Looking to sell like a pro? Begin by stopping to think about a professional football player or professional athlete. How does he (or she) prepare? Does he jump right into the game without taking any steps to prepare ahead of time? Of course not. There are actually two things that he will invest time and effort in: 1) planning and 2) practice.
A professional football player will have a set of plays that he will operate according to. These tell him what steps to take and when to take them. He will memorize these plays and know them like the back of his hand. Not only will he study his own plays, but he will also study the opposition’s plays so that he can anticipate what they will do and to help him to be able to react and respond at an optimum level during the game.
The effort to perform at the highest level does not stop with having a plan. The athlete will also spend a lot of time practicing. The whole week leading up to the game will be spent practicing and running drills to raise the level of preparedness. And all the way up until game time, the athlete will be warming up and getting prepared. This enables peak performance as the athlete is warm, loose, and ready when it is game time.
Being able to work off of a plan and practice the plan will dramatically increase his performance and likelihood of success. Could you imagine if he did not do any of these things and then just went into the game and tried to perform based solely on his natural ability? He might do OK at moments, but his results will be very inconsistent, and his composure and confidence will likely be very low.
Applying to Being a Sales Pro
How does this apply to sales? Well, it can be very common for salespeople to do just the equivalent of what we described with the athlete going into a game without a plan and preparation. We usually go through some periodic sales training, but for the most part, we usually just pick up the phone and go into meetings with little preparation and rely primarily on our natural instincts and experience to carry us.
The challenge with that approach is that time with prospects is extremely valuable, and we need to get the most out of each interaction in order to operate at a high level. If we improvise, we may not think of the right questions or responses, and that does not position us well to have the best possible conversations.
Picture the football player not being prepared when it is game time. He might not know how to handle the defense of the opposition, and that can make him flustered and create mistakes and errors.
Have a Plan
If you want to be a sales professional who consistently performs at a high level, you should have the same approach as a professional athlete. This might include having a set of plays to work from that help you to know what to say and ask when talking to prospects. You do not necessarily need to script out everything word for word, but listing out key questions to ask to identify indicators of interest, points to make, and responses for objections at a minimum can greatly improve your results.
Practice the Plan
You can actually go one step further and practice your plan by going through and role-playing your script. You can practice by yourself, with a peer, or with a manager. This can help you to get more comfortable with your talk tracks and help you to memorize them better so that you know what to do when it is game time.