How many sales teams regularly roleplay?
Probably a lot, you’re thinking — and that’s true. The problem is that even very well-intentioned sales teams and leaders mistake roleplay for gametime performance.
Practice is a huge blindspot for sellers and sales managers. It’s critical to look deeply at what proper practice should entail so we can get better at it, both as individual sellers and within sales teams. The more we practice, the better the experience our prospects have of being sold to.
On this episode of the B2B Power Hour, The Practice Lab co-founders Jordana Zeldin and Jonathan Mahan join us to dive into the power of practice, and what high-performing sales teams can do to incorporate it.
Jordana and Jonathan have put a lot of time and energy into working out what brings the best sales teams together, and no one is better qualified than them to share their insights to help you transform your approach. In teams with the right cultures, celebrating wins and failures can change everything.
Together, we break down how you can hone sales skills outside of the sales realm — just like NFL linebackers refine their brain-hand neural connections through boxing to improve their football game. Sales is unusual, as it’s the only profession where you’re expected to immediately put into practice what you only just learned. For that, we talk about practicing with your peers to help your prospecting. Plus, we hit on the importance of practice as fuel for the healthiest and most successful sales teams.
Listen in and learn how curiosity and psychological safety are must-haves to make your sales team practice-driven and successful.
Featured on the B2B Power Hour: The Practice Lab Co-Founders Jordana Zeldin & Jonathan Mahan
What Jordana does: As co-founder of The Practice Lab, she transforms how sellers turn knowing into doing.
Key quote: “Practice is not performance. Totally different rules and outcomes govern practice.”
Where to find her: LinkedIn
What Jonathan does: Co-founder of The Practice Lab, he helps salespeople improve their skills like actors, musicians, and athletes improve theirs.
Key quote: “Don't practice it til you get it right. Practice it til you can't get it wrong.”
Where to find him: LinkedIn
B2B Power Plays
Top takeaways from this week’s conversation
💡 Take an improv class to build muscle memory, maximize roleplay, and step up your prospecting.
Just like NFL linebackers train in boxing to build the neural connection between the brain and hands — increasing reflexes and hand placement accuracy — sales professionals can grow skills needed in one area in completely different areas.
Sales requires linguistic ability, curiosity, emotional intelligence, and good listening skills — all skills you can grow outside of sales. Training in improv can help you stay fresh for sales. In fact, it could be the best crosstraining for you as a salesperson.
💬 Practice with your peers, not just your prospects.
There's always going to be some level of practice on prospects. Sales training can only get you so far before you need to try it in the real world. And just like in a science laboratory, conditions are different, which means mistakes will happen.
But only in sales do you take that knowledge and immediately try it out with prospects. This is scary, and also the reason why — despite so much money thrown at sales training — behavior doesn’t change so quickly.
By practicing with peers, you try it on for size and make it your own. Additionally, through repetition with peers, additional skill increases emotional generosity and gives prospects a better experience of being sold to.
📲 Practice is an integral practice of the highest-performing sales teams — fueled by curiosity and psychological safety.
The healthiest teams thrive in sales because of the value they place on practice. This needs to be built in for the long haul.
There’s no recipe for creating psychological safety within a team — it stems from the top down. If leaders aren’t comfortable making and acknowledging mistakes, they can’t expect sales reps to either.
Getting vulnerable with teams sends signals that they’re safe places to make mistakes. Celebration of failure and creating a culture of vulnerability can seem counterintuitive, but the attempts — regardless of outcomes — are important. Eventually, this’ll permeate through in a positive way to concrete metrics.
Inflection points from the show
[1:24] Roleplay: Most sales orgs roleplay. The mistake they make is mistaking it for gametime performance.
[4:01] Sandbox practice: What rules of practice should organizations construct to make it valuable, and how should they be thinking about it? (Hint: Improv’s the perfect template.)
[11:59] Muscle memory: Is research and prep enough, or do we need roleplay? Jonathan reveals how to best build muscle memory for better-than-adequate sales calls. Tl;dl: take an improv class.
[14:54] Discover yourself: Curiosity is the key. Every question starts with it, and it’s how you give questions form to land them better.
[20:14] Peers over practice: You’re always practicing on prospects, but practicing on peers allows you to “try it on for size and make it your own,” Jordana says.
[23:58] Forcing improvement: You can’t make someone want to improve. But if you’ve got a genuine desire to change and learn, Jonathan says, practice is a great way to get there.
[27:42] The litmus test: When spread across teams, the growth mindset is powerful. How do you deal with those who aren’t willing to grow, and is it okay to have them on the team?
[33:31] Celebration time: Taking time to share the wins matters more than you might think. It can “change everything,” as Nick’s story illustrates.
[38:29] Supportless: Lacking support for practice isn’t the end of the world. Consider asking your peers if leadership isn’t onside, and relying on contacts outside your industry could prove to be a huge boon.
[44:21] Stretching it out: Practice shouldn’t stop at onboarding — it’s easy to weave it into team meetings, Jordana says. Practice is a mantra, Jonathan adds, never stopping.