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Get ready, get prepped, get serious.

Updated: May 19




In professional sports, the pre-game warm-up is an essential ritual that athletes undertake without question. This not only limbers up their muscles but also tunes their minds for the challenges ahead. While we use sports metaphors and analogies constantly in business, this crucial preparation step is usually overlooked in professional sales, where the stakes are actually higher (you don’t get anything for coming second in business.) Let’s explore why it’s time for sales professionals to start taking a page from the athlete’s playbook, embrace both immediate preparation and just-in-time learning. We can now replace the old ways with he advent of A.I.


The brain's tendency to forget information is well-documented in psychology. It’s generally accepted that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50% of the information presented. After 24 hours, this increases to 70%, and after a week, we retain only about 10% of the original information. For sales professionals, this means that without regular review and rehearsal, the crucial details about products, clients, and market dynamics can easily fade away. This cognitive phenomenon underscores the importance of a 'warm-up' phase right before engaging in sales activities. Just like athletes, salespeople need to get their game face on—mentally rehearse, review key details, and aligning strategy with current market conditions. Why don’t they? It’s a combination of things:


  • Time - sellers are expected to know all about their target prospect's company, industry, function, technology landscape, likely challenges & opportunities, agendas and ambitions. The more people in the "buying group" means you can multiply at least some of this. It's too much.

  • Complacency – veteran sellers and “clever” sellers, basically think they "got it."

  • Cognitive overload – even if you do “know it all,” we all suffer from cognitive overload in the modern world. Too much stuff coming at us, all the time. We struggle to make sense of it and organize our thoughts.

  • Concern – sellers are worried they’ll be exposed. It’s nothing more than good, old-fashioned insecurity. Sellers don’t want to consume their bosses’ or their peers’ time with preparation, not necessarily because they’re sensitive to other people’s time constraints. It’s because they don’t want to run the risk of being critiqued by their bosses or peers. You can deny it all you want – but it’s true.


Just-in-time (JIT) learning, which delivers information precisely when it's needed, proves incredibly effective in dynamic fields like sales. This “readiness” strategy ensures that learning is not only timely but also directly applicable, maximizing retention, relevance, and effectiveness. Research by Gartner indicates that JIT learning and preparation can boost knowledge retention rates significantly, with learners showing up to 60% better application of knowledge when it is taught in context of their actual tasks. This suggests that sales professionals can remember and apply sales strategies more effectively when learned just before they are needed.


Here are some ways to implement effective sales warm-ups and JIT learning:


  1. Review Key Information: Just as an athlete reviews game films to prepare for an opponent, a salesperson should spend time before each call reviewing critical information about the client’s recent activities, industry news, and previous communications. This ensures that the information is fresh and top-of-mind, enhancing the relevance and impact of the sales dialogue, and ensuring you don't get blindsided.

  2. Practice Your Pitch: Research indicates that spaced repetition is one of the most effective learning techniques, helping to cement information in long-term memory. Similarly, sales professionals should regularly practice their pitches and responses to potential objections. This could be a quick role-play session with yourself, a colleague or a rehearsal in front of a mirror.

  3. Set Specific Goals: Athletes don’t just practice; they practice with purpose. Sales professionals should set specific, measurable goals for each call or meeting. Not every meeting results in a "close" the way we think of it, but you can "close out" stages as you progress. Keep qualifying, and creating preference in the prospect’s mind. This focused approach ensures that every interaction moves a deal up or out!

  4. Supportive Coaching: Leverage real-time coaching and insights. Not surprisingly there is at least one great GenAI sales readiness solution that works here! And this also means you don’t have to rely on anyone else to help you get prepared (just Shadow!)

  5. Pre-Call Planning Sessions: Conduct short, focused planning sessions (with your a.i. sales mentor for example!). This allows sellers to align their strategies with the prospect’s landscape. Planning here is vital. We need to connect our strategies to our solutions enabling the prospect to see how we help them succeed, clearly articulating how our solutions’ features solve their problems. The ability to connect our solutions’ features to the prospects’ business inspires them to share our vision and is the single biggest difference between the sellers who are the best…and those who are the rest!

  6. Expect the unexpected - what did Mike Tyson say? "Everybody's got a plan until you get punched in the face!" This is not an excuse to not have a plan, it's a warning to be prepared to change and improvise when you encounter an unexpected event.

 

Incorporating warm-ups and timely learning and preparation dramatically improves seller effectiveness. Like athletes who perform at their peak when they are well-prepared, sales professionals who prepare rigorously, using the best and most time efficient tools, can expect to see higher engagement levels, better customer relationships, and increased sales success. It's time for sellers and sales leaders to condemn the complacency and provide some technologies that really help seller’s combat the effects of cognitive overload.  After all, when the preparation is thorough, success is not a surprise—it’s a result.

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