It’s really just that easy. One day, you wake up and you effortlessly sell more effectively than you ever imagined possible. The only trouble is that there are thousands of days between today and that day.
Practice Makes Perfect
I have always hated the saying “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” There is no such thing as perfect practice. Practice is the fine art of making mistake after mistake and correction after correction on your way to finally gaining something that looks like competency. Only when you get to competency can you even begin to shoot for something resembles perfect.
Selling well is no different. You try some things. Some things work, others are horrendous mistakes that lead to abysmal failures. But the painful lessons learned are what teach you not to repeat your mistakes.
It takes hours, days, weeks, months, and years of practice.
Painful Lessons Make Good Learning
I have always taught salespeople to never leave a face-to-face meeting or sales interaction without scheduling their next appointment. It’s easier to obtain that commitment when you are sitting face-to-face with your dream client with your calendar open in front of you.
Preach as I may, some salespeople leave their appointment with no future commitment. They return to their office, proud of how well their sales call went, and full of hope. Then, they begin the painful struggle of securing the future commitment, devastated that their phone calls go unreturned, their emails go unanswered, and their opportunity sits stalled in their pipeline for weeks—or longer.
This is a painful enough lesson that observant, thoughtful, and introspective salespeople don’t normally continue to make it after learning it the hard way.
Another Painful Lesson
Being effective means leveraging activities that produce the greatest result for the least amount of effort. This reminds of something the great Yogi Berra once said: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” In theory, minimal effort for maximum results sounds good; in practice, all the best results tend to come from the greatest effort.
Some salespeople believe that they can win deals by simply waiting for and winning RFPs. Completing RFPs may feel as if you are effectively building a pipeline of opportunities, and from time to time, you may even be lucky enough to win one. But over time, you discover that the easiest way to build a solid pipeline of opportunities that will actually produce results is through diligent, disciplined effort at prospecting.
This lesson is often learned after you suffer the pain of a few quarters of missed quotas—or worse.
Lessons, There for the Taking
The act of selling is wonderful for educating you to sell well. The lessons are constantly being taught, and they are there for you to study.
Sales, like a whole bunch of other human endeavors, must be learned by each generation on its own, with none of all the hard gained knowledge and education passed on—despite the best efforts of those who already took their lumps in gaining that knowledge to share it.
If you are thoughtful, observant, and willing to adopt new beliefs and behaviors, you can learn from the painful lessons of your mistakes. If you practice, and if you learn well and take new actions, you will wake up one day far in the future, and selling will seem to be a whole lot easier.
What are the most painful losses you have suffered in selling?
What lessons you have learned from your failures?
What lessons should salespeople try not to learn the hard way?
What’s the best way to learn from mistakes and to share those lessons?