The vital life (and sales) skill of reflection

As I sit at my desk writing this article I reflect on the past four to five weeks. Taking time out to think, ponder, and reflect on ideas, my team, my work, our strategy, our wellbeing and so on has been few and far between.

On one hand I am grateful that we are fully engaged (our work word for ‘busy’) and active with our work and clients. On the other hand I am mourning the lack of small time outs when I can create the space to look into both the details and vast oceans of opportunities without the pressure of having to be somewhere or with someone else.

Reflection is a vital life, sales and business skill. Reflection is on par with questioning and listening skills. It can help us achieve so many things, but it takes skill and practice.

Here are five questions as to why reflection needs to feature more in our daily lives.

1. What is reflection?

“…the way that we learn from an experience in order to understand and develop practice” (Jasper 2003).

“Reflection is part of learning and thinking. We reflect in order to learn something, or we learn as a result of reflecting, and the term ‘reflective learning’ emphasises the intention to learn from current or prior experience” (Moon 2004) (Effective Learning Service at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland).

2. What is reflective practice?

“Reflective practice is a way of studying your own experiences to improve the way you work … The act of reflection is a great way to increase confidence and become a more proactive and qualified professional.” (

There are many, many forms of reflective practice including these two examples.

Gibb’s reflective cycle, involving six steps:

  • Description – What happened?
  • Feelings – What did you think and feel about it?
  • Evaluation – What were the positives and negatives?
  • Analysis – What sense can you make of it?
  • Conclusion – What else could you have done?
  • Action Plan – What will you do next time?

And Rolfe’s framework for reflective practice where he uses three simple questions to reflect on a situation: What?, So what?, and Now what?

He considers the final question as the one that can make the greatest contribution to practice.

  1. What … is the problem? … was my role? … happened? … were the consequences?
  2. So what … was going through my mind? … should I have done? … do I know about what happened now?
  3. Now what … do I need to do? … broader issues have been raised? … might happen now?

3. What is reflective learning?

“Reflective learning is the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern, triggered by an experience, which creates and clarifies meaning in terms of self, and which results in a changed conceptual perspective.” (Evelyn M. Boyd and Ann W. Fales)

4. What is reflection in education?

“Reflection is a mental process which, applied to the act of learning, challenges students to use critical thinking to examine presented information, question its validity, and draw conclusions based on the resulting ideas. Reflection is a type of thinking aimed at achieving better understanding and leading to new learning. All of the following are important aspects of the reflective process:

  1. Making sense of experience
  2. ‘Standing back’
  3. Repetition
  4. Deeper honesty
  5. ‘Weighing up’
  6. Clarity
  7. Understanding
  8. Making judgements”

(Effective Learning Service at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland entitled ‘Reflection’)

5. How does the skill and practice of reflection help us in sales?

Reflection is of particular importance in sales and sales management. Without it we would not be able to understand our clients or ourselves and the changes in market and client dynamics. We would not be able to grow, adapt or develop, or manage our anxieties or errors and overcome challenges.

Sales strategy, sales planning and account planning are forms of reflection because they require us to take time out and examine where we are at, where we have been and where we are going to.

Good sales training that uses an inquiry based learning approach is also a form of reflection where we get to stop and examine how we are going and what we are doing in detail.

Sales coaching is a form of reflection for both the coach and coachee if delivered well.

In fact you might be quite surprised how many pockets of reflection opportunities are available to you if you turn them into a form of reflection.

It is important also to regularly find time for longer reflection breaks, to allow space for bigger issues, new opportunities or just creating space.

Good luck with your reflection activities.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform Get to know her further on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube.


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