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The Lost Art of Practice

Alabama trailed Georgia 20-7 in the third quarter and couldn't seem to generate much of an offensive threat. Coach Nick Saban made the difficult choice to bench his starting quarterback, who was 25-2 in his career, in favor of a completely untested freshman backup quarterback. This was the 2018 National Championship college football game so the decision was not made spur of the moment nor without prior consideration.

In fact, Tua Tagovailoa, the backup quarterback, shared that Coach Saban made sure he practiced with the first team during the weeks leading up to the championship game, just in case the situation arose where he needed him in the game. Tagovailoa’s preparation and discipline took over and he went on to lead Alabama to another national championship win.


Notice I didn't say role "play"...we said role "practice" because we aren't playing! You are what you repeatedly practice. Executing when it counts isn't simply a function of being in the right place at the right time. It is rather the countless hours of preparation and planning that drives the payoff when it counts most. Joe Frazier, one of the best boxing champions of all times, said it best:

Champions aren't made in the ring, they are merely recognized there. What you cheat on in the early light of morning will show up in the ring under the bright lights.

So, why is practice not a normal part of our weekly process?

Simply put, practice is hard! It takes many hours of relentless effort and withstanding of constructive critiquing from our teammates and managers. In a world where immediate gratification and payoff is the norm, this is something that creates wins when it matters most.

The best salespeople, like athletes, put in hundreds of hours of practice so that when we are "under the bright lights" all that repetition will have sunk in and we will instinctively deliver a winning play. This is why it is critical to practice exactly how we expect our customer interactions will play out.

Below are some best practice recommendations for setting up successful and continuous learning-based role practice:

First and foremost, no matter what type of role practice, salespeople should treat this exercise as seriously as if they were speaking to a real customer. This is the opportunity to script out talk tracks that are focused on helping our customers visualize that we will help them maximize THEIR outcomes. In essence, to "become the only choice" when it comes to choosing a partner.

Voicemail Practice

Scripts are critical in creating an engaging and successful voicemail. It should be focused on sharing an exciting idea or improvement opportunity with the prospect. If a salesperson is uncomfortable engaging on the phone, it will certainly come across to the person receiving the message. See When to Use and Not Use Scripts. Role practice within a team is a "safe" way to work out the "ums" and "ers" and develop best practices. Additionally, tone and smiling are 75% of the success in having a positive voicemail experience. Don't hesitate to put a mirror on the and passion go a long way!

Handing Objections

Practicing the art of handling objections is one of the most important skills a sales person will need to become the only choice in the eyes of the customer. Determine the top 2-3 objections you receive in your business. The team can work together to create an appropriate acknowledgement to the objection, such as, "I can certainly understand how you might feel that way." Once you acknowledge and help bring down the prospect's defensive shield, you can ask questions to explore and truly understand what the objection is. Craft questions that make sense for each type of objection and then role practice these responses over and over again. Thinking back to the freshman Alabama quarterback, he role practiced his scenario of coming into the game over and over again in practice. He simply executed what he knew.

Turnaround Questions