Sales: Practice How You Play

Practice makes perfect, but it has to be the right kind of practice, says home improvement sales trainer Rodney Webb

December 03, 2015
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For sales success, practice like you play

Home improvement company owners usually make good salespeople. Many outperform their entire team. That’s because they sell from passion. But they don’t know how they do it, so they can’t transfer the skills to other salespeople. At the root of the problem is this simple fact: Most salespeople don’t have a system, and they don’t practice.

That was the message from home improvement sales trainer Rodney Webb, who delivered the keynote address at Professional Remodeler’s Extreme Sales Summit in October in Chicago. Titled, “Practice Like You Play,” the presentation drew sales lessons from the 6-foot-8-inch Webb’s stories about his high school, college, and pro basketball careers. The moment of truth for Webb came late in his college career at Wright State University when the coach called him into his office and explained that the reason why Webb hadn’t reached his potential was his practice habits. Webb protested, reminding his coach that he worked harder than anybody on the team, taking 100 shots before practice and 100 shots after practice on his own time. The coach said nothing, and instead pushed a game tape into the VCR (it was the late 1980s), freezing the action as Webb released a jump shot. Then he started a second tape, this one from a practice session, and froze it at the same point in the shot.

“Notice anything different about these two shots?” the coach asked Webb. The answer was obvious: In the game, Webb was 30 inches in the air; in practice, his feet never left the floor.

Passed over by the NBA draft, Webb played pro ball in Germany and then briefly in the NBA. But he carried the lesson he learned about practice with him and used it to create a spectacularly successful career in sales. For Webb, sales success is proportional to one’s level of mastery of a system. His mantra is, “If it’s repeatable, it’s perfectable.” And the key, of course, is practice.

People aren’t born to sell, Webb says, they learn to sell; it’s a skill, not a talent. But if you “practice how you play,” you develop “skillent,” a term Webb coined when he couldn’t find one that fit his definition: a skill that’s been practiced to a level such that it appears to be a talent.

Webb is a big fan of scripts because they are perfectable and they give salespeople the tools they need to uncover and counter objections. He also insists that sales training includes role playing because it puts salespeople in situations that are as close to a real-world sales call as you can get without actually sitting at a prospect’s kitchen table.

And that’s the sales equivalent of taking jump shots in practice the same way you take them in the game. 

About the Author

About the Author

Sal Alfano is executive editor for Professional, 202.365.9070

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