Sales Coaching Lessons from Allen Iverson


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“Practice, we talkin’ about practice here…”

That was Iverson’s now infamous response in 2002 to a reporter’s question concerning his level of effort during practice. To many, Mr. Iverson’s response is one of the most entertaining few minutes in NBA interview history.

Important Lesson

Seeing that Iverson is now out of basketball, it may also prove one of the most enlightening lessons for professionals in all fields – including sales. While it is true during the interview Iverson accepted responsibility for his actions and even expressed awareness of his need to be a leader of the team, his disdain for practice was evident. For more than two decades now we have seen a similar view permeate the sales profession. Unfortunately for many if this doesn’t change, many sales people and sales leaders may find themselves in the same position as Allen Iverson – looking for something new to do.

Pressure to Perform

Sales organizations will feel increasing pressure to execute better than their competition as businesses shift their focus from cost cutting measures to growing top line performance. With this pressure comes the need for common processes, and the requirement that people practice their craft in order to develop the habits that will help them execute more effectively in the field. Successful individuals and teams must practice skills together in order to identify gaps in their performance, and find opportunities to improve. While wins and losses allow us to keep score in selling, the fact is customers generally make bad coaches. After all, when was the last time a customer gave you some pointers on how to make a more compelling presentation and scheduled a time to try it again?

Practice Counts

The reality of any performance profession: athletics, music, surgery or sales, is that practice makes an enormous difference and represents the greatest opportunity for improvement. Unfortunately, many sales professionals don’t commit adequate time and attention to this – to their own detriment. Why? Similar to Iverson, they fail to understand that game time performance is ultimately a reflection of the habits created in practice. Many appear to believe that their innate talents will allow them to excel against their competition, and that practice is more trouble than it is worth.

The truth is that Practice is THE KEY to winning. So, if we want a long and prosperous career filled with more wins and fewer losses, we need to consider Allen Iverson’s counter-example and develop the habit of practicing on a consistent basis.

Want to improve your practice habits or become a better sales coach? Reach out to us for more information about what the best sales teams are doing to hone their skills and improve their results.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bob Sanders
Bob Sanders serves as President and COO of AXIOM. He is dedicated to advancing the effectiveness and professionalism of sales people and the companies that employ them. He has helped dozens of companies, hundreds of managers and thousands of sellers to increase their sales results and improve customer satisfaction. Bob is co-author of AXIOM's "Selling Sciences Program™" workbook and audio program. Prior to joining AXIOM, he ran the marketing organization for Sprint Products Group, a division of Sprint North Supply. In this capacity, he lead the company through a complete marketing overhaul.


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