We know to master any skill, it takes practice. It may be Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to mastery. Or we look at what great athletes, artist, musicians, and others do. They are constantly practicing to improve their skills and capabilities.

We know that to get really good at anything, we have to continue to work on developing our capabilities to do the things that produce the outcomes we hope to achieve.

With sales, it’s no different. We have to continue to practice, we have to develop our skills, learning and improving our ability to execute.

We learn through repeated prospecting calls, through finding great deals, developing and executing winning deal strategies. We learn how to make high impact sales calls by having lots of conversations with customers–whether through social engagement, email, phone, Zoom, or F2F. As we gain more experience we learn and improve our ability to execute those things.

So practice is critical to our skill development.

But there’s a problem with this. Like so many things, the concept of practice is a double edged sword. Done well, we grow and improve, done poorly, we become expert at doing the wrong things.

It seems too much of the “practice” in selling is practice in doing that which we know to be ineffective. Much of it drives prospect and customer disengagement. The more we do these things, the better we get a doing those things, yet the produce results that are the opposite of what we want.

We know to be effective, we must target customers in our ICP. But our ICPs can’t be everyone.

We know that we have to be customer focused, yet too often, we haven’t taken the time to research and understand the customer and their issues. And when we reach a prospect or customer, we focus on our interests, not the customers.’

We build sequences and scripts that focus on what we want to achieve, not building interest in the customer. Our solutions to improving the results we get from these is to increase the volume, not rethink or refine our approaches.

We continue to do more of what doesn’t work, knowing that if we do enough, we might achieve our goals.

Research report after research report indicates declining results: Fewer people achieving quota (on a % basis), sharp declines in tenure, declining customer experience–to the point where customer prefer every alternative to dealing with a sales person–even though they struggle to buy.

Somehow, we have the opinion, that despite the results we produce, the way we achieve our goals is to do more of the same thing, seldom examining what we do to see if we could improve results.

I’m stunned by the number of executives that find win rates less than 30% acceptable. They have the attitude that “we can make our numbers if we just chase more opportunities.” They even have the “science” that says, “I just need to double or triple the activity.” Likewise, with our prospecting calls, email/social outreaches, we keep doing more.

Practice always makes perfect.

Sadly, we are becoming perfectly good at practicing the wrong things. Perhaps, we should rethink this.

Afterword: Thanks Andy Paul for a great conversation on this.