Practice? Who Needs Practice?

Live sales 'labs' can help reps learn from successes and challenges in a supportive atmosphere

Practice - Who needs practice?

Despite witnessing monumental technological shifts, market dynamics and consumer behavior over the past 25 years, the sales world has paradoxically clung to a remarkably stagnant approach. Sales strategies and tips shared a quarter-century ago continue to be shared today by so-called sales experts and influencers without mentioning the need to allow salespeople to practice.

With the continued recycling of sales tips, approaches and methodology and little time for salespeople to practice their craft, will the sales industry truly innovate by providing salespeople the mechanisms to practice in a safe, growth-minded environment? This article delves into enduring sales stagnation, highlighting examples of sales tips that continue to be rehashed as new innovative sales tactics and sharing three fundamental approaches that allow salespeople to practice many of the sales tips they learn.

Salespeople Solving Problems

In 1990, a sales article focused on the importance of salespeople solving their customers’ problems. It stated, “Selling is done within the context of being a member of the buying team who is trying to help the other person solve a mutual problem.” In 2023, a LinkedIn sales influencer shared that the key for salespeople to increase revenue was solving their client’s problems. The influencer shared, “Helping solve problems and providing the most frictionless path to doing so will always work.”

Value Selling

Value selling has long been the staple of most sales organizations. A 1991 article stated, “The challenge for sales is to understand price plus the cost and become skillful value sellers.” The article shared some tactics to help salespeople be more value sellers. In 2023, a LinkedIn viral post indicated, “Customers bring up the price because you didn’t build enough value.” The resulting LinkedIn comments shared how sellers needed to understand the price and the overall cost benefit to sell the product’s value. Those comments resembled what was shared in 1991.

Sales Manager Attentiveness

Addressing sales leadership has been an ongoing challenge for the last few decades. Amazon offers over 50,000 sales leadership books, which helps validate the challenges sales leaders must overcome. In the middle of 2023, a well-known LinkedIn sales influencer provided an essential tip to sales managers: “Sales managers develop their salespeople by identifying things they can improve and helping them get better every day.” In 1995, an academic sales leadership article centered its research and commentary on the fact that “Sales managers are attentive to the unique concerns of salespeople, give them personal attention, and consider their individual development and growth needs.”

These three examples represent the majority of current sales advice that has been similarly shared for the past several decades. Recycling similar sales tips is not necessarily a bad idea; it does not solve the fact that less than 50% of salespeople reach quota or about a third of a salesperson’s time is spent selling. Tips without practice will continue to generate substandard sales outcomes. Hence, consider these three sales practice options.

Simulated Sales Environments

Create simulated sales environments that closely mimic real-world scenarios. This approach could involve role-playing sessions where sales agents interact with colleagues or trainers acting as potential customers. These sessions should replicate various sales process stages, allowing agents to practice opening pitches, objection handling and closing techniques in a controlled setting. The emphasis is on recreating the pressure and dynamics of actual sales interactions, helping agents build muscle memory and confidence in applying their training.

Sales Huddles and Team Drills

Conduct regular sales huddles and team drills to simulate sales’ fast-paced and dynamic nature. Just like athletes practice specific plays or strategies before a game, sales agents can engage in quick-fire exercises focusing on aspects of their training. For example, organize rapid-fire objection-handling drills or pitch-refinement sessions where agents have a limited time to respond to challenges. These drills create a sense of urgency and readiness, preparing agents for the unpredictability of actual customer interactions.

Live Sales Labs or Workshops

Establish live sales labs or workshops where sales agents can practice their skills collaboratively and dynamically. Invite real prospects or clients to participate in controlled, educational sessions where agents can showcase their training live. This practice provides a unique opportunity for agents to receive immediate feedback from leaders and clients. Like athletes participating in scrimmage matches, sales reps can refine their techniques in these live labs, learning from successes and challenges in a supportive atmosphere.

By incorporating simulated sales environments, sales huddles with team drills and live sales labs or workshops, sales leaders provide opportunities for their agents to practice sales tips and training, similar to how professional athletes prepare for games. These immersive and dynamic practice settings enable sales agents to refine their skills, build confidence and enhance their performance in real-world selling situations.


  • Richard Conde

    Richard Conde is an assistant professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, responsible for teaching sales MBA seminars, plus digital and international marketing courses. As the chief researcher for the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, Conde has provided insights into the conflict of inside sales agents’ job duties, the importance of initial and continuous training, and the limited influence of pay for performance on agent retention.

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