We’re Talking ’bout Practice! (Yes, Sales Reps Need Stinking Practice)


“I know I’m supposed to be there, I know I’m supposed to lead by example. I know that. And I’m not shoving it aside like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important. I do. I honestly do. But we’re talking about practice, man. What are we talking about? Practice? We’re talking about practice, man!”

-Allen Iverson

Larry Levine

What a fantastic quote which segues wonderfully from… Can You Imagine a Professional Athlete Operating with a Sales Reps Mindset?

The roadmap to success for an elite athlete is based on hard work, personal ownership and how it is applied. They understand they must apply themselves in all aspects of their training. They take ownership, holding themselves accountable to the process.

A growth mindset is such a critical component to the success of both an elite athlete and a sales professional.

I asked the question, “What separates an average athlete from an average sales rep?”

Millions of dollars and their mindset.

I am here to tell you there is one more separation point between elite athletes and an average sales rep – PRACTICE!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Will Durant

One of the best ways you can transform your ordinary day as a sales rep into an extraordinary one is to master the art of being a sales professional. Transform your thinking from sales rep to sales professional. Think of your sales profession as a work of art and handle it with care.

Immerse yourself in your work, become fully engaged. Transform your mindset to one of growth. As this happens, you improve your ability to grow. As you grow yourself, you grow your career as a sales professional. The opposite is to disconnect; just doing your time, settling for complacency. Doing your time turns sales professionals into average sales reps.

Practice Is the Differentiator

A basketball game isn’t won on the court. The game is won in the days, weeks, months and off-season work leading up to the 48 minutes of actual playing time.

The game is won with preparation. The team watches film, memorizes plays, hits the gym and eats properly. Preparation and practice are the keys!

Just ask the all-time greats. Kobe Bryant saw Los Angeles at 4:00 A.M. Michael Jordan was the first person on the court and the last one off. Magic Johnson was the true definition of a work horse. It was his work ethic, growth mindset along with his commitment to practice which made him one of the best basketball players of all time.

So, why do sales reps struggle so much with practice?

If you want to be the best you can be in sales, you have to become a better sales professional away from the phone, away from your email, away from your desk and disconnected from social. In sales, you don’t have an off-season to condition the mind or body. You don’t have 3 months off to prepare for the season long grind.

For Better Results, Be Consistent

Consistency is what separates elite athletes from good athletes. The ability of these elite athletes to go out there, day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out for years is incredible. Can the same be said for top sales professionals versus average sales reps?

What makes elite athletes and top sales professionals so consistent? I believe it is consistent preparation in every aspect of what they do including physical conditioning, practice efforts, technique, tactics, mental aspects, nutrition, sleep, and on-going learning.

Consistently great performances come from consistency in practice efforts. The best way to build this consistency is to have clearly defined goals and structure for every practice session.

Unfortunately, this is where I see a disconnect between elite athletes and sales professionals. Elite athletes have great coaches. Can the same be said for sales people? How many sales reps can say their managers make great coaches?

If you aren’t willing to help yourself and practice then how can you help your clients do better in their business?

Leave Your Ego at the Door

Sales reps must have a growth mindset when it comes to practice – and learn to leave their egos at the door.

The buyer as well as some clients portray sales reps as egomaniacs with “do whatever it takes to close the deal” mentality. In some sales situations, this is true, and one’s ego may hurt more than help them.

Just let go of your big fat ego! Believe me as it is not always about you. The prospect is not saying no to you. There are saying, “You haven’t given me enough reason to say yes.”

“When you are about the other person more than you care about hitting your quota, when you make that shift, you go into the jedi-ness of becoming a salesperson.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

Become a Better Listener

Sales reps must become better listeners.

‘Seek to understand’ goes a long way as a sales professional. Don’t just listen to be polite and build rapport. Listen with intent to understand and gain vital information to help your clients and prospects. Successful sales reps are genuinely interested in helping their clients.

  • Listen for clues and look out for problems affecting their business
  • How could you fix these problems?
  • What potential implications could this have to them?

Improve Your Prospecting Skills

To improve your sales, you must improve your prospecting skills.

Point blank, “How can some people call themselves a ‘Sales Professional’ but do little or no prospecting?” This one blows my mind!

Let’s get this one straight, prospecting is a challenge and many salespeople aren’t very good at it. Why? Because they haven’t cultivated the right habits and fail to practice.

“Sales reps have hypnotized themselves into believing what they aren’t doing doesn’t work”

Ask any sales rep the hardest part of their job and most will utter the word, PROSPECTING. If one fails to practice at the single most important aspect of their job then how can one achieve a consistent level of success?

Successful sales reps continually practice the art of prospecting as they keep their sales funnel full. They divide their time between selling, prospecting and taking care of their clients. Top sales reps who crush their quotas are fully dedicated to prospecting and have modernized their prospecting approaches to align with the modern buyer. The primary differentiator of today’s successful sales reps is their ability to prospect.

Why Sales Reps Need to Practice Like Athletes

Elite athletes (as well as sales professionals) who achieve extraordinary results put in a lot more hours of practice than the average. There’s no mystery to their success. Their performances, outcomes and skills are remarkable because they out practiced the average individual.

If you want to reach the next level in your sales career, it’s imperative you spend more time preparing and more time practicing. It’s foolish to say it is all about working smarter, not harder. If you really want to win in sales, you have to work harder and smarter.

Don’t be an Allen Iverson!


If you would like some inspiration I welcome the conversation or send me a message to llevine@socialsalesacademy.net. Your comments are greatly appreciated.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse and has been adapted for use on this blog with the kind permission of Larry Levine.

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