I spent much of Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend pitching to our five-year old son, who is just nuts over baseball.  He not only wants to improve so he can hit more home runs, but he just plain loves playing.

I spent much of the past two summers at the golf range, trying to master the swing mechanics of the golf swing.  I want to hit more fairways and I just plain love playing golf.

All of the golfers on the pro tour have coaches.  Defensive and offensive coaches are as much a part of football as hitting and pitching coaches are a part of baseball.  And these elite athletes, along with their coaches, practice, every day.  Since I’m more of a baseball guy, I know that the infielders take infield practice before each game. Pitchers throw side sessions between appearances to work on their mechanics.  Hitters take batting practice, not only before each game, but in between games to work on their mechanics.

Of course, this is all leading to professional salespeople.  The top 26% practiced to become great salespeople.  They role-played, listened to audio, watched video and honed their craft.  The rest just go out there every day and continue to go through the motions of selling, without a clear sense of what to ask, when to ask it, how to ask and what to do if they don’t get the answers they were looking for.

So what should you do to make your practice productive?  First, you’ll need a practice partner, someone who is as committed to sales excellence as you are.  Next, you’ll need a practice schedule.  Then you’ll need to identify the various parts of the selling process where you need the most help.  Break it down this way. Do you struggle more with getting appointments or with closing the appointments?  If it’s getting appointments, do you struggle more with getting through or getting them to invite you in?  If it’s closing, do you struggle more with getting them interested or getting them committed?  Identify the 3-4 areas where you need the most help, tell your practice partners the kind of prospect they need to play, and practice asking the questions that you don’t ask on real sales calls.  Notice that I didn’t say practice making presentations!  You already know how to present.  It’s the rest of selling where you need the help.

If you don’t know which questions you should be asking and at which time you should be asking them, that’s another problem.  Read the chapters on getting to 1st, 2nd and 3rd bases in Baseline Selling and you’ll have all the questions you need along with the perfect time to ask them.

Now go practice!