Selling Skill Improvements Come Only Through Making Mistakes

The process of becoming a salesman is a condensed version of life; learning results from trial and error.

When learning to walk you fell down, and when you did, you got back up; and you did the same for speaking, and social interactions. Mistakes made, followed by corrections, are the force behind acquiring most habits and behaviors associated with skill of any kind.

Acquiring selling skills is no different.

You try a few things, make mistakes in the process, and make corrections. No salesman has escaped the humiliation of having metaphorically taken a few tumbles down the stairs for all to see during their introductory years to selling.

One of selling’s acknowledged greats, Ben Feldman, began his career as a small-town, $10-a-week egg salesman. It takes a fertile imagination to believe that such an individual could one day become one of the life insurance industry’s greatest salesmen. But it happened.

How such an ordinary individual could become so extraordinary evolved quite simply from an obsessive drive to develop every possible nuance of the expertise encompassing the collection of skills unique to his profession.

Ben’s lessons came hard—like they do for anyone bent on mastering a subject. Ben’s learning ultimately came from having seen, if not everything, nearly everything, and having learned how to effectively deal with an array of conditions peculiar to the business of selling—making the necessary mistakes, and subsequent corrections.

Competence such as Ben acquired does not become perfected all at once; selling expertise is not based on a single skill.

On the way to the near perfection Ben, and others of his ilk, achieved some mistakes were made; some with great preliminary confidence. But mistakes are expected—actually required—a function of developing the personal brand of a sales star.

And those mistakes? Among the most potent, the ones attaching the really great teaching moments, this group stands above all:

Not putting in the clock time. The learning process for a new topic is essentially based on effort – hours devoted to study, learning the business’ nuances— and many more hours put in toward making sales calls. More calls; more sales.

Not preparing for sales calls as though your life depended on it. Selling is a game; you’re there to win, not just participate. The trophy goes consistently only to those who put in the extra effort.

Avoiding cold-calling, or assertively acting to close a sale, due to fear of anticipated rejection. Fear of the word no is unsupportable to the extreme. You don’t have to learn to love rejection, but you do have to learn to deal with it. Without the potential for need to overcome objections there would be no game.

An overly casual attention to personal appearance; assuming a casual approach to grooming and dress is, “satisfactory.” Dress like you’re there to do business. Leave the beach- casual for other occasions.

Assuming you can guess what someone else is thinking – reading their mind. It’s never worked for anyone else, and it’s unlikely to work for you. Stay outside their head.

Not giving conscious attention to the first impression you will make when contacting someone for the first time. And most of all…

Not listening. Not hearing the true meaning of words spoken, whether in a prospect’s questions, or in their responses to your questions. Keep your mind open, not thinking, just actively paying attention to the communication’s real intent.

Failure to develop responses to anticipated objections. When you’re prepared with well-considered answers to anticipated objections, transaction control remains on your side of the game board.

There are more. But correcting these obvious errors will define 80% of your selling’s outcomes.


Ron Brock

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