In a time-poor world, many people, including sales leaders and salespeople, often bemoan the fact they cannot seem to make time for important things like continued professional development, coaching, and thorough planning, thus leaving their evolution and sales results to chance.
Rushing through the day, responding to ‘urgent’ matters and deadlines, getting in and out of sales meetings as quickly as possible, doing the bare minimum with CRM and reporting, with little or no time for reflection or developing mastery in their core capabilities, seems to be the lot of many sales teams today.
When we rush through tasks, client meetings, coaching sessions, reports and so on, we can miss vital lessons that are present in these moments. These lessons can teach us how to do something better the next time.
For instance, when working with sales leaders to set up perpetual learning environments for their sales teams using a mix of in-field, online, classroom and self-directed learning, their immediate reaction is often ‘oh no, not more work to do’. Which is fair enough. Sales leaders and their sales teams are already very busy with a multitude of tasks. How could they possibly add more to their cramped days?
However, we allay their fears by telling them we do not want them to do more stuff just for the sake of it. What we want them to do is think about what they are already doing by way of:
- Sales meetings;
- In-field joint client meetings;
- One-on-one coaching;
- In-field coaching; and
- Team learning sessions.
And we want them to think about how they can do these things more intelligently by using intelligent practice strategies instead.
What is intelligent practice?
- It is teaching and coaching for mastery.
- It involves developing intelligent habits.
- It is the precise designing of student activities and practice questions so, rather than students repeating a mechanical activity, they are taken down a path where the thinking process is practised with increasing creativity instead of rote learning.
- It is about making your own practice interesting, intriguing and stimulating so it maintains your curiosity.
- It develops intention, awareness, structure and perseverance.
- It sees errors as opportunities to learn versus mistakes to be threatened by.
- It cultivates a ‘beginners mind’.
- It is underpinned by curiosity.
- It concentrates on one aspect at a time, breaking things down into smaller and smaller components.
- It is about sequential learning big to small, outer to inner.
- It is about a balance between repetition and keeping it fresh.
- It explores the difference between copying or mimicking and making it your own.
- It is about being clear on what to practice at each stage, with our understanding and insights constantly changing and evolving.
- It is about revisiting previous understandings from the deepest levels and continuing to evolve and adapt.
- It is about understanding and managing your emotions and knowing how you habitually support or sabotage your own best efforts.
- It can and should be done in real time, not just in those moments officially dedicated to learning (such as workshops).
I am an active person and I want to stay fit for life. However, as my life’s priorities and my body shift and adjust, and with limited time each week to do what I want to do, I need to get maximum results across swimming, hockey, walking, yoga and gym sessions.
There are only so many hours in the week and so many sessions I can do. So instead of just going through the motions, I work out how I can get the most benefit out of each session by doing it properly, exploring better ways, and so on.
For some of my sessions, I have coaches who can give me feedback and direction, and in others, I am on my own. But either way, I am constantly looking at how I can get the most out of each session and advance my capabilities using intelligent practice strategies.
And the same goes for my business career and personal life.
As business and sales professionals, every day can become a day of intelligent practice.
My team and I regularly run workshops for sales leaders and sales teams, and even though we are the ‘subject matter expert’, it doesn’t mean we cannot continue to learn or grow.
When I set learning and reflection tasks for the course participants I also set them for myself and join in the fray when we reconvene. Far be it for me to say I know it all. Clearly not.
When I am at a client meeting, again I am aware of how I can make the most of the situation for the mutual benefit of the client and myself and our respective businesses.
Think about how intelligent practice can positively impact important selling skills like the effective and adaptive use of questioning skills in selling situations. Or coaching skills. Or negotiation, presentation skills, communication and planning skills. And the list goes on.
To continue to learn and undertake intelligent practice we need the correct information and a systematic process and approach to follow. Things like a sales process map that explains ‘how we sell around here’. Sales tools and resources we can apply. Clear sales strategies and value propositions that intentionally guide and direct the iteration of our work in situ.
We also need to be able to seek help and feedback from skilled practitioners who are capable and willing to explain, demonstrate and coach us towards mastery.
What we don’t need is to wait for a classroom setting to do it in.
Intelligent practice can happen anywhere, any time.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.