3 tips on practicing from the experts


Yogi Berra apparently said, “In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice, there is.” Whether or not Yogi actually said this, it sits well within his canon of malapropisms. More importantly, there’s a keen truth to the phrase: practice is about action, not theoretics.

In this online-only feature, I’m sharing three additional tips to keep in mind as you prepare to practice. Preparation is too frequently overlooked when it comes to practice. But if you think about playing organized sports in high school or college, the first thing you had to do once you walked onto the field was to get prepared. The same is true in business, of course, so don’t overlook it.

Identify what your role is.
Malcolm Gladwell, one of the greatest storytellers of our time, spoke to practice with his typically analytical insight. He said, “Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice – perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing and running plays over and over again – and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court…spontaneity isn’t random.” The operative words have been highlighted to draw attention to the importance of having a defined role. A sales rep plays a different role than a sales manager or a sales technician. It’s critical to be clear about the role you play in order to prepare properly.

Takeaway: Identify your role before you start practicing.

Park your illusions of perfection on the curb.
Too many sales reps (and sales managers) boast of their high-minded goals to outperform even the best of the best. Goals can be bold and framed by dreams of trotting your confidence out in big lights on big stages with big awards. However, practicing your craft requires humility. You’ve got to keep your head in the game. Too much confidence on the practice field will minimize results. Author Jack Kornfield said it nicely: “The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.

Takeaway: If you believe you know it all already, you have no room to learn and to improve.

Expend effort proportional to the potential results.
Tennis champion Frank Giampaolo wrote that, “Spectacular performances are preceded by spectacular preparation.” If you’re training for your first appearance at Wimbledon, prepare spectacularly. If you’re reading this, it’s unlikely you’re preparing for Wimbledon. What’s more likely is you might be preparing a presentation for an account that will triple your territory’s annual sales revenue. Clearly, that deserves significantly more effort than the presentation to an account that will add 2 percent to annual sales revenue. As simplistic as that sounds, many sales managers suffer from treating every opportunity like Wimbledon. Takeaway: Deploy your resources of your own time, talent and focus thoughtfully.

Don’t miss the opportunity to make your practice valuable by what you focus on and how you execute your practice.

Send me a story of how practicing the right thing helped achieve your goals, or practicing the wrong thing hindered your success. Send your story to tim@timhoulihan.com.