Showing Up for Practice.

Look hard at the stories of truly great athletes and you find that raw talent accounts for only a few pages. And while we all remember the big moments in crowded stadiums and arenas, it's invariably what those athletes do in empty gyms that matters most. Great athletes show up for practice...and they show up big.

The work ethic of legends is legendary. Kobe Bryant shooting 200 free throws....after the game is over. Peyton Manning arriving at the facility to watch film at 5:30 in the morning. There are just a few of the truly great, while there are tens of thousands who are 'just talented' and who just want the ball. So what does any of this have to do with you, your sales team and the year you'll be having in 2016? Plenty.

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This year, I'm on a mission, and the mission is all about excellence. I want 2016 to be the year that our industry stops lurching from deal-to-deal, quarter-to-quarter and crisis-to-crisis and commits itself to the pursuit of excellence. I believe this process begins with us recommitting ourselves and our teams to the concept of practice; to the quiet work and preparation the client never sees but always feels and buys into.

There's just one thing standing in the way of our sales teams showing up for practice. Most of us don't hold practices.

As a manager, examine your own day-to-day interaction with your sellers. Are you patiently asking them questions to see how well prepared they are for important client meetings? Are you giving them regular advice and guidance on where they're spending time? Do you do mock sales calls together? Have you had a seller practice her closing question on you? From my experience, the answer to most of these questions is no. Our focus as managers tends to be entirely on the games and not on the practices. We use our group meetings to 'walk through the numbers' and maybe ask a few questions about what's already transpired. We critique last week's plays instead of practicing the ones that will help us win next week.

A strong, consistent practice culture is a necessary precursor for excellence. It will keep the great athletes on your sales team engaged and connected with your company and it will lift your mid-level talent to do exceptional things.

But it always starts with the manager. Are you holding practice this week?