The One Thing Sales Reps Can Learn From NBA Players

Can you imagine a professional athlete telling his coach he doesn’t need to practice tackling or fielding ground balls because he’s been doing it for more than 10 years?

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The coach would likely make him do something else he’d been doing for a long-time- run laps! Run. And keep running until you realize that you ALWAYS need to brush up the fundamentals. Sales reps and athletes have this one thing in common: both require constant training to stay at the top of their game.

From Dud to Superstar

I recently read an article by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker (not the periodical I typically look to for my business reading). What caught my attention was the article’s subtitle “How the performance revolution came to athletics – and beyond”.

The opening told the story of a 1970’s NBA player, Kermit Washington. Superstar in college. Dud the first three years as a pro.

He could have said, “I know how to play basketball, look at my stats in college!” But he didn’t. He went to one of his coaches and asked for help. The coach started on the basics. Working Kermit until he became an All-Star in the NBA. He continued practicing the basics the entire time. The article also notes, as Mark McClusky documents in his new book, “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, athletes today work smarter, using science and technology to enhance the way they train and perform.

It’s amazing how many “experienced” and “proven” sales executives believe they know the selling profession cold…

Think about this in context of sales pros. The ones that have been out in the field 10-15 years. These reps can be highly resistant to training. When you talk of training or skills development, they say “I’ve been doing this for 10 years, I know what I’m doing.”

I’m amazed at how many “experienced” and “proven” sales executives believe they know the selling profession cold. Especially when there are so many B Players with a lot of years under their belt.

Athletes who are determined to remain at the top of their game, are always practicing the fundamentals. You hear about it during their interviews and read it in articles detailing their success. Lifting weights in the off-season to stay strong is a point of pride. Throwing a pass through a tire over and over until they can’t miss is a point of pride.

An athlete’s dedication to their craft is manifested in their dedication to training. If your sales reps had the same attitude towards training- they would be unstoppable.

So why is it that salespeople are so reluctant to reinforce the basics?

Something as simple as practicing with an automated roleplay regarding objection handling, or negotiating would put key principles in the front of your brain just before you go into that big negotiation meeting to close the deal. Your reps may know the skill from years of practicing it on live prospects (ouch, how much did that cost your organization?) but how consistently are they applying it?

Why do you think many sales reps are reluctant to sales training? Leave a comment and let us know!