Last Updated Sep 23, 2010 1:11 PM EDT
This blog often discusses sales skills, ranging from specific techniques during sales calls to altering habits of thought that make selling more difficult. However, I've never explained exactly how to master a sales skill. (I did post a short summary a couple of years ago, but that doesn't really count.)
Fortunately, I recently had a discussion about this subject with Greg Wingard, the author of the very cool book Stick With It: How to Overcome the Obstacles that Keep You From Following Through. This post describes his method in detail and explains exactly what you need to do in order to be learn and master any skill, sales or otherwise.
It's no secret, of course, that mastering any skill involves practice, practice, practice. However, practicing anything on a regular basis requires something even more basic: the ability to follow-through on that commitment to practice.
So your ability to mastering a skill is thus always dependent upon your ability to follow-through. According to Wingard, there are two kinds of follow-through, one easy, the other difficult.
There are two kinds of follow-through, one easy, the other difficult. The easy kind of follow-through simply involves following the steps of your sales process, like sending a thank-you email after a sales call, or checking that the customer received the order as promised.
This kind of "day-to-day" follow-through is easy because all it takes to make sure that everything goes smoothly is a documented sales process and a CRM system to issue reminders.
The difficult kind of follow-through involves making long-lasting changes in your beliefs, attitude and behaviors, changes that will allow you to achieve at a higher level than before.
How many times have you taken a sales training course, gotten all jazzed up, and then found, three months later, that you never incorporated what you learned into your selling style? And that type of follow-through isn't about just about sales.
In your personal life, how many times have you resolved to do a daily, vigorous workout, only to find a film of dust on your weight bench or treadmill only a short month later?
Following through on life-changing decisions - the ones that should drive major changes in your behavior - requires more than just determination. Follow-through on a grand scale requires an understanding of how the human brain works and how it can be permanently programmed, and reprogrammed, to behave in a consistent manner.
You've done this many times in the past. There was a time when the skills that you take for granted today - driving a car, using a computer, even brushing your teeth and tying your shoes - were once major challenges. Today, though, you barely think about them because the skill has become automatic.
When a skill becomes automatic, follow-through becomes effortless. Therefore, if you want to completely integrate a new skill, behavior or habit into your repertoire, your goal is to make the follow-through as automatic as all the other easily-managed day-to-day tasks that once were a challenge.
To do this, you first need to understand how your brain works when it's incorporating a skill. That's what I explain in the next page of this post.