We’re Talking About Practice, Man!

Learn why your sales strategy should include time for practice, and how crafting a story and roleplaying leads to better results.

May 29, 2014


Allen Iverson had a heck of an NBA career, but what he’ll probably be remembered for most didn't take place on the court. Every sports fan has seen – and probably re-seen – the highlights of the infamous post-game press conference in which Iverson ranted about the meaninglessness of practice.

Which begs the question: How important is practice to your sales strategy?

HubSpot contributor Paul McGhee has shadowed thousands of sales calls and he's learned that "nothing helps people become better sellers like sharpening their pitch through practice." According to McGhee, practice is a two-part process that consists of crafting a story and roleplaying.

What McGhee means by stories are responses to questions you may normally get from a prospect – questions like:

  • Have there been businesses like mine that have had success with your solution?
  • Will your solution help me solve this type of problem?
  • How is your solution different from this other company’s solution?

And by roleplaying, McGhee means rehearsing these stories with colleagues, which can help your sales strategy in two ways:

  1. Through practice, sales pros become more effective communicators, and are able to provide clear responses that impress
  2. When sellers can commit these stories to memory, they are able to pay more attention to the customer, and it’s much easier to have an engaging conversation when you don’t have to anticipate questions and answers

The sales training method McGhee recommends is to perform a weekly, sixty-minute session focusing on one story per session. He also recommends recording the best version of that story for all sales reps to access later. Over the course of thirty weeks, one company using this method was able to go from losing two-thirds of its bids against a main competitor to winning two-thirds of its bids.

More practice tips for sales managers

A decent amount of our sales communication is performed online today via email, social channels like LinkedIn, blogs and other forums. And like the roleplaying example mentioned earlier, sales teams benefit greatly when they see effective communication examples they can put to their own use. As a sales manager, you can enable social selling success by:

  • Encouraging reps to note and share all communication success stories, online and off
  • Maintaining a dynamic database of customer question scenarios, along with the best “story” sales reps can tell to get the desired result in these situations
  • Rewarding sales reps for getting their story in the database, which will encourage creative thinking and sharing what works with the broader team
  • Making it known that nothing is set in stone. By allowing even better stories to win out, your team’s collective sales strategy will continue to evolve

Vince Lombardi once said “practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

Unfortunately most sales reps probably skew more toward Iverson’s thoughts on practice rather than Lombardi’s. Sales managers can change these perceptions by showing the value of practice and by keeping practice sessions relevant, fresh and fun. Don’t be afraid to change things up by letting a team member or a product manager lead a session.

When your team consistently delivers the perfect story to your customers, the wins will start piling up. But to get there, there’s no other way around it. It takes practice, man.