Looking for the Secret to Developing Sales Skills?


If you want to read magazines on most domestic plane flights, you better bring them on board yourself. That is, of course, with the exception of your complimentary, monthly in-flight publication.

I confess to skimming these things in search of a laugh. More often than not the chuckles these days come from advertisements. No matter how often I see it, I always read the one for the Rosetta Stone language course that entices a Midwestern farm boy to study Italian to be able to seduce a movie starlet on the Via Venetto. OK, anything that gets Americans studying foreign languages is a good thing, but really, guys…

Then there’s exercise equipment. Four minutes on one frequently promoted contraption will get the same results as:

  • 25 to 45 minutes of cardio training
  • 45 minutes of lifting weights
  • 20 minutes of stretching

The ads always list how a typical buyer passes from total skepticism to a near religious conversion in less than 30 days.

If only it were so easy. Mastering anything–a sport, a second language, sales–is hard work. It may start with a dream–6 pack abs, fluency in another tongue, big commissions–but it always takes time.

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that 10,000 hours is the ticket to virtuoso performances in the arts or sports.  Without getting involved in the debate about the relative importance of natural abilities in achieving elite status in anything, I’d submit that one of the differences between great performers and the rest of us is the time they spend deliberately practicing. This applies to professional speakers as much as it does to professional golfers. And not surprisingly, top performers also seek out coaching to improve their technique, address problems and stay focused.

What does this mean for bankers interested in improving their sales skills? Quite simply, don’t be duped by the ads promising easy paths to success. If you want to master the techniques in a bank sales traning class, be prepared to use them over and over. Ask for precall coaching from your sales manager. Invite feedback from your colleagues after joint calls. Read books and blogs on sales and negotiating.

There are no real shortcuts. Four minutes a day isn’t enough: by my count it’ll take about 417 years for you to become great using Gladwell’s measure. 

Bank Sales Managers: Are you interested in upping your team’s prospecting game? Consider a fast-paced refresher on prospecting led by Ned Miller or Buck Bierly either in person or via webinar. You can help shape the agenda to meet your team’s needs. Email Susan Lersch at susan.lersch@mzbierlyconsulting.com for more details.



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