“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” - Aristotle
Success in sales is exactly that. It’s having the discipline and desire to consistently develop your skills. It’s the ability to focus on the right habits day in and day out.
That means setting goals and establishing routines. You need goals to get motivated and inspired and you need routines to help you power through your daily sales activities and achieve the goals you’ve set.
What it comes down to is making a commitment. A commitment to yourself. To your team. To your sales success. Focus on the skills you want to improve, cultivate good habits, and practice having sales conversations.
Whether it’s prospecting to get an appointment, asking questions during a discovery meeting, or delivering your demo, the skills needed to have these conversations successfully come up all the time.
You need to be sharp. The only way to do that is to practice. To help you do that, we’ve identified six training exercises that you can use to make practice and training a habit.
But first, create accountability for yourself
Before we get into the actual exercises, it’s important to consider how you will create accountability for yourself. Accountability is taking ownership and responsibility for your actions and results. This is especially important when you’re looking to make a change or establish a new habit.
In the case of making training a habit, holding yourself accountable comes down to consistency and follow-through. Here are a few options to help you do just that:
Create a training cadence whether daily, weekly, or monthly, and then set an appointment with yourself. Treat it like you would any other important appointment on your calendar.
Track your progress. You could do this in a notebook or a spreadsheet; the key is to keep track of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you could change/improve upon it. An added benefit is using it as motivation to see how far you’ve come and to keep going.
Find yourself an accountability partner to team up with. This is someone, maybe a teammate, your manager, an external coach, or a mentor, who will help you stay focused and follow through on your exercises.
Determine how you will reward yourself when you do what you said you would but also what the consequences are when you fail to follow through.
If you’re serious about making training a habit, you need to hold yourself accountable. If you don’t, you’ll find any excuse not to follow through.
1. Record and review your phone calls
This sales training exercise involves playing recorded sales calls or meetings and looking for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The point is to really listen to what you say and how you say it. So often we get into patterns or routines and just keep doing what we are doing because it’s familiar and comfortable. But, you have to ask yourself: is this really working?
It’s not easy to listen to yourself talk, but when you listen with the intention to improve, you’ll pick up on little details that you can work on changing to make your calls better.
Try this: Work with your manager or a co-worker to develop a scoring system to assess your performance. For example, you might include some or all of the following:
Use of filler words
Tone of voice
How confident you sound
Next step scheduled
Write down what you could have said or done better as well as what you thought you did well.
You can’t just leave any old message, however. It’s got to be short, to the point, and relevant.
It’s easy in theory, much more difficult in execution. That’s why it’s so important to practice leaving voicemails and listening to them. Remember, the goal of a voicemail isn’t to tell your entire sales story at that moment, it’s to generate enough interest to get the other person to call you back.
Try this: Develop a list of questions to ask yourself as you listen to the voicemails you leave for yourself. For example:
Would you return your call?
How long is your message? Could you make it shorter?
Did you clearly state the reason for your call?
What value are you adding? What’s in it for them?
What’s the first thing you said? What’s the last thing you said or asked?
After you’ve critiqued your voicemail and considered the questions above, try again. Use your critique to guide you to a new and improved voicemail. BONUS: Leave the same voicemail for your manager or co-worker and ask them for feedback.
3. Rewrite your email templates
It’s all too easy to fire off another canned email template to your latest inbound lead without giving it a second thought.
I mean, at one point you spent a good amount of time and effort writing those templates, why can’t you continue using them? Well, things change.
It’s great to have templates to use as your starting point, but as things change (the world, your business, your customer’s business, etc.) you need to tweak them to include new language and trends that resonate with your prospects and customers evolving needs.
Try this: Develop different templates and start tracking the responses. If you have an automated way of tracking open and response rates, that's great! If you don’t, keeping track manually is just as good.
In fact, I’d argue to say tracking manually is better because it will make you really stop and consider what you’re writing. If template A gets seven out of 10 responses and template B gets 2 out of 10 responses, then you need to stop and evaluate. What did you do differently in template A vs. B?
