsure, they have a place to start.
  2. Allow reps to practice wherever and whenever they want on video, so it’s convenient for them.
  3. Create an expectation that reps should practice as often as they need to, until they feel comfortable with the results.
  4. When ready, allow reps to share the results of their practice with managers, peers, or subject matter experts to get feedback and refine. In doing so, you’re building a library of sales tribal knowledge.

With CommercialTribe’s sales learning platform, reps are practicing an average of 6.5 times before submitting for feedback.I know, I just read your mind….that’s 6.5 times more than they ever practiced before! Reps have a safe and confident environment to work on the craft of selling, practicing, sharing, refining, and ultimately getting it right.

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