Consider these key areas as you evaluate and re-write your emails:
Body of the email
Now, use the information you’ve gathered to further improve and build upon your templates. Keeping track of your responses should be an ongoing activity. The more data you have about your emails, the more effective you can make them.
4. Practice handling objections
In sales, objections are just a fact of life. Not everyone you speak to will be ready or willing to buy your product or service. That means you’ll hear some form of “no” during your prospecting and sales efforts.
Objections typically fall into four categories: no need, no budget, no interest, and no time.
Every now and then you’ll get a curveball, but generally speaking, these are the four categories you need to be prepared for.
To the untrained sales pro, objections are bad and can be a show-stopper. But to the prepared and practiced sales pro, objections are just another part of the sales process and you don’t let them stop you in your tracks. In fact, you welcome them and try to proactively uncover them during your conversations because it helps you steer the sales process.
Try this: Create a ‘they-say, I-say’ chart like the one pictured here to capture all of the objections, questions, and concerns you get during your sales conversations.
Then, work on crafting your responses to each. Once you’ve spent time writing down how you would handle an objection or respond to a question, practice saying it out loud.
When you’re under pressure it can be difficult to think of exactly the right words to say. Capturing your common objections, crafting a response for each, and then practicing delivering your responses will help you internalize what you want to say so you can confidently respond to any type of objection, concern, or question.
5. Practice delivering your elevator pitch
Your elevator pitch or value proposition answers the question “why” for your prospects and customers. Why is it important for them to speak with you? Why is what you’re offering potentially beneficial to them?
This is essentially the first thing a new prospect or customer wants to hear: what’s in it for them. That means you better have a concise and straightforward way of framing that up. To do that, you need to constantly practice and improve what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. You need to test different wording and rehearse delivering it to a friend or co-worker.
If you don’t practice delivering your elevator pitch you risk stumbling over your words, which will make you appear nervous, uncomfortable, or worse, unprepared.
Try this: Jot down a few bullet points you know you want to include in your elevator pitch.
Once you have your bullet points, create different versions that vary in content and length. For example, you need a 45-60-second version to answer the question: What does your company do? Why should we work with you?
Then practice delivering it over and over again until you’re so comfortable with it that it becomes second nature.
6. Conduct a calendar/time audit
How do you know if you’re spending your time on the right activities? Do you have a process or system for managing your calendar?
A lot of sales professionals I work with tell me they don’t know where their time goes. At the end of the day, they feel like they’ve been busy but have little to show for it. This can lead to stress, bad habits, and poor time management.
The idea of a calendar/time audit is to track what you do on a daily basis so you can prioritize your time and be as productive as possible.
Try this: Keep track of your daily activities for the next week. This way, you can examine and analyze how you actually spend your time versus how you think you spend your time.
You can use your calendar, a spreadsheet, or a notebook to track this. It’s simply writing down the activity, how long it took, and making a note about how that activity made you feel at the time.
The reason for tracking how it made you feel is so you can get a better understanding of your attitude towards specific activities. This will help shed light on why some things may take you longer than others or why you avoid doing an activity altogether.
When you track your activities for a week or more, you can pinpoint what types of activities take up most of your time. By knowing where your time goes, you can identify opportunities where you can be more efficient and increase your productivity.
Make practice and training a habit
When you commit to training, you’re practicing your ability to adjust and accommodate to changes. You’re preparing for whatever is thrown your way.
A lot has changed in 2020, with few exceptions — and that includes sales.
With unprecedented speed and scale, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has upended the B2B salesforce across the world.
It has presented extreme challenges, but it’s also creating an opportunity to transform.
This opportunity creates the need to adjust and learn new ways of approaching sales. You need to accommodate new trends, technology, and your buyer’s ever-changing perceptions and purchasing patterns into your sales process.
With any type of change, you need to put in the time to plan, prepare, and practice new skills, strategies, and approaches.
And that’s just the beginning, if you truly want to achieve excellence in your sales efforts then you need to make training a habit.
Commit time every week – ideally every day – for practice. Block time on the calendar, minimize distractions and work on skill development as seriously as you would on any other project. When you do, you’ll learn new skills faster and adapt to the new world of selling more easily